Sustainability Spotlight: A Conversation with Chantal-Kerr Sheppard, Director of Event Cycle

At Twickenham Stadium, where the roar of the crowd and the excitement of events charge the air, there's another force quietly at work: sustainability. As a long-term pioneer, the venue's events team is keen to encourage collaborations with sustainability-focused businesses, such as Event Cycle, which helps project planners with sustainable solutions that create a lasting social legacy.

The sustainable events consultancy suggests practical solutions, integrates social impact features and experiences, and helps to repurpose and redistribute surplus event materials with charities, community groups, schools, and social enterprises.

In an exclusive interview, founding director Chantal-Kerr Sheppard, whose work includes COP26 and Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, shares her observations and tips on reducing event waste and moving to a circular economy.

Q: Chantal, thank you for joining us. To kick things off, can you tell us your views on Twickenham's efforts with food waste and sustainability?

From what I've observed, Twickenham is doing an incredible amount of work on waste and food consumption. The team's approach involves meticulous scrutiny of menus offered at events, exemplified by their decision to remove red meat from their menus three years ago, well before sustainability became a widely recognised concern.

The catering team has shown a huge commitment to understanding diverse dietary needs, with their executive head chef, Thomas Rhodes, even temporarily adopting a vegan diet to refine plant-based culinary offerings. Twickenham has adopted policies such as eschewing air-freighted food, effectively curbing carbon emissions associated with transportation. The team meticulously monitors carbon emissions and water usage for each food item, exemplifying an impressive attention to detail.

Twickenham has also implemented innovative things like rooftop beehives to support local biodiversity and then the honey is used in their culinary creations. A bio-digester ensures minimal waste, with composted materials repurposed as fertiliser for local organisations. The venue strives for zero waste by maximising utilisation of all food components, whether plant or animal-based, minimising its environmental impact.

Q. What is your wider view on food and sustainability? What does 'good' look like?

Good is local, seasonal, organic plant-based menus with a priority given to Fairtrade products. Carbon emissions are significantly reduced by reducing transportation distances and prioritising plant-based alternatives. Donations to local food charities who will distribute any surplus are also important for venues, or alternatively, ensure you've got a composting partner.

Q. How should venues address other issues, such as energy?

Venues need to track what they're doing in the first place. They need to measure energy, fuel, and water consumption across all operations. By identifying the key areas of significant impact, such as transportation and catering, venues can implement targeted strategies for reduction.

Initiatives like providing facilities for cyclists and runners contribute to energy conservation and promote alternative modes of transportation, too.

With biodiversity, venues can talk to their local environmental officer. Ask them what species are in the area, and how they can contribute as a venue. Even if a venue hasn't any green spaces, you may be able to add bat boxes or bird boxes, if required, or add some plants on your roof. Venues can also support community organisations through donations and partnerships, which are integral components of holistic sustainability efforts.

Ultimately, when it comes to the circular economy, venue leaders need to think about the whole picture. Twickenham's proactive approach to sustainability sets a commendable example for venues and event organisers. By prioritising environmental conservation, supporting local communities, and embracing innovative solutions, Twickenham demonstrates the transformative potential of sustainability initiatives within the events industry.

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