As the business events industry reckons with its role in helping to reduce carbon emissions, here’s a statistic to consider: In the U.S., food waste is responsible for twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as commercial aviation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated in 2021 that each year, U.S. food loss and waste embodies 170 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent — equal to the annual CO2 emissions of 42 coal-fired power plants.
Here in Columbus, a program initiated by the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) achieved higher than average rates of composting and reduction in food waste by educating the public through a public awareness campaign, followed up by the hard — and sometimes very messy — work of measuring the amount of food that ended up in the landfill and reporting on the results.
According to a story published in The New York Times this month, in 2021, a record-setting 51 percent of the region’s waste was diverted from the landfill through recycling and composting, compared with a national diversion rate of 32 percent.
During Convening Leaders 2023, you’ll find a number of education sessions featuring outside experts and industry peers who will share new ideas and strategies for reducing the environmental impact of the events industry:
Monday: 3 p.m.The CL23 Sustainability Journey
Ryan Thorpe, assistant general manager, Greater Columbus Convention Center, and other stakeholders will share their insights and top takeaways from development and execution of the CL23 sustainability plan. (All spots are currently booked for a Tuesday Behind-the-Scenes Sustainability Tour at 4:15 p.m. but some spaces may become available on a first-come, first-served basis. Pre-registration is required.)
Tuesday: 9 a.m. F&B Trends to Table with a Sustainability Twist
Presenter Aurora Dawn Benton, Ph.D., founder of Astrapto, will share top trends in creative and environmentally friendly F&B options, with an emphasis on balancing creating unique experiences with reducing food waste. (Brought to you by Louisville Tourism.)
Tuesday: 1:45 p.m. Every Action (and Collaboration) Matters on Your Sustainable Event Journey
Experts — including Matthew Huber, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University and the director of the Institute for a Sustainable Future, and Randy Fiser, CEO and executive director of AGU (American Geophysical Union) — will provide scientific evidence on how climate change is progressing, along with stories of why education and collaboration can have a ripple effect on your stakeholders and leave an environmental legacy after your event.
Wednesday: 9 a.m. Zero Waste + Circularity — What Does It Mean & How Do We Get There
Courtney Lohmann, CMP, senior director, corporate social responsibility, PRA Business Events, will dive into the nitty-gritty of the definition of circularity, what it means for events, and how you can strategically implement it at your event. (Brought to you by Visit Seattle.)
Barbara Palmer is deputy editor at Convene.