Add Sustainable Flair to Your Food and Beverage Service

Fun, Functional, and Friendly to the Planet.

If you’re like most meeting planners, you’ve already made ground in your sustainability goals: 70% of survey respondents in the American Express 2024 Global Meetings and Events Forecast say that sustainability has been “strongly adopted” in their events.

The best sustainability practices are strategic, meaningful, and specific, avoiding falling prey to greenwashing. That said, introducing high-visibility sustainability flair into your meetings can underscore your event’s commitment to the planet. Couple that with your food and beverage program and you’re serving up not just sustainability but delight.

Here are four ways to bring conspicuous sustainability into your food and beverage service:

Try Edible Servingware

Basil-infused spoons made of ground grains for caprese tastings. Espresso cups crafted from ice cream cones, meant to be eaten after an espresso shot. Cupcakes presented in flexible, edible wafers. And for the most daring, cocktails served in snowballs.

Think of these edible items like a bread bowl taken up a notch. Swapping traditional serving elements for edible, sustainable replacements can add convenience and joy to your environmental program. Make sure attendees are aware of what’s edible; otherwise, that aspect of your catering could be lost in the shuffle.

Get a Little Fruity

The classic fruit tray can get an upgrade by using jumbo-size fruit as a component of service. Watermelon baskets, pineapple boats, and pomelo cups all add a decorative, sustainable spin to your buffet table.

The trick here is to make sure the fruit itself is actually used, though. Talk with your catering team about handling fruits meant for presentation in a way that preserves both the casing and the inside. It may not be practical for the team to extract watermelon slices from a watermelon meant to be carved into a serving basket, but they can use the fruit for purees and juices.

Elevate Family-Style Serving

Banquet service doesn’t have to be waitstaff-only. Let colorful dishes such as family-style salads be the “centerpieces.” If you want to elevate family-style service both literally and figuratively, place these dishes atop complementary centerpiece elements, like tree-stump platforms.

Use Food as Decor

There’s a reason landscapers often include kale in their plans—it’s beautiful. Attractively bundling fruits and vegetables for an opening-night kickoff celebration and using them as decor evokes a feeling of being connected to the earth. And the next day? Dinner. (Be sure to check with your catering team’s policies first.)

Remember: Sustainability Goes Beyond the Visible

Sustainable flair is both fun and practical, but it’s not enough in and of itself to lower your meeting’s carbon footprint. Think of it as an add-on to the program you’re already developing, which may include donating leftovers to reduce food waste, offering reusable servingware (if you’re not using edibles), using local and seasonal produce to avoid unnecessary transportation costs, and having recycling and composting options on hand at the event. For more ideas and event sustainability news, turn to MPI’s sustainability resources.