There's no doubt we're living in a time where venues need to be setting examples on what it means to deliver leadership in event sustainability and when client expectations of sustainability are evolving.
To us, event sustainability is about being a venue that is responsibility-minded. While this is a relatively new concept and is something that we are ever-evolving, below are some examples of sustainability practices that happen here at Ellerslie Event Centre.
As you could imagine, we can have large crowds in our public areas when we're catering for the racedays that are held here. We do our bit to reduce plastic by serving the takeaway food we produce for them on compostable bamboo and wooden takeaway plates with matching cutlery. Our popular Tapas menu also uses these items. Our takeaway coffee cups which are used both within our event centre and on racedays are also recyclable.
While we're sure you'll love our food, leaving some behind on your plate isn't a lost cause either. We've got that sorted thanks to our on-site digester - a product that uses aerobic digestion to divert food waste from its commercial compactor into clear water which then goes into the sewer where it has no impact.
We understand we were the first catering organisation in New Zealand to install a digester and, as at 2019, we were proud to say we had successfully diverted over 30,000kg of food waste from landfill – the equivalent weight of six elephants.
Like most venues though, we do generate some waste.
However, we have put a "sustainable" lens on this and have chosen to partner with Green Gorilla – a 100% New Zealand-owned company. The team there have spent a decade developing a waste management model like no other and are the largest non-landfill, full-spectrum waste service provider in Auckland.
Two types of Green Gorilla branