The Association of African Exhibition Organisers | AAXO | Many interesting questions were raised at the Event Greening Forum’s (EGF) 2019 Conference on 11 July at Maropeng. Here are some of them, with answers and additional resources.
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Many interesting questions were raised at the Event Greening Forum’s (EGF) 2019 Conference on 11 July at Maropeng. Here are some of them, with answers and additional resources.

Many interesting questions were raised at the Event Greening Forum’s (EGF) 2019 Conference on 11 July at Maropeng. Here are some of them, with answers and additional resources.

Q. Shouldn’t we be encouraging plant-based eating at events? Meat agriculture produces more methane than food waste and uses huge amounts of water. Plants are compostable; meat isn’t.

In a nut shell – yes. Livestock production is responsible for approximately 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Serving a plant-based menu at your event should help to lower its carbon footprint. Briefly, the reasons for this are:

  • Animal agriculture requires large areas of land, which has driven rapid deforestation.
  • Animal’s produce greenhouse gas emissions – their farts and burps contain methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Ruminants like cows and lamb are the worst offenders.
  • Natural and synthetic fertilisers release nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas.
  • Farm waste run-off (such as manure) ends up in rivers and the sea, causing dead zones which release methane.

Additionally, animal products need large volumes of water and are a less efficient way of feeding people compared to crops. In very simple terms, one field of crops can feed many more people than if a field of crops is used to feed a cow, which is then fed to fewer people.

The above concerns don’t only apply to meat production, but also to dairy and egg production.

HOWEVER – the food we consume touches on our cultural heritage, religion, biology and preferences. Therefore it’s important to be sensitive to these factors and not simply force a specific diet on your event attendees.

Another aspect of this debate to keep in mind is that not all plant-based menus are equal. Fruit and vegetables that are grown on the other side of the world by exploited farm workers who use harmful pesticides, for example, could arguably be a more harmful alternative than serving locally and responsibly farmed meat.

For the EGF 2019 Conference we had a number of discussions about how we could create a sustainable menu that everyone would enjoy. We ended up asking the venue (Maropeng, the Cradle of Humankind) to create a plant-based menu and then adding a few meat and dairy options to it. This way we felt we could satisfy everyone while keeping our carbon footprint relatively minimal. We also confirmed that the venue sources almost all food from local farms.

Other ways to be more sustainable include swapping out foods for ‘greener’ alternatives (e.g. serving free range chicken instead of beef), or communicating with attendees about the benefits of a plant-based menu to get their agreement to have at least one vegan meal during an event. It’s important to also make an effort to reduce food waste.

Extra resources

Take this quiz to test your knowledge on which foods have a lower carbon footprint: http://eatlowcarbon.org/take-the-quiz/



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