Greening an Event

Joined Aug 11, 2000
Seems like "environmentally friendly events" are becoming more prevelant.
What are some of the "green" things you are doing?

*corn based biodegradable cups
*bamboo plates
*post consumer recycled paper
*watching waste.....both food and disposables......
*making sure leftovers get sent off with whomever will consume them
*trying to prep only what will be used, but having backup ready....sometimes it means having an additional staff person working the kitchen @ an event.
*using fish boxes instead of ziplocs, or baking sheets/pans instead of foil pans.

One of the things I'm working on now is how to get away with using less plates....either with tiny desserts or finger hors deurves....

Coming up with local flower options, ie having farmers do a special grow for a wedding.

Of course local small farm menus....

What are you doing or looking at doing?
Joined Feb 24, 2007
I've been using the bio-forks/knives for a year or so to replace the plastic. Costco Business Centers carry them in bulk. I wish they would make the knives stronger, but at least it's better than all the plastic. I also only use recycled/unbleached napkins.

For my jobs, we use a ton of water for drinking. I've made a significant reduction in the water bottle purchasing by providing bulk water dispensers and corn based biodegradable cups. I place a polite sign on the water dispenser with the fact, "The average commercial film crew uses approx 450 bottles and can per day. Please consider refilling your bottle. Thank you." About 30% will use the bulk water if it's place next to the water bottles and soda coolers. This issue might not apply to most caterers, but it might we workable for some events.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Got a question that might be applicable.

Has anyone done a comparison of the costs of washing regular serviceware vs. throw-aways of any kind? Bio-degradable is all well and good, but, seems to me, if the labor and direct costs of washing make it feasible, that might be a greener way to go.

Of course all the costs would have to be figured, including loss and breakerage. But still......
Joined Aug 11, 2000
There are several studies out there that say having rental china vs biodegradible disposables are essentially a wash or equal in amounts of resources used.
St. Louis University uses corn base "silverware" & cups...they cost considerably more than plastic or least intial cost.
I'll pull up some Concerned Citizen's research that elaborates about rental vs biodegradable differences.
Joined Apr 11, 2005
Over the past several months, I've taken to using mostly china and stainless, depending on venue and circumstance, of course. Most people regard it as an upgrade, and I think it's probably a wash (no pun intended) as far as cost. Besides, it's been slow and I've got time, usually.

I've never studied it closely or penciled it out, though. Sometimes I just don't wanna know....
Joined Jan 29, 2010
Let's think outside the box a little here,
1. Has anyone studied the difference in energy needed to produce a corn plastic vs. conventional plastic or god forbid styrofoam, a little known fact is that corn plastics take a much greater amount of energy and resources to produce therefore have no real beneficial environmental impact vs. convetional plastic or styrofoam. However they do make you more marketable and do not fill landfills for as long.
2. Composting your food waste is probably the best thing that you can do at a catered event with the scrape off from returning plates there are many farmers that are willing to haul it away for you weekly if you ask nicely, especially if you already do business with them.
3. Bio/ natural cleaners are much better for the environment.
4. Encourage local ingredients as they are slightly better for the environment then agro farming, are far supperior in quality and support local jobs and preserve open space.
5. Use energy star rated equipment in your operation, utilize low water usage dish washers and fill them with earth friendly chemicals
6. Team up with a rental company that does the same.
7. Encourage your clients to use recycled paper and soy based ink for their invatations.
8. Have a few trees planted as a gift to your newlyweds to compensate for any carbon footprint there wedding may have created.
9. Utilize coolers instead of refrigerated trucks to transport your food safely.
10. Use natural lighting in your home kitchen as much as possible to cut down on the flourescents.
11. Employ preventative maintence on your coolers to be proactive about frion leeks.
12. Encourage your clients to use living plant arangements instead of cut flowers as there centerpieces, someone goes home with a great gift that will remind them of your clients' event.
13. Recycle everything that can be recycled including but not limited to cans, plastic bottles, glass, cardboard, styrofoam (uhuhmm), printer ink cartridges, and food waste into compost.
14. Post signs in your operation encouraging people to follow your green practices in their home life.
15. Encourage brides to utilize organic cotton or natural fibers for there wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses. Also encourage grooms to use a tuxedo rental company that uses organic dry cleaning.

