A frosty local IPA, a fully laden ballpark dog, the anguishing torque of the pitcher’s arm…and when I whisper Camden Yard’s sustainability stats in your ear, I hope I’ve taken you to The Zone. Welcome to my 8th blog about 3 of my passions: event planning, sustainability, and fine food and beverages.
We are in Baltimore to produce DrupalCon, taking place at the Baltimore Convention Center. My team and I manage production logistics for catering, AV, IT, signage, registration and the exhibit hall, and touch many decisions that affect whether the conference is executed in a socially and environmentally responsible way.
Sustainability is war. It’s messy. There are compromises. It’s a daily fight against convenience, habit and the status quo. There are days when we feel hope and days we feel hopeless. We might lose some battles but we must persist.
I am often war-weary when I encounter facility staff who live in a mythical world where clean air, water, land, and fossil fuels are infinite resources. You know, that ideal world, where the Free Hand of the Market might actually work. Alas, we live in a world where our economic system needs to be redefined, based on the real world of finite natural resources and imperfect transparency of information. Fortunately, I was heartened to learn that the Baltimore Convention Center follows ASTM/APEX sustainable event standards, and is an ally in this battle.
Today let’s talk trash. DrupalCon, like any conference of approximately 3500 people, has quite a bit of environmental impact. Consider the scale of our catering needs: we serve over 9,200 lunches, 750 gallons of coffee, and 1,500 beers over the course of 5 days. What happens to all that catering waste? I was eager to dumpster dive to learn more, and requested a sustainability tour. I was pleasantly surprised when Mac Campbell and Chris Simmons at the BCC invited me behind the scenes
I was geeked out to learn about the BCC’s investment in infrastructure to support sustainable operations. In the back of house, the SOMAT system creates compostable mulch from food waste. This returns nitrogen-rich organic material back to local farms and gardens. Other stops on the tour included the cardboard baler where our recyclable signs would be sent, oversized debris boxes for collecting metal for recycling, and the staging area where reusable items await pick up from charitable organizations such as Second Chance.
Centerplate was our catering partner for this show. We worked closely with them to make informed food service choices, such as using bulk beverage dispensers instead of plastic soda and water bottles.
Here is the post waste diversion report from Centerplate for DrupalCon Baltimore:
By serving beverages in dispensers, the following trash was avoided:
- 36,808 16 oz. plastic water bottles were saved by using 5 gallon water jugs over the course of 5 days
- 5,625 12 oz. aluminum cans were saved by using bulk iced tea for the show floor lunches over the course of 3 days
(If you want to hear me rant about the scourge of plastic bottles in the environment, and some hard truths about “recyclable plastic”, feel free to check out my Atlanta blog.)
Leftover food was donated to local food banks and shelters:
- 134 cases (approximately 402 pounds) of assorted produce
- 200 chicken/cheddar Ciabatta sandwiches
- 53 dozen dinner rolls (636) and 11 dozen (131) assorted pastries and bagels
Yes there was compromise. We did elect to use compostable/disposable serving-ware on Monday, as Monday events involve a working lunch scenario and this created a better attendee experience.
However on the exhibit hall floor, we were able to use china plates and silverware:
- By switching to china plates for the show floor lunches, approximately 7,500 disposable plates were avoided.
- By using silverware and linen napkins for the roll ups, approximately 6,000 paper napkins and 5,000 forks, knives, and teaspoons were avoided.
- Combined over 300 pounds of cardboard/plastic waste was avoided – saving trees, energy, and greenhouse gases emitted by transportation, as well as the energy required to properly recycle or compost these materials at their end of useful life.
Great job by the Baltimore Convention Center operations team!
Event planners that want to make a difference should make ASTM/APEX standards a requirement in the venue selection process. Even if that isn’t the deciding factor, even if your process is, well, messy, include them in your request for proposal (RFP) anyway. If all event planners request these standards, venues will comply to stay competitive, and we can collectively make sustainable practices the new status quo.
As with all shows, it takes a colony. Here are a few shout outs and thank yous!
Tyler DeBella was our kick-ass, award-winning event manager, well-rounded in events, and super knowledgeable about the Orioles. We particularly loved that she was our contact through all the pre-planning months and on-site. And Tyler, if I ever go missing, I will be at Vacarro’s Italian Pastry Shop, getting a second box of Italian Wedding Cookies, the box I don’t have to share with the team.
Tray Inc. was our amazing green signage printer. By printing our signs on Falcon board we ensured that after the event they would be recycled rather than going into landfill. When you find a local, green printer who doesn’t get fazed by a 200-row x 25-column signage spreadsheet, you need to tell the world about them. Contact Chad Costello and tell him I sent you.
Freeman was our partner for exhibit hall production and audio visual support. Kathy Sens and Jeff Kuryak were outstanding members of our team. Freeman created a 3-dimensional Raven from our conference logo and then lit it up to create a dramatic backdrop for our keynotes.
Taking tips from locals, we made our way to a few good cocktails. Here are some highlights. At Bookmakers Cocktail Club in Federal Hill, Amanda Gonser ordered a creamy, delicate Rosewood Pisco, made with gin, Pisco, Orgeat, fresh lemon, egg white and rosewater, garnished with minced pistachio and a beautiful rose bud floating on the foamy top. And our team is still “raven” about Clavel, a family run mezcaleria and taqueria over in Remington. (Sorry, had to work in an Edgar Allen Poe reference somewhere).
I look forward to our next cocktail and conversation, wherever the wind blows us next. Until then….
P.S. Did you miss blog 1-7? Check out previous tales of cocktails and adventures in green event planning here.