Zero Waste Catering: Smash Events has Food Waste Reduction Down to a Science

Eliminating food waste translates to tasty meals for the lucky animals on Liz Pence’s Western North Carolina farm. As operations manager at local catering company Smash Events, Liz uses the food scraps generated by her company as the main food source for her two pigs, Gilbert and Collards, and also gives some to her chickens. (The leftovers looked so good when I was in their kitchen that I almost reached in and grabbed a snack for myself!)  When Liz brings event leftovers and kitchen scraps home, her children help sort the compostable cups and other items from the edibles, then she portions the food into gallon bags for her animals’ to consume. 

Smash Events owners Ashley and Nestor Teran have been intentional in creating a nearly zero-waste, sustainable business model. With a deep understanding of how events work and what clients want, they anticipate how much each group is likely to consume then order food carefully, planning for special-event portion control to minimize leftovers. 

Even the system they have in place for serving food — staff members dish out portions to diners, offering side items first — is with an eye to minimizing waste. Diners can come back for seconds, but this serving style keeps folks from putting too much on their plates that might go to waste. 

Smash Events also freezes and saves any excess meat, cheese, bread, and sauces, and prepared foods still untouched at the end of an event are offered to guests and staff. Anything that’s not consumed on site or taken home by the customers is made available to Food Connection at the end of each weekend for distribution as delicious meals to folks seeking food assistance.

Food that’s left on the either compostable or ceramic plates gets scraped into a bin for Liz’s farm animals. Drinks are served in glass or compostable cups, and even the used cooking oil goes to Blue Ridge Biofuels to live a second life as a fuel source. There’s almost no garbage at the end of a Smash event!

By Marc Rudow

Food Waste Hero: West Village Market

West Village Market

Going, going, gone — but not wasted!

Small, local grocer West Village Market is big on eliminating food waste

Entering the West Village Market, a small grocery store in West Asheville, one is immediately struck with how clean, beautiful, and efficiently organized it is. Everything looks tidy and immaculate. And most notably, this market puts hardly anything into the trash. 

West Village Market

How do they do it? Rosanne Kiely, who co-owns West Village Market with Ron Ainspan, gives us the scoop:

Freezing

Almost every food product can have its life extended by freezing. Both farmers and the grocery store use this method to protect locally sourced meat from spoilage. Many meat products arrive at West Village Market already frozen and then are stored in the freezer or sent directly to a display case depending on consumer demand. 

Some meat comes in fresh and goes directly to the retail shelf. Meat products that are still fresh in the display case but not yet sold can have their shelf lives extended by freezing. Some fresh goods, such as bananas, that change texture or quality when frozen can be used for new purposes like smoothies or baked goods after freezing. This is a great way to keep inventory fresh and safe!   

Repurposing and reusing

When West Village Market has an oversupply of a perishable product, staff members refer to a list of recipes they keep to find ways to turn it into a delicious dish and include it in the daily deli offerings before it spoils. 

Non-perishable products that are nearing the end of their shelf lives are discounted for quick sale to get them into the hands — and bellies — of consumers faster. And the market recognizes that not all consumers need or want jumbo/family sizes of certain packaged products, such as cheese, and provide smaller-size purchased options to ensure less waste at home as well.   

Donating

The market donates some items to Black Mountain-based nonprofit Bounty and Soul, which distributes fresh fruits, vegetables, and other usable foods to the community through its programming.

Supporting employees

A perk of working at the West Village Market is that employees are encouraged to take home surplus foods that are reaching the end of their shelf lives. This is both a bonus for employees and avoids the cost of transporting the food to other locations for distribution. 

Feeding livestock

Some edible products that are past their prime go to a local farmer who sends them along in the food chain by feeding them to livestock such as pigs and chickens.

Composting

Local waste-hauling and composting business Danny’s Dumpster collects compost on site at West Asheville Market. Some food scraps are fed to black soldier flies, which produce rich “frass,” or droppings that can be used as fertilizer and are themselves eventually used as food for chickens and fish.

TerraCycle

The West Village Market collects the hard-to-recycle food containers, like potato chip bags, squeeze pouches, and bar wrappers, that we often simply throw away and packages them to be sent quarterly to TerraCycle, a business that recycles them into new products.  

Food Waste Hero West Village Market

 Article by Marc Rudow 

Food Waste Hero: Wicked Weed Brewing

Wicked Weed Brewing

When Asheville-born brewery Wicked Weed was purchased by Anheuser-Busch InBev back in 2017, many craft beer fans didn’t know what to expect. Would the flavor and soul of Wicked Weed’s craft be lost? Five years on, we can happily say the flavor and soul are safe. And although they’ve scaled up production, sales, and distribution, they’ve also scaled up sustainability efforts. Through employee engagement and both community and internal initiatives, Wicked Weed is setting a high bar: from increasing energy and water efficiency to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They are paying attention to their environmental impact and encouraging staff and patrons to do the same.

Zero waste station made from repurposed wood barrel staves

We could wax poetic about all of Wicked Weed’s energy and plastic reduction efforts but we’re here to talk about food waste. The brewer currently has a 98.5% waste diversion rate (i.e., amount of waste diverted from the landfill to reuse, recycle, and compost). In addition to making food donations, they began a composting program at all facilities for items such as food waste, paper towels, and compostable plates, cups, and utensils and improved their waste diversion rate, to divert about 16% more materials from the landfill.

There are currently robust food waste composting programs at the Brewpub on Biltmore Ave and at the Funkatorium on Coxe Ave while a new compost program at their production facilities not only targets food waste from break rooms but all organic wastes (e.g. fruit, grapes, coffee, etc.) from the brewing process itself. Last year, Wicked Weed sent over 7,000,000 lbs of spent grain to farmers for animal feed (up from 5,000,000 lbs in 2020) and saved over 30,000 lbs of compostable materials from being landfilled. In the future, they hope to get Zero Waste Certified and send all spent yeast and fermenter waste to local farms for feedstock.

Andrew Dagnan, Wicked Weed’s Director of Safety and Sustainability

Food Waste Solutions WNC is proud to have Wicked Weed as a 2022 Food Waste Reduction Month partner. Many thanks to this Food Waste Hero for keeping the flavor and the soul and proving that brewing great beer doesn’t have to come at the expense of our natural resources.

Food Waste Hero: 12 Bones Smokehouse

Food Waste Hero 12 Bones

Think of an Asheville restaurant with pages of accolades and awards, a long list of celebrity customers, and a steady flow of loyal locals queuing up daily for its delicious food, and you have 12 Bones Smokehouse. Serving from locations on Foundy Street in the River Arts District and Hendersonville Road in Arden, 12 Bones’ barbecue, sandwiches, and sides are in high demand, and the restaurants do their best to ensure that as little food as possible goes unused. 

“I hate to waste food,” says co-owner Bryan King, explaining that 12 Bones makes any leftover prepared foods available to local organizations that redistribute meals to the hungry. Additionally, when there are closings for snow, COVID-19, or scheduled holidays, it’s likely that some perishable items will go out of date and need to either be used or thrown away.

Bryan and his group partner with nonprofit organizations, including Haywood Street Congregation, Food Connection, Hope House, Veterans Restoration Quarters, and Trinity Episcopal Church, to provide high-quality food to be shared with local residents in need rather than sending it to the landfill. 12 Bones staff members have made appearances at the Haywood Street Congregation to cook for its free community meal program.

At the outset of the pandemic, the 12 Bones went above and beyond the scope of preventing food waste within its own restaurants, asking one of its vendors, Performance Food Group, to donate perishable food products that might be wasted. 12 Bones staff then cooked and donated that food to the community. Bryan and the 12 Bones staff also encourage folks who use the two restaurant locations for private parties and special events to donate their leftovers to the same local organizations that support individuals and families experiencing hunger.

In addition to sharing good food with those who need it, in diverting food away from the landfill, 12 Bones is doing its part to protect the environment by helping minimize greenhouse gas emissions. And, in Buncombe County, this is a big deal — food waste in the county has an estimated annual carbon footprint equivalent to burning 226,430 gallons of gasoline! And, although 12 Bones food, which is often served with sauces and gravies, can be challenging to transport, Bryan takes special care to make sure the restaurants’ to-go containers are as environmentally friendly as possible. No Styrofoam is used, and Bryan is constantly looking for the best technology for sending his products out to the public.

 Thanks to 12 Bones for doing its part and leading the way for others!

Food Waste Hero - 12 Bones

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Written by: Marc Rudow