Sunday, March 8, 2015

Expo West 2015: Waste Less Recap

Natalie of the Sunshine Grove rides the ART bus to Expo West
Riding the ART bus to the Anaheim
Convention Center was a big part
of my success at reducing waste
at Expo West
With the rush of the Expo behind me, I took today to reflect on my experience at Natural Products Expo West. Even though this was my third go at walking the expo floor, it felt like my first. This was partly due to the larger exhibit areas and the educational lectures. But what really made it different this year was having a clear definition of what I wanted to get from the expo, and preparing to achieve it without losing my mind, or my taste buds.

I knew at the start of Expo West that I wanted to be as waste free as possible. Packing my bag accordingly helped tremendously. So many exhibitors were accommodating to serving drink samples in my cup, food samples on my cloth napkin and accepting their business card back after I photographed it. A big part of my success was observation and figuring out what, or even how I could try products and food without creating so much waste.

Waste Free breakfast at the Marriott and Hilton with the Sunshine Grove
Waste Free breakfast at the Marriott and Hilton in Anaheim

I started out my Friday and Saturday mornings with breakfast inside of the hotels. The Boulder Brands hosted breakfast on Friday was held at the Marriott with gluten free pancakes, bagels, cereals and coffee all served on ceramic plates and cups, real utensils and cloth napkins. The next morning at the Hilton I enjoyed a cup of coffee, veggie breakfast burrito and banana with the same waste less setting. I do have to mention that the Hilton breakfast also offered paper cups for the coffee and plastic plates for the breakfast. It amazed me how many people opted for the disposable items over the real deal.

The Sunshine Grove uses a cloth napkin to sample gluten free food at Expo West
Samples are better without waste! Thank you Canyon Bakehouse, American Flatbread and Ardenne Farm

Getting on the expo floor with a full stomach is key to not over doing it on samples, which also helped cut down on waste. I kept my cloth napkin in my back pocket and my reusable jar handy while walking the aisles. I opted to bring a reusable plastic jar and lid that I already owned instead of glass in case I dropped it. The last thing I wanted to deal with was broken glass with tons of people around. Sampling cookies, chips or gluten free pizza was easy enough to place on my napkin. Drinks that were being poured from bottles or in spouted containers were simple as well.

BYOC - Bring your own cup to sample drinks, popsicles and ice cream via The Sunshine Grove
Kombucha, Popsicles and ice cream all sampled waste free thanks to the support from Revive Kombucha, Good Pop and Artic Zero

Sampling without waste  became more of a challenge with foods that were liquid, like yogurt or ice cream, or if they were already served on a napkin or cup. Many of these exhibitors were kind enough to place a sample on my reusables. If that wasn't possible I made sure that what the food was served on was compostable. Those wooden spoons and paper wrappers I carried around in my pocket were able to be composted today. I did come home with 4 pieces of non-compostable trash. Two were food wrappers, and the others were stickers that were put on me by vendors as I was walking through the halls.

Let's talk plastic and trash, because both are found everywhere at the Expo.

Trash found around Expo West can be avoided by bringing your own reusables via The Sunshine Grove
Trash found on exhibit tables, overflowing trash cans and in the Anaheim Convention Center water feature.

For a group of people interested in naturals and organics, it is incredibly surprising how wasteful they can be. Plastic cups and spoons used to serve samples and food packaging could all be placed in the trash and then recycled, but instead trash was being left on tables, the floor and even in the water feature in front of the convention center. This was disappointing.

Composting my Expo West trash
I don't believe hope is lost when it comes to plastic and other trash at the expo. Eco Tesil was on the floor showing exhibitors how their compostable paper spoons are an alternative to plastic. The expo itself is listening too. Loliware, a biodegradable cup that you can eat, won the Expo West New Hope 360 NEXT accelerator pitch slam. I'm hopeful that as more compostable products are made available, brands take advantage of a more natural alternative to serving their foods.

A big thank you to everyone who supported my low waste Expo West experience.  Stayed tuned later this week for a round up of products that ditched the plastic packaging. 

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