Realize anything you do does have an impact, its a great selling tool to prospective brides and grooms that grew up recycling also corporate clients eat this up as well because it shows them in a positive light for going with an environmentally concerned caterer and if you want to specialize in this you will ride the green is green money train as this trend continues to grow.

I was the featured speaker at the first annual Boston Green Wedding Show and spent years working on these techniques and more.
Joined Aug 27, 2009
I think the best thing to make an event environmentally friendly would be a vegetarian menu. Just because of all the resources raising beef consumes. It's 16lbs of grains and over 5200 gallons of water to produce 1lb of beef. Plus all the fossil fuels consumed, the deforestation for land, and the methane gas produced. Chicken & pork are less of course but it's still 815 gallons of water for chicken & 1630 for pork. Compare that to lettuce, which is 23 gallons and apples, which are 49 gallons per pound.
Joined Aug 11, 2000
A MAK.....absolutely..... buying from small local farms with a mix of animals and different complimentary crops in rotation is the most environmentally friendly practice we could have....

If you are in a market area that has enough catering clients that want vegetarian meals you are ahead of the curve. Many of us in the midwest, meat and potatoes states don't have the luxury of only offering vegan or vegetarian options. Not saying that they aren't apart of the picture, just not the WHOLE picture.
Joined Feb 3, 2010
There is a company based in Toronto, Ontario, called Green Shift. They started out providing consultation to companies wanting to improve thier sustainability, and researching products to certify just how 'green' they were. Now they are also a broker for environmentally friendly products. You can shop online, or order through thier catalogue.

Obviously it's not 'shopping locally' if you don't operate anywhere near southern Ontario, but they may at least be able to point you to a local source if you contact them.
Joined Feb 7, 2010

If you want a green event, DO NOT use disposables! Washing real dishes costs the environment way less. Commercial dishwashers will wash 50 plates with only 2 gallons of water. No waste, No travel to the landfill. Plus rentals actually will cost LESS!
Joined Feb 7, 2010
Hey, How about NOT inviting those relatives that you don't know from across the country? That is how you really save the world.
Joined Apr 11, 2005
Whoa, Holly!  Let the fools travel cross country.  Our hometowns need cash influx.  Geez, what next? Have everyone stay home, help themselves, get so dang green they don't hire caterers or halls anymore?

I've been planting trees for nearly 30 years, composting stable muckings, cultivating worms, writing letters and notes (like Gandhi) on the backside and margins of paper, but gotta make a living too.

A good source of excellent grease-cutting liquid soap is if you can find somebody making bio-diesel.  The glycerin by-product makes a kick-ass soap, and easy on the hands too. A great use of waste vegetable oil also.
Joined Feb 26, 2010
 You should check out Verterra plates.  They are made from fallen palm leaves and are biodegradable and compostable (adds carbon to compost).  No inks, plastic, or wax coating are used.  They also can go in an oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, and they have a ton of shapes and sizes.

Joined Aug 11, 2000
If you are using local food please share your menus for the upcoming 2010 season....also let us know what area you live in.......
Joined Sep 15, 2006
I can tell you that there has been a big increase of green catering supplies from my site.  In the last year I have noticed two considerable increases. Caterers buying more green products and alot more people asking for raw and vegan caterering.

Let me guess.  You can sell "Green Catering Supplies."  You are a marketing genius.  This is the best you can do?
Joined Aug 11, 2000
Play nice please.

Unbiased research, not "feelings" about rentals vs disposables.....finding unbiased research will be difficult.

Earthdance is hosting an event with "heavy finger food dinner".....small plates from the venue & paper napkins....stationary platters on one 60" round and oodles of passed food.

90%+ local food.

sweet potato biscuits with ham

chard & chevre tarts


hummos & other bean dip

vegan spring rolls

sweet potatoes in sorghum


faux chicken strips with BBQ

deviled eggs

BBQ mini sandwiches...some on gf buns

cookies, bitesize treats, fruit tarts


More work for the kitchen but it fills the niche of low impact event.
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