The Philadelphia Catering Company has been doing ‘Zero Waste’ events for two years now. Despite the excellent environmental benefits, it has at times been a hard sell to clients and a steep learning curve for guests at events. We have experienced incredible successes and complete failures. Each time we do this type of event we learn something and try to apply it to our future operating procedures.
What we have learned is that the single greatest factor to driving the success of a zero waste event is good, informative signage. That being said, even with great signs – inexperienced, uninformed, uninterested guests can diminish the diversion rates at your event. Only time and a commitment to holding more of these events will change people’s thought process and the disposal of their waste.
Our longtime client, The University of Pennsylvania, is jumping in with both feet by encouraging and supporting event planners to hold zero or reduced waste events whenever possible. It is strongly encouraged now and expected to be University policy in the not so distant future. To help the event planners see that holding a zero waste event is not as daunting as it may seem, the University held an informational lunch. A zero waste lunch, of course, with presentations by sustainability experts from Penn’s Green Campus Partnership and an experienced caterer – The Philadelphia Catering Company.
PCC provided the lunch and zero waste service as well as some insights on how to conduct a successful zero waste event. Alan DeCecco, President of PCC, explained that one of the most difficult tasks is getting the guests to put their waste in the correct receptacle – reading the signs. We guaranteed, that despite all the great signs we provided, someone would place their waste in the wrong receptacle today….but this savvy group proved us wrong. 100% of the waste from this lunch was diverted from the landfill. Not one item was placed in the wrong receptacle. So we are moving in the right direction.
As time goes on, and zero waste events become more the norm, people will get the message. Guests truly want to be part of an effort towards sustainability. We just need to keep doing it. Since the luncheon at Penn, we have provided 3 additional zero waste events and the demand for our compostable dinnerware is at an all-time high. Among them, an exceptional zero waste BBQ for Penn Engineering on Shoemaker Green – the greenest of Penn venues.
An awesome day – great weather, great food and a successful zero waste event – 99.1% diversion from the landfill! Of course, it wasn’t perfect at first, especially when one of the very first guests tried to cram their plate in the recycling bin. We responded by having our on-site attendants talk up all the zero waste points of the event – they listened. As an added service, we tallied the final weights of compostable, recyclable and landfill waste. 111 lbs compostable waste, 6 lbs recycled waste and a mere 1 lb landfill waste. By next week all the compostable material will be at a professional composting facility – Organic Diversion – working its way back to a local farm.
If you are interested in getting more information on eco-friendly options PCC can provide: Zero or reduced waste options, samples of compostable dinner ware, please call our office and ask for Kim, our Sustainability Czar – 215.468.0518