Eric Wallinger is a Director of Sustainability at MeetGreen, whose focus on resources and the environment is complemented by 15+ years’ experience in the events industry. In 2010 Eric became a LEED Accredited Professional (O+M) with the U.S. Green Building Council.
When you consume food or drink, do you wonder where it has come from, or where its packaging will go? Do you think about how much water your food takes to produce? These considerations have become a driving force behind the use of food and beverage at the IMEX Group’s shows.
The complex procurement and supply chains in the food and beverage industry are difficult to influence but have the most impact on our environment, especially at large events. But as shown last year, it is possible to make changes. Through an emphasis on local sourcing, nearly half of all food for IMEX America 2017 was grown within a 500-mile radius of the Sands Expo!
- There is a growing partnership with community businesses local to Las Vegas, such as the use of sustainably produced flour from Bon Breads–only seven miles away from the event site–which is used in all sandwich bread and burger buns. This means less carbon impact from unnecessary global transportation and more resources being kept directly in the local economy. Continuing progress in these areas are a key priority for 2018 and beyond.
- A second area of the supply chain that has been impacted is the transformation of all non-reusable cups, plates and service-ware at the Sands Expo into compostable products. This requires forethought and training with convention centre food outlets and operations. It also requires compost-only bins to be set on the show floor, as well as arrangements for it to be hauled to a compost facility post-event where it is returned to soil. Through these efforts, IMEX America captured over 14.5 MT of compostable material in 2017, comprising a substantial portion of its overall waste stream which it successfully diverted from the landfill.
- A third area of supply chain influence has occurred through the construction of the event menu itself. Water is a finite resource globally, but its conservation takes on an enhanced significance in Las Vegas. As a result, items that use less water to produce are highlighted at food outlets. For example, a turkey burger uses three times less water than a beef burger, and if just 2,000 attendees made the choice to select turkey over beef, over 2.5 million litres of water could be saved.
In that spirit, IMEX uses its menu as an educational tool for attendees by featuring themed days such as Water Wise Wednesday where participants are encouraged to select menu items with reduced water impact. Other initiatives include #GreenCaffeine, and the brand-new Refill Movement, which are both designed to reduce the impact of single-use plastics like disposable water bottles and non-recyclable coffee cups, whose thermal lining renders them difficult to recycle. You can find out more information and how you can participate in these initiatives here.
As you can see, food and beverage at IMEX America is a vital component of the show’s broader sustainability initiatives. We look forward to continuing to raise the bar in 2018!
MeetGreen works with progressive global organisations integrating sustainable practices and producing conferences and events that deliver targeted business results. MeetGreen has helped greenify IMEX America since 2011. To learn more please see the IMEX America sustainability report.