Ventura Rental Party Center completes zero-waste event
The 41st Annual Benefactors Ball, Community Memorial Hospital’s largest annual fundraising event, was held at Limoneira Ranch in Santa Paula, Calif. More than 300 people were in attendance, including physicians, local community leaders, donors and friends. At the end of the event, however, something was missing — the refuse normally left behind by such an event.
“The Benefactors Ball is an annual event for the hospital with a different theme and location each year,” says Heidi Whitcomb, CEO of Ventura Rental Party Center, Ventura, Calif. “We provided all the rentals for this event, including a beautiful Tidewater canopy, custom gobos, Ranchero-style warm wood tables and amazing fabrics to create a French countryside feel.”
Ventura Rental Party Center handles the ball each year, but this year, there was a twist — the providers wanted to do a 100 percent zero-waste event.
“We have been interested in zero-waste events for a few years. We did an event in 2010 with this same organization and we were able to achieve a 97 percent diversion rate. After experiencing that event and learning from it I was sure with a little extra effort we could hit 100 percent,” Whitcomb says.
“In Ventura, we have an excellent waste management company, Harrison Industries. Knowing that they are very interested in helping the communities they serve reach the strict mandates of California AB 341 that require cities and counties in the state to divert 75 percent of waste from landfills by 2020, we knew we had a partner,” Whitcomb says. “Harrison Industries is also partners with Agromin, a local business whose company motto is ‘Soil for a greener world.’ Agromin and Harrison embarked on a pilot program of food waste recycling in April of 2012. Agromin is now handling over 37 tons of food waste per day.”
Whitcomb says she adopted the role of event planner, and worked with the hospital, Harrison, Agromin and Limoneira, as well as caterer Plated Events by Chef Jason, to put the necessary steps in place for a “zero-waste” event.
“This event takes about 11 months to plan and bring to fruition. I serve on the volunteer committee to plan, organize and make this event happen. We meet every month for the first few months and then have increased meetings and communication as the event grows near,” Whitcomb says.
“Limoneira is a leader in integrated pest management. They have established a solar orchard and are in a partnership with Agromin to supply their soil amendment and mulching products. The environmental commitment of our client and business partners is key to making zero waste a goal of high priority to us,” she says.
“In addition, Community Memorial Hospital is in the process of building a new facility and is attempting to achieve a LEED Gold standard certificate. Due to their consciousness, we feel it is important to follow through with the same goals in their events,” she says.
“Zero waste meant that we looked at every item that was used in the event, from the food coverings to the coffee stir sticks and the pull ties that the lighting contractor used. We had to make sure that all vendors were informed of the goal and that they were committed to it as well. Zero waste was achieved by getting all vendors and suppliers informed and ‘sold’ on the idea of this being a completely zero-waste event,” Whitcomb says.
“The caterer, Plated Events, was very helpful in working with us to make sure we used special food wrap, a certain type of aluminum foil and all other items that were reusable, recyclable or compostable. We worked with all event participants, including the band, lighting services and coffee vendor to make sure they were able to achieve the zero-waste goals on the service they provided or we assisted them in finding a solution to any difficulties they had,” she says.
Several Plated Event staff members sorted all of the event’s waste to ensure that it was recycled and composted, minimizing the amount of waste that was sent to the landfill. The event produced approximately 1,270 lbs. of total waste with 815 lbs. of food waste and 455 lbs. of recycled waste. Because of careful planning and detailed waste management strategies, 100 percent of that waste was diverted away from a typical landfill.
Nearly a third of the total of the event’s trash was recycled. “These numbers far exceed waste management practices of any standard event, and are exemplary even for an event striving to be considered ‘zero waste,’” Whitcomb says. “It was an awesome feeling to get the waste report back and have every bit of waste either recycled or composted.”
The zero-waste event was audited by trained staff members and validated by Donald Sealund, field representative with EJ Harrison & Sons.
“Creating a zero-waste event is very possible with a bit of forethought and planning,” Whitcomb says. “Zero waste is also great for event rental companies because it generates additional rental items. Clients need to use glass instead of plastic. They need to rent recycling containers. They will need water pitchers instead of plastic jugs. Set yourself apart as a conscience leader in this area. Rental is the ultimate reusing. Every event may not be able to be zero waste, yet if we can make a little bit of a difference on each event, we will definitely be going the right direction.”
What is LEED?
LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a green building tool that addresses the entire building lifecycle, recognizing best-in-class building strategies. The program provides third-party verification of green buildings. Building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification, including Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Prerequisites and credits differ for each rating system, and teams choose the best fit for the project. LEED is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council.