Celebrating Sustainability Successes

Every year, we hold our December meeting as an opportunity share – and celebrate – our sustainable business community’s hard-earned successes.

This year was as inspiring as ever, with over 50 sustainability leaders coming together to share their accomplishments and plans for the coming year. We’ve captured some of those success stories here – enjoy!

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We raised a glass to all the important “firsts” that were accomplished this year, both large and small. Parametrics, Toole Design, and Papercut Software got their Green Teams off the ground, encouraging sustainable practices like recycling and composting in their buildings. NEEA started a DEI group, and Propeller Consulting drafted their first Sustainability Report. Walsh Construction recently completed the first ever Living Building in Portland.

Many organizations used 2019 to formalize their sustainability efforts by becoming LEED or Sustainability at Work certified, with Toole Design and Vestas achieving Gold certification and the HDR Engineering offices becoming LEED certified. Two businesses, Business on Purpose and consultant Eric Croswell, are looking forward to becoming BCorp certified  in the new year.

WSP USA placed in the top 4 in April’s Drawdown EcoChallenge! CLEAResult staff completed close to 5,000 hours of community service. Energy 350 (our hosts for the evening!) grew their business by 25% and was voted the #4 Best Green Workplace in Oregon. Vestas went 100% VOC-free this year, and Elephants Deli saw a 25% reduction in GHGs through significant investments in refrigerant monitoring.

Daimler announced the production of a fully carbon-neutral fleet of vehicles and developed an Executive Perspective series in order to showcase the importance of a top-down strategy to sustainable change. PacifiCorp launched an internal communications plan to let their employees know about all their sustainable practices and opportunities to get involved.

KINK FM (Alpha Media) uses their platform to spread the word about being a carbon-neutral radio station and highlights the work of local sustainability leaders in their podcast series Talking Trash Stillwater Energy worked with school districts in rural Oregon to create student Green Teams, encouraging a new generation of environmental stewards.

As for the Corporate Sustainability Collaborative, we purchased reusable dishware for events, created a list of criteria for sustainable catering, and offered our first half-day workshop.

Thank you to our host Energy 350, who graciously provided their space (and drinks!) for a very festive gathering, and to CLEAResult for sponsoring food for the evening. (If you’re interested in hosting or sponsoring future events, please email us: oregoncscollaborative@gmail.com.)

Thank you also to all the attendees for sharing the great work they’ve been doing!

On to 2020

As we go into the 50th anniversary year of the first Earth Day, we will continue to Convene, Inspire, and Elevate. We look forward to another year of supporting one another as we push forward to a brighter future.

Sustainable Catering: Putting our money where our mouth is

Whether it’s bagels, bagged lunches, or buffets, many of us buy food for work meetings or events. To make sure these purchases match our principles, there are many elements to consider, from what to serve and where it comes from, to how much waste it creates.

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At our sold-out fall quarterly meeting on September 5, we discussed the challenges and opportunities in Sustainable Catering.

Best practices for staff who purchase food

We first heard from Pam Neild, Sustainable City Government Coordinator for the City of Portland, who talked about the food purchasing best practices the City’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has created for staff. Their best practices fall under four general categories: the food you serve, the beverages you choose, setup, and waste prevention.

caterEmployees are encouraged to purchase food from local vendors, with a focus on vegetarian and vegan dishes as much as possible.

Serving food in smaller portions and served family style are best, since it allows people to choose how much they want and reduces food waste.

For beverages, provide water carafes and reusable cups instead of individual bottled water.

Communication with your food provider is also key: Let them know what not to bring, such as stir sticks and disposable cups.

To avoid waste, have reusable dishes and cutlery on hand, along with bins for dirty dishes, and let your food provider know not to bring disposable cups, dishes or utensils.

Pam stressed that the success of best practices is relative to the ease of the program. Make the program easy to understand and follow.

Vegan catering policy

Next, we heard from Ryan Shanahan of Earth Advantage, who told us about Earth Advantage’s policy of only serving vegan food for all internal and public meetings and events. This policy was voted on by staff (only one of whom is vegan) and passed by a two-thirds vote. Ryan said the response has been positive so far, and suggested framing the issue as a environmental one.

If you want to lower your organization’s carbon footprint by adopting a vegan-only policy, here are some tips from Ryan:

  • Let people know the benefits of vegan food. Meat and dairy production are huge contributors to climate change, and reducing consumption is a great way to lower your carbon footprint. Vegan food often has great health benefits as well.
  • Host a tasting party for vegan food – this helps combat people’s misconception that vegan food won’t taste as good, or be as filling, as food with dairy or meat.
  • Make it easy for staff: Create a list of vegan vendors and highlight popular vegan dishes (mezza platters, veggie tacos, etc.) so staff who have never ordered vegan dishes can be confident that their choices will be crowd-pleasers. A good place to start is NWVeg.org/resources or www.meatlessmonday.com

How are we walking our talk with sustainable catering?

We did our best to follow sustainable catering best practices for this meeting:

  • Vendor: Aprisa, locally owned, and co-owned by an entrepreneur of color.
  • Food: Burrito bar with grilled veggies (vegan), salsa, and dairy sides (vegetarian).
  • Reusables instead of disposables: We provided reusable serving utensils, plates and utensils. Aprisa served food in reusable metal pans, and we contracted with Portland Pedal Power to pick them up after the event and return them to the vendor.
  • Delivery: We contracted with Portland Pedal Power to deliver the food by bike.
  • Donation: We contracted with Portland Pedal Power to pick-up any food that could be donated and take it to Portland Rescue Mission.

We’re aiming to continue to learn and improve our practices for future events – if you have suggestions or resources, let us know!

Resources

We want to hear from you!

Does your workplace have sustainable catering best practices? Do you have questions about sustainable catering? Or resources that others might find helpful? Let us know! Email us at oregoncscollaborative@gmail.com.