World Wildlife Fund Sustainability Works

food stocked in a warehouse

Waste by Design: Zero waste events are within our reach

  • Date: 21 May 2018
  • Author: Pete Pearson, WWF Director of Food Waste

For over a decade, I’ve been professionally advocating for “zero waste.” It all started when I read Braungart and McDonough’s book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. The premise was simple. The way we design things doesn’t make a lot of sense, and often our design for systems, products and events does not include a way to recycle or reuse them. The book itself is brilliant, it’s made from recycled plastic and is waterproof – great for reading in the pool on a hot summer day.

Human waste is created from poor design. We live in a throw-away world where convenience is king. In our current system avoiding waste can be really challenging. We need to re-imagine a future where we consciously design systems to eliminate waste and move beyond responding or reacting. It’s through better design that we create zero waste systems with zero inconvenience.

When asked about eliminating waste and getting to zero, inevitably, the question comes up, is zero waste really possible? My canned answer is that achieving zero waste is extremely difficult, and what’s important is that we all carry a chip on our shoulder about waste. Zero waste is an attitude – it declares that our intention is to eliminate the entire concept of waste and take our playbook from nature. Nothing is wasted in nature. On Thursday, April 26, in Greenwich, CT, Thomas McQuillan, Director of Sustainability at Baldor Specialty Foods, set out to do just that: host an event with ZERO waste and raise funds for local nutrition programs.

Thomas and his team worked hard to showcase an event where nothing would be wasted, especially food. WWF cares a lot about food because of the significant environmental impact food and agriculture has on our planet. Wasting food is a waste of energy, water and often wildlife habitat. We have to freeze the footprint of food and ensure waste is eliminated.

Thomas and his team are out to challenge the nay-sayers who are quick to point out that ZERO WASTE is not possible. The laws of thermodynamics state that a temperature of negative 273.15 Celsius, absolute zero, is also not possible. Maybe there was a bit of waste that went to compost or recycling, so they didn’t hit absolute zero, but they set an example for the catering and events industry and got pretty darn close through intentional planning, attitude and design. Take a peek behind the scenes to see the effort that went into a thought-provoking and delicious event.