Written by janine

1. Some Facts and Figures

Food waste is a great deal of material flows at festivals and events. Often portions served are too big or it is a buffet where everyone serves themselves with eyes bigger than the stomach. In both cases, we end up wasting food. Moreover you can save negative impacts by only providing a vegetarian or vegan diet. The third reason why food and beverages are an important source of impact is the excessive plastic packaging.

Food waste facts

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) roughly one third of the food produced in the world — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted. This is waste of food… and waste of money, which you prevent in calculating the real needs! FAO states further that food losses and waste accounts to roughly US$ 680 billion in industrialized countries and US$ 310 billion in developing countries. One more fact; per capita waste by European consumers is between 95-115 kg a year, whereas consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia, each throw away only 6-11 kg a year.

Vegetarian Diet facts

Here is what you save when changing to a vegetarian diet:

  • water
  • methane (worse than normal CO² in destroying our ozone layer)
  • carbon dioxide
  • nitrous oxide (the worst contributor of global warming)
  • land mass which is important for keeping biodiversity levels high (but not only)

2. Our Approach

In general it is really important to know the needs of everyone who is part of the adventure. In our methodology chapter 2, you find briefly explained how to identify your stakeholders. In the following we go deeper into identifying specific needs, and knowledge levels. You will either work together with your stakeholders or they are the ones you want to nourish. The next paragraphs are ordered according to the different stakeholders we identified for the event.

2.1. Festivalgoers

2.1.1. How we did it

The bar was the responsibility of the venue and this was not to change. So we tried to talk them out of using straws, and fortunately they use eco cups anyway.

The food trucks were our responsibility so we decided to invite Mamy Couscous, 100% zero waste and vegetarian, to serve delicious food. They could nourish 500 to 600 people.

Bring your beers, a French craft beer, had a stand to sell it to the festivalgoers and to complement the bar at la Bellevilloise.

NB: The budget was not impacted  for the bar and the food trucks, because they earn their money by selling directly to the festivalgoers.

2.1.2. Tip: Disco Soupe

It is always a great idea to organize a Disco Soupe at a festival or any other event. You create conviviality by bringing people together over food preparation and degustation while saving lots of food from being wasted. Needless to say everyone in the room get to enjoy  free food. Disco Soupe is a worldwide organization founded in Paris. Food waste from local markets and supermarket is collected and a lunch or dinner, normally in form of a soup, is prepared. Those meals are given away for free and mainly to people living on a low budget. They give regular online and offline workshops to become a trained Disco Souper. Check it out here.

During our festival we decided to prepare smoothies because we could not use the kitchen to cook something. Problems remained because we forgot to bring enough eco cups ourselves to serve the smoothies. In the end we managed to collect enough and clean them regularly but as well as in the backstage area this cost us some nerves and efforts.

What you need to organize a Disco Soupe are:

  • Attend a first workshop
  • Be aware of the hygiene part
  • Blenders (preferably a lot)
  • Lots of interested human beings with good vibes to sort, clean, cut, blend and distribute the fruits and smoothies.
  • Zero Waste cutlery/dishes: reusable or degradable

2.1.3. Tip: Work with suppliers

We were attentive from the very beginning to only work with high quality and local suppliers that use local and seasonal ingredients and aim for zero waste. Nevertheless we did create some waste and failed to communicate our vision to the suppliers. During the qualitative interviews it became clear that the Mamy Couscous did not know our event was low impact waste. They claim to be zero waste but still it is important not only to engage those enterprises or associations but also to make clear what they should expect from the event.

Our entire menu was 100% vegetarian but not vegan. It was difficult to go fully vegan and also to win acceptance for this. For the start we are proud of the fact that it was vegetarian and for the future we certainly aim for more.

2.1.2. Lessons Learned

Our lesson learned: make sure that the information circulates well, you might have to do it on your own or you insist of transmitting it to the very last person working that day. When the first drinks were distributed at the bar, we saw straws placed inside some single used plastic cups. We acted fast, and avoided further distribution of those in explaining the barmen how this event is different from the others. What was the problem here ? We did talk to the owner  but to none of the barmen working that day and neither to the bar manager. We relied on the venue manager and her internal communication skills.

2.2. Backstage Catering for 150 volunteers

Our festival started around 2 pm but the preparation started at 8am gathering around 40 to 50 volunteers. To energise our team throughout the day, we  organised a generous picnic altogether. Additionally,, we prepared a buffet available throughout the entire day to make sure that none of our volunteers stays hungry.

2.2.1. How we did it

The budget was initially set to 840€.

  • Most of  the food prepared was self-made the night before, to complement this we ordered 5kg of Humus and some 50 baguettes. We bought the ingredients at a ecological supermarket (Biocoop for the Parisian readers), with most of the ingredients package free. We did a lot of finger food such as cakes, bread with hummus, cookies or nuts and dried fruits.
  • Nevertheless we needed some dishes and (eco)cups. These were borrowed by Ouishare (contact them directly on Facebook or via mail to ask for their kit) and Zero Waste Paris. Unfortunately, we did not plan it well ahead and we asked too late for renting the reusable dishes, this is why only few was available. Hence we did not have enough, we did clean them every now and then, which caused more efforts than expected.

The quantities needed were well calculated: no one stayed hungry and we had only a few leftovers. We used a dedicated website, which shares recipes and allows to enter the number of persons eating, then gives the right quantities (For the French it is called Marmiton or a German equivalent would be Chefkoch). We overpassed the budget with around 100€ even though we made most of it ourselves. With this budget we prepared 3 lemon cakes, chocolate chip cookies, 3 carrot cakes, crepes, chocolate crossies. We had a big kitchen available thanks to makesense, but be aware that finding a kitchen could be a real restriction here.

2.2.2. Lessons Learned

The lesson learned here is that the transport of the homemade cookies and cakes for the backstage area was challenging and not thought through. It is important to plan well ahead especially when it should be zero waste. It needs an enormous amount of tupperware and carrying hands.

2.3. VIP Catering

The calculation was well made for almost every stakeholder except for the VIP Catering. We expected more of the workshop facilitators and invited artists to stay longer and more frequently in the VIP area. The most likely reason was that they prefered to discover the many other activities and that it was not perfectly communicated that this VIP lounge actually exists. This is why we had some leftovers from the cold buffet that we successfully ate the other day, during a team picnic.

2.3.1. How we did it

For the makesense Festival we had different bellies to nourish. First we had a VIP lounge for the leaders of the different teams and for the invited speakers, workshop leaders, etc. In the VIP lounge, we wanted to provide healthy and high quality food throughout the entire day rather than at specific times. We calculated for around 130 persons with a budget of around 1300€. Our supplier was Le Recho, which provides local and organic food. It was a cold vegetarian buffet with all kinds of salad, dips and finger foods. We used degradable dishes that Les Alchimistes furnished, and later collected and composted into fertile soil.

2.3.2. Lessons Learned

First lesson learned, a cold buffet has a higher impact than a warm buffet. As the warm buffet has to be kept warm for at least several hours, the suppliers deliver it in reusable containers to keep the hot temperature with candles or in a hot water bath. On the other hand, a cold buffet would  just be delivered in any containers (in our case, plastic).

4. Lessons Learned

The main lesson learned is to better communication and teamwork. At first, it was the responsibility of the low waste team to get the food to the team, the festivalgoers and the VIPs. Then, more and more volunteers arrived, some even had experiences in organizing catering for events. We naturally handed over control. We actually did well in communicating and being up to date between the different teams within food and beverages. But as the volunteer who organized the food trucks and the VIP Catering was not a part of the low waste team, she was less sensitized for the topic. On the other hand, the responsible for organizing the backstage catering was part of the low waste team and impact wise this resulted in a big difference. The food trucks didn’t know that the festival was aiming to have a low waste impact and the VIP Catering produced some unnecessary plastic waste due to packaging. So to sum up, it is preferable to have the low waste team composed of at least one team member of each team or to have members and other ways to join the different teams every now and then to sensibilize everyone.

The last lesson learned, most likely you will have food leftovers. So it is important to plan ahead to whom to give it and to foresee to bring enough tupperware to carry it from A to B. At makesense we always get rid of leftover food because we give it to our colleagues for free. This is why we did not waste any food but if you do not have this possibility, think well were you distribute the food, especially to those in needs.

4. In a Nutshell

About the author:

Hello all! I am Janine and a community developer for Future of Waste. I am absolutely passionate about waste and I am living a Zero Waste Lifestyle. Now I started jumping into the adventure of a large scale Zero Waste project. I want to help to brush up the image we have about waste – it is a resource and not trash, so let’s be creative!

#zerowasty #mindfuladventurer #wasteissexy

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Credits for the home photo: Photo by Toa Heftiba Sinca on Pexel