Transportation, food waste top concerns for meetings and travel – and the world

Sustainability experts outline key steps toward global sustainability goals for meeting planners and suppliers

Minimising food waste is a key component of neutrality initiatives.

NEW YORK - Sustainability is a notable part of the agenda at Northstar's Destination Caribbean event, which took place at Paradisus Palma Real in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The leftover food for the three-day event, for example, is repurposed to provide meals for employees. And Puntacana Resort & Club, host of Monday night's dinner, served edible straws with the group's cocktails.

In the educational session, "How to Be a Sustainability Champion", global imperatives for sustainability were top of the agenda. Presenters Jane Scaletta, DMCP, CIS, president of Dolfin Destinations, and Ben Sauvage, DMCP, CMP, founder and CEO, Connect DMC, emphasised why - and how - the meetings industry is uniquely positioned to lead the charge on environmental practices.

Travel is a US$1.6 trillion global industry, representing 10% of the world's employment, noted Mr Sauvage. It is our collective responsibility to take four key steps:

•    Identify: How are our actions affecting the environment?
•    Apply: Use best practices to minimise our impact on the environment
•    Measure: What is the global carbon footprint of our actions?
•    Improve: Implement changes and track progress.

The United Nations Climate Neutral Now initiative, supported by 198 countries, aims for climate neutrality by 2050, and established 17 sustainable development goals that are deemed to be achievable by 2030.

"These are not easy goals," said Ms Scaletta. "Number one is 'no poverty'' That is a huge goal. Number two is 'no hunger'. These goals are intended to better our world. And number 17 is to work together as nations. You will see these mandates filtering through all of our systems. You as an individual need to learn and live these goals."

6 steps to sustainable site selection

With "flight shaming" becoming a factor for a growing number of travellers, ease of access to and within a destination is more important than ever. Among considerations when choosing a destination:

•    Direct airlift (to minimise the need for attendees to take two or more flights)
•    Direct, convenient train service
•    Public transportation services
•    Hybrid or electric transit systems
•    Sustainable hotels
•    Venues and hotels within walking distance

Reduce food waste

Minimising food waste is a key component of neutrality initiatives. In the United States alone, 63 million tons of food is wasted annually, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

For the meetings and hospitality industry, "food donations are very important," said MS Scaletta. "You cannot be sued if you do a food donation in the US," she stressed, citing the Bill Emerson Act of 1996, which protects donors from civil and criminal liability regarding any outcome from food that was donated in good faith.

Debunking another common misconception, the presenters emphasised that sustainable operations should represent cost savings. "Forty percent of the food we produce never reaches a plate," noted Mr Sauvage. Repurposing that would-be waste is a critical step toward minimising world hunger - and it does have economic benefits. One example: Nordic Choice Hotels, which operates 194 properties worldwide, now provides smaller plates for buffet-style meals, which effectively reduced food waste by 19.5%.

10 ways to reduce food waste

Ms Scaletta and Mr Sauvage offered 10 helpful tips that will help to cut down on waste:

•    Reduce meat and dairy.
•    Use smaller plates for buffets.
•    Serve smaller portions.
•    Offer fewer options.
•    Serve or repurpose blemished food that would otherwise be thrown away.
•    Establish recipes for leftovers and surplus food.
•    Serve more vegetarian meals.
•    Pre-set only 80 % of the room.
•    Establish a food rescue program.
•    Use seasonal and local ingredients.

SOURCE: Northstar Meetings Group

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