Convention Center Focuses on ‘Reducing, Reusing and Recycling’

NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center hopes to make New Orleans one of the most sustainable destinations in America. Since March, the NOENMCC has served a 4,000-guest meal without using garbage cans; served a gourmet lunch in a dumpster using leftover foods; and plated its largest banquet since the COVID-19 pandemic using more than 10,000 pieces of china.

“We have worked closely with our internal and external partners to create event experiences that reduce environmental impacts, emphasize sustainability, and promote social responsibility,” said Michael J. Sawaya, Convention Center president, in a press release. “These practices are vital to the well-being of our environment, and these values align with our mission to be a leading-edge organization known for innovative delivery of exceptional event experiences in a world-class destination,” Sawaya concluded.

“Our team knows no limits when it comes to making New Orleans a more sustainable destination,” said Adam J. Straight, vice president of operations. “Our director of sustainability, Linda Baynham, brings 20 years of experience and innovation to the venue. So, no matter what kind of green project a client dreams up, our team always aims to deliver.” 

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Applying the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” hierarchy, NOENMCC makes events greener and with lower impact.

Recycle: Landfill-less Lunch 

The Ellucian “Net Zero” luncheons on March 27 and 28 set a high bar – all serving ware and food items could be recycled or composted. In order to avoid confusion by the attendees on which items could go in which bins, all garbage cans were removed.

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As a result, the “Net Zero” lunch pilot program delivered over one ton of compostable materials to Schmelly’s Dirt Farm that will become fertile soil for New Orleans area gardens. Any unserved meals were donated to Bethel Colony in New Orleans, an addiction treatment nonprofit serving locals in need. In addition, by using NOENMCC water bottle refilling stations, Ellucian guests saved 4,000 plastic bottles from landfills.

Reduce: Zero Waste Meal

Inspired to make use of trash-bound ingredients, Brandon Felder, Executive Chef for the Convention Center’s food and beverage partner Sodexo Live!, created a gourmet “Zero Waste” meal on May 2 during WasteExpo out of surplus foods, including leftover coffee. The meal was served in a clean dumpster at NOENMCC as an immersive experience in eliminating excess waste.

The “Zero Waste” menu started with a spring salad featuring strawberries leftover from breakfast. The entree combined surplus seafood to create crab claw salad, and a crawfish and crab cheesecake finished with a BBQ sauce made from unused Abita Amber beer from Sodexo Live!’s bar stock. Chef Felder used surplus po-boy loaves and coffee leftover from breakfast to craft a bread pudding dessert with chicory coffee caramel sauce.

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NOENMCC worked to meet WasteExpo’s best-in-class waste diversion goals, by bringing in Glass Half Full, a new glass recycling vendor. 

WasteExpo is a regular visitor to New Orleans, convening here approximately every three years using over 600,000 gross square feet of exhibit space and attracting nearly 11,000 waste management professionals.

Reuse: China-plated private event

On April 15, the NOENMCC hosted 8,000 guests for its largest plated meal service since the COVID-19 pandemic. Guests enjoyed their meal on over 10,000 pieces of reusable China.

Expanding green options at NOENMCC

These food waste programs are part of an initiative to reduce impacts but also provide more green options for clients. Plastic-free and biodegradable serving ware are used at NOENMCC events and Net Zero meal options are available from Sodexo Live!. 

The NOENMCC will continue to embrace green ideas and expand energy-saving and waste-reducing initiatives. Recent NOENMCC events prove there are no limits on green ideas, only opportunities.

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