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Caterers Share ‘Going Green’ Success Stories

From simple steps such as “upcycling” kitchen scraps to investing in energy-efficient equipment, caterers are cooking up a cleaner world.

Last month, Special Events looked at the many ways caterers are cutting down on environment enemy No. 1—single-use plastics.

Here, we share an array of strategies that caterers are using to go green. From simple steps such as “upcycling” kitchen scraps to investing in energy-efficient equipment, caterers are cooking up a cleaner world.

“I worked on a huge program with Subaru earlier this year that was three days, 2,000 guests, and generated less than three bags of garbage to landfill. This was really incredible to witness and unfortunately was only possible because we were in Vegas,” where properties offer a labor force big enough to separate recyclables from trash.
Jeff Ware, director of operations, Catering by Michaels, Chicago

“We use a Salvajor Trough System--Salvajor’s food waste systems reduce water usage by filtering and recirculating water with a minimal amount of incoming fresh water to reduce our overall impact on the environment.”
Warren Dietel, president/owner, Puff ‘n Stuff, Orlando, Fla.

The team at Kensington Caterers launched its recycling program more than 20 years ago, “and the monthly cost back then was almost $1,000, a significant expense.” Today, “We have convinced clients to use potted herbs and succulents as centerpiece options, and then volunteered the centerpieces to be used in public green spaces and community gardens.”
Richard Mooney, CEO, Kensington Caterers, Los Angeles

Affairs to Remember dubs its sustainability program “Legacy Green,” and "we’ve garnered hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue in new business just based on our having such a strong sustainability program.” The program takes a team to succeed: “When we made ‘going green’ part of our brand, our employees embraced it immediately. Not surprisingly, they’re proud to work for a green company! After the initial training, our employees started policing each other, keeping us compliant with our brand. Like most anything, we do ‘re-train’ from time to time, to stress the importance of ‘walking the talk’—integrity of brand—and to share new practices and successes.”
Ahmad Nourzad, executive chef, Affairs to Remember, Atlanta

“We recently made use of heat exchanges in the kitchen. Hot gas from the refrigerator is used in the kitchen geysers to heat water. These heat exchanges are energy-efficient and help with the ‘going green’ process.”
Enrika Brianskyte-Sher, public relations, By Word of Mouth Catering, Nedlands, Western Australia

The team at Marcia Selden Catering and Event Planning offers a laundry list of green practices:

  • “We prefer locally-sourced, seasonal food and beer that comes from within a 25-mile radius. 
  • As huge animal lovers, it is critical to us that our meat products are sourced from farms that have excellent policies regarding the humane treatment of their animals.
  • By hiring local staff, and asking people to carpool to events wherever possible, we try to reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible.
  • In order to reduce our power usage, we have installed motion-activated lighting in half of our commissary. We plan to complete this process throughout the remaining sections of our commissary within the next year.
  • For the well-being of our staff, we have painted our office with paint that consists of low volatile organic compounds.
  • Since heating and cooling systems are sometimes the greatest drain on the power grid, we have installed a timer system that turns on only when employees are in the building.
  • To keep our commissary clean, we employ a cleaning company that is committed to using earth-friendly cleaning products.
  • All printables are printed on recycled paper and wherever possible, we print only double-sided copies. Our staff is encouraged not to print emails or any other unnecessary documents.
  • As an off-premise caterer, we work with rental companies on a daily basis. We encourage all clients to rent their service items, as these can be reused--reducing the impact on landfills. 
  • Tri-State Power Oil collects our used cooking oil for recycling.
  • 95 percent of our Gourmet-to-Go deliveries are within a 10-mile radius. We do our best to coordinate our deliveries, and market this division only within our surrounding neighboring towns.
  • Whenever possible, we are committed to using only sustainable seafood.
  • Any food that cannot be reused internally for additional events or cannot be consumed due to ServSafe conditions is donated to Fairfield County Community Plates.
  • Commissary staff lunches are often based on leftover items that are then created into fun dishes.”
    Robin Selden, managing partner/executive chef, Marcia Selden Catering, Stamford, Conn.
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