My initial foray into sustainability related to the MICE industry occurred in 2017. We received an RFP for a four-day program in New Orleans. After reviewing and researching the client company, it became clear that the potential client was the forerunner of certifying businesses with regard to both Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability. At that time, New Orleans was not on the level of many other cities with public implementation regarding such concerns. We’ve been recycling Christmas trees to help restore our Coastal communities since 1989, but available resources to help implement Sustainability Principles were at the grassroots level only and not widely known.
For the proposal, one of the goals was to be insightful about every aspect of their meeting where we could offer Corporate Social Responsibility. We were well versed in that arena as we had much practice following Hurricane Katrina. I cannot even count the number of home building projects we executed or mobile medical units we organized! This type of outreach resulted in a bourgeoning comeback for residents of New Orleans, and the entire city is ever thankful for the outpouring of global support!
Next for the proposal, the Sustainability offerings. Where were we to begin? To whom do we reach out to? What are our local resources? Sure, there were recycling bins labelled “plastic”, “paper”, “glass”, and “compost”, but there were no available facilities to actually process these items. The optics looked good at events, but ultimately, these items were dumped in landfills. We just did not have the infrastructure in place. Clearly with this client we had to address and execute this correctly with pristine vision.
How do we accomplish this task of creating a sustainable event when we basically know nothing? Plow forward into research! An associate, Caroline Crother Stoops, CMP, BBC Events Director of Operations today, jumped into this task with full force. She found a Chamber of Commerce meeting addressing the topic. “Let’s go and see what we learn.” What we learned in that meeting was the epiphany of our mission today. It was led by Liz Shephard of Life City here in New Orleans. Liz is a passionate ambassador on a mission to educate citizens and implement services and processes to create change that builds stronger, better businesses and stronger, better communities. (Most recently, Life City was the main consultant in assisting the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center with LEED Gold Certification).
We immediately set up a meeting to see how Life City could help us with this client and also gain a better understanding of our mission. “Baby steps”, said Liz. She was excited about exploring a new industry sector to which she could offer her expertise! At the outset, we eliminated straws, recommended bike sharing rather than traditional transportation, employed community water stations, compost discarded and/or unused food and the list of initiatives grew. Light bulb moment! Many of these elements may be implemented at no cost to the client. Additionally, we knew at that moment that we would begin including these “baby steps” into proposals for all of our potential clients to champion the movement.
Furthermore, we learned that Life City could be hired to measure the carbon footprint of the entire event. Through our partnership with Life City, this particular event eliminated straw usage for 1,100 people partying for four days, 371 pounds of recycled glass, 1,450 pounds of compost vs. 135 pounds of trash, and 584 pounds of mixed recycling. The vendors hired were 46% Woman Owned, 85% Independently Owned and 31% Minority Owned. We have continued our quest over the years to explore and research local companies to help us and our clients with education.
At BBC Events, we focus on eliminating plastic, especially with regards to Second Line Parade items. (we produce hundreds annually!). As an alternative to plastic Mardi Gras beads, we offer sustainable paper beads made by women in Uganda. The women are paid a fair wage above what they normally make. The beads carry a QR code which recipients can scan to learn about the bead’s origins and how the revenue of these beads benefits the artisans, their families and their communities. An impactful and better alternative than contributing to the hundreds of thousands of pounds of plastic items utilized in parades, which ultimately obstruct our waterways. (Credit here to Grounds Krewe of New Orleans)
BBC Events is currently collaborating with Grounds Krewe to produce locally sourced boas (a pre-eminent feature of our Second Line Parades). The boas are made from leftover film production T shirts which are often left behind following the end of the project.
Grounds Krewe has created a boa prototype from the donated T shirts and we are partnering with St. Michael Special School for the construction of the boas. This project will provide local sourcing, student education regarding the Sustainability Movement and raise funds for the school which is a pioneer for children and young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
We are thrilled to report that New Orleans has made incredible advances since 2017, but we have more to learn, implement and champion! We continue our education through research and collaboration.
It is the small steps that count.
Your team and collaborators count.