Leading Sustainable Change in Charm City

Published on : 3/2/23
  • The Baltimore Convention Center hosts over 125 events per year, welcoming more than 500,000 attendees annually. However, their role in the community goes far beyond bringing visitors to the area, creating and sustaining jobs, and driving economic growth for the region. The Center has a longstanding commitment to being a strong civic partner, including finding new and innovative ways to be sustainable leaders in every area of operation. 

    Chef and two apprentices"The decisions we make about managing and operating the Center have a lasting impact on the city," explains Philip Costa, Baltimore Convention Center’s Deputy Director. "Our actions speak much louder than our words. Sodexo Live! has been a critical partner in creating a sustainable strategy that directly benefits our community, even after all the attendees and exhibitors leave."

    A recent survey found that 85% of event attendees want to attend conferences with sustainable practices. Sodexo Live! and the Center have worked together to adapt their catering services and supply chains to make good on their green promise.

    Reducing Waste

    In Baltimore alone, it is estimated that nearly 850,000 tons of food are thrown away each year. Sodexo Live! is laser-focused on reducing waste by partnering with local businesses to find inventive solutions to reuse, repurpose, divert, and recycle food waste. Their comprehensive waste management strategy includes everything from custom-built recycling and compost bins on both the exhibit floors and inside the kitchens, collecting and donating used cooking oil to be reprocessed into biodiesel fuel, sending organic food waste to compost partners, and donating vegan food scraps to a local pig farm. "We have been able to save Carriage House Farms over $2,000 a year in pig feed," said Costa. "And, of course, the pigs love it." 

    Food diversion statistics

    Food Donations

    One in eight people in Maryland, and one in four in Baltimore, are food insecure. Sodexo Live! diligently works to get unused prepared foods into the hands of those who need it by partnering with organizations that connect directly with local nonprofits. "We had relationships in place to donate larger amounts to food banks, but we didn't have a solution for smaller quantities, like a few parfaits or leftover salads when a retail location closes for the day," said Costa. "Now Chef Greg and the Sodexo Live! Culinary Team work with Meal Connect to arrange a pick-up so that food can get to someone hungry in a matter of hours."

    Food donation statistics

    Responsible and Local Sourcing

    Sodexo Live! Executive Chef Greg Pittman keeps it local by sourcing over half of his ingredients and food within 50 miles of the Center, supporting local entrepreneurs and farmers to help create menu items that are uniquely Maryland. "It takes time to build the network we have with community gardens and local farms," explains Chef Greg. "But with partners like Cherry Hill and Carriage House Farms, our guests benefit from fresh, seasonal ingredients, plus we are eliminating longer supply chains and their negative impact on the environment." Sodexo Live! also partners with diverse suppliers including minority and women-owned businesses, such as City Weeds and Le MONADE, to reinvest back in the local community.

    Locally sourced food statistics

    Hyperlocal Greens and Honey

    Even in a northeastern city like Baltimore, it is possible to have freshly harvested produce on a year-round basis. In 2022, the Center and Sodexo Live! partnered to install aeroponic grow towers providing visitors with the freshest greens and herbs possible. From arugula and lemon basil to romaine and rainbow chard, Chef Greg and his culinary team carefully cultivate an innovative, resource-saving garden inside the walls of the Center. Most recently, the Center partnered with urban beekeeping company Alvéole to install beehives on the east side of the facility. "The purpose of bringing the bees to the Center was to explore the possibilities of creating a new ecosystem that can live on our rooftop," said Chef Greg. "We are able to harvest honey onsite to use in our kitchen, plus be able to provide an educational experience for the Center staff as we all learn more about the true lifecycle of our ingredients."

    On-site ingredients statistics


    There are multiple ways to ensure events are more sustainable; however, the host venue you select could have the most significant impact. "Event planners want to do more for the environment," said Costa. "At the Baltimore Convention Center, we continue to put processes in place to make it as simple and streamlined as possible to host a sustainable event." 

    "With Sodexo Live!, it really is a partnership we are both committed to. We encourage each other to keep moving forward and continue to advance our sustainability efforts together into the future."