Sustainability is a major focus in the meetings and events industry, and we are proud to share that M&IW’s own Marcelo Casadei, Sr. Event Experience Manager, left, and Laura Green, CMP, Customer Success Lead, right, are leading the charge to reduce food waste at events.
After Marcelo learned about the Food Donation Improvement Act, which was passed in January and expands liability protections when donating surplus food and grocery products, he knew he had to use this at his next event. He worked with the hotel where the event was hosted to donate all leftover food to a local food shelter. What an impact that made—the hotel ended up donating 659.9 pounds of food totaling 871 meals! The initiative was so successful that the hotel now has an ongoing partnership with the shelter to continue donations on a regular basis.
After the event, Marcelo shared his success story with Laura, who was quick to facilitate a food donation partnership at her next meeting, which saw the same success. This initiative provides food to the hungry, reduces food waste, and is a sustainable way to help the environment. Talk about a win-win!
The Secrets to Successful Sustainability
After their successful events, Marcelo and Laura are working to educate all of M&IW’s planners and provide resources to make this initiative easily implemented at any event.
We sat down with them to learn more about what it took to put their plan into action and what other ways event planners can work toward a more sustainable industry.
What inspired you to focus on reducing food waste? Why is it important for the events industry?
Marcelo Casadei (MC): I’ve been in the industry for years and have seen all the food left over at meetings. If you think about all the different companies that hold meetings of all sizes and all happening in different cities across the country or world, that’s a lot. Finally, as it turns out, we have an opportunity to do our part. We can help reduce waste and also make an impact in local communities. We have to start somewhere.
Laura Green (LG): It’s been something that I’ve thought about since I first started planning events 20 years ago. In college, I worked at a restaurant that worked with the local food pantry, but that was small town life, and I realized once I began my career that this partnership didn’t exist everywhere because of so many barriers. We try to do what we can by being thoughtful about our catering orders and guarantees, but I’ve always wanted to do more.
What was the hardest part of getting the food donations set up?
MC: At first, the hardest part for me was convincing the hotel. After doing my due diligence and armed with the details of the Food Donation Improvement Act, the hotel was on board.
LG: Finding a partner who will make it easy on the hotel and on your staff was the most challenging for me, but we’re working to create a database in our major domestic cities to help alleviate that obstacle for M&IW’s planners.
Were the customers on board with the initiative?
MC: Yes, their team was more than happy to be able to help the local community and not let our leftover food become waste. They handled most of the internal messaging about the sustainability efforts for the meeting so that attendees also knew about the donations.
LG: They were THRILLED to participate. Moving forward, they will be looking to do a similar food donation/recovery at all their larger meetings. It will be great to see something that started at just one or two meetings grow into something more.
What is your number one tip for other planners looking to implement a similar initiative for their events?
MC: Be persistent and do your research. With this act in place, there should be no reason for hotels not to jump at this opportunity. Research your city. There are always organizations in need of food donations. Some food recovery organizations may even be able to pick up from you. Make it as easy as possible for the hotel/event site to reduce any barriers!
LG: Look to a colleague who has already planned a similar initiative and tap into the hotel and DMC’s local expertise when trying to find partnerships.
What are other event sustainability initiatives that are easily implemented?
MC: Sticking with the reduction of waste theme, I’d say reduce the use of paper at meetings. Going digital and using technology at meetings is huge. So much paper is used for meeting packets or meeting materials when they can all be available in a meeting app. No more printing, and much less waste. I’d also like to see a reduction in single use plastics, from bags to bottles to straws.
LG: Name badge recycling and using technology to replace paper. When we depart meetings, we should collect name badges (separated from lanyards) and send those to be recycled. Echoing Marcelo, we can also save so much paper if we utilize technology to replace welcome packets and training/meeting materials.
What advice would you give someone hoping to start a career in meetings and events?
MC: Experience all the different facets. Be open to different experiences. Be patient.
LG: Take an unconventional path and try different things in the industry to see what suits you best.
What is something most people wouldn’t know about you?
MC: I play basketball every Sunday morning with the same group of guys for over 15 years.
LG: I like to shoot a recurve bow (think Robin Hood), and I’ve participated in dozens of tournaments.