Kara Ferguson, CMP
American Society of Anesthesiologists
For raising awareness and implementing best practices around sustainability and food waste
As attendees’ habits drift toward a more balanced and healthy lifestyle and our industry aims at implementing green practices, my organization is tasked with creating experiences for environmentally minded guests. Knowing this trend, I work to make more informed decisions, especially pertaining to food and beverage at our annual conference. We tend to purchase seasonal items, ask which foods are local, and inquire about which items on the menu can be replaced with local ones. We also ask about meals ordered by concurrent groups or the group prior to us at the venue. By ordering all or some of the same food, it helps to reduce our carbon footprint, cuts waste, and actually saves a few steps for both parties. Lastly, we ask the facility about its process for eliminating waste regarding our group’s leftover food.
Continuing to implement these sustainable practices into our conferences and linking them to a CSR component is what I hope to do next. I continuously seek ways our organization can have an impact on society and connect to local communities, for example, by implementing a food-rescue program where we package and donate food that can be distributed to people in need.
Change is not easy, but it can bring about positive successes. My advice for managing change is to share the plan as early as possible. This way all stakeholders are aware of your new and improved strategy, become familiar with advanced resources, and have time to learn new processes and procedures.
Best Business Advice
The best business advice that I ever received was, “Do what you love, learn from the challenges, and network with others.” These three tips seem like a great recipe for success. It’s important that what you do daily is something you will enjoy for a lifetime.
My role models are William Host and John Potterton from Roosevelt University in Chicago, where I got my M.S. in hospitality and tourism. As associate professors of hospitality, not only do they assist students in problem-solving skills that are appropriate to the hospitality industry, but they are changemakers themselves. These two go beyond the classroom with their wealth of knowledge, kindred spirit, and concern for each student’s future.
Peers come to me for input on working with CVBs and food-and-beverage trends. My standard advice is to be sure to know your audience. It’s never too early to connect with them. Consistently read through updated registration lists so you can view all dietary restrictions for each meeting. No matter if you have returning attendees or not, please check this information because their diets may change.
I often go to my peers for advice about local meeting vendors. When I have a question, I usually post it on a meetings industry community board or social media group. This way, I receive a variety of responses.
Got a Spare Hour?
I like to plan or participate in new activities, including travel. One of my favorite travel adventures was when my husband and I did a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway, which was the most beautiful drive ever. We stopped at some of the best eateries, shops, and attractions along the way.