Convention Center Composting Initiative Educates Employees

At the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, members of the facilities staff joined colleagues to learn what can be composted from the facility's waste stream.

The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, in partnership with its food and beverage distributor, Centerplate, recently introduced a composting initiative aimed at reducing food waste with an employee awareness event at the employee cafeteria (known as “Riverside Cafe”) that featured a dynamic presentation with costumed characters, quizzes, and more.

Employees of the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center celebrate a correct answer during the pop-quiz portion of the Interactive Employee Education Event.

This event, organized by Linda Baynham, director of sustainability and corporate social responsibility for the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, featured members of the executive and facilities teams dressing up in spoon and fork costumes to demonstrate their commitment to the new program. Baynham relayed interesting facts about the Convention Center’s history of sustainability, all while using visual aids to instruct those in attendance on what items should or should not be composted.

Composting Initiative Educates Employees

This new initiative involved the placement of composting bins that allow employees to safely dispose of food scraps and other compostable items, instead of simply throwing them in the trash. It also includes training on the items that cannot be composted, such as plastics, and instructions on how to properly recycle or dispose of those items. The majority of the serving ware used at the Convention Center is compostable, including plates, cups, and bowls. The food and serving ware that is composted through this program is sent to The Composting Network, which turns it into useful material, such as enriched soil for landscaping and gardens.

Jack Lyon, general manager of Centerplate at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (Left) and Adam Straight, VP of Operations at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (Right) dressed as spoons to illustrate the importance of composting with Jocelyn Williams, Centerplate Vault Supervisor (Center) during the Employee Education Event.

“This is a big step forward to saving thousands of pounds of compostable items from going to a landfill,” said Baynham, “We’re doing a lot more than just asking people to put their items in the right bin. We’re helping the environment, our local small businesses, and creating real, positive change in the habits of those who want to help the environment.”

This is Baynham’s first major initiative in her role that she began in October. In the coming months, she will follow this composting initiative with more ways to help the Convention Center thrive in this era of sustainability.

While the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is already a leader in composting in Louisiana, composting more than 450,000 pounds of food and serving ware in 2018 alone, this new initiative is part of an ongoing effort to explore all avenues to reduce the Convention Center’s impact on the environment, as well as continuing to make it an even more sustainable venue for event planners to hold their meetings. That includes the sale of nearly 67,000 gallons of used cooking oil since 2016 to Birmingham Hide and Tallow, who then takes that material to create items like soap and other supplies.

In addition to these composting efforts, The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center also reduces food waste by donating unused meals to external partners like Bethel Colony. They received more than 24,000 pounds of prepared food from the Convention Center in 2018, which they used for their clients, or shared with their partners, like the Second Harvest Food Bank.

With 1.1 million square feet of prime exhibit space, the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center provides the largest single exhibit space in the United States. Opened in 1985, it is the sixth largest convention center in the nation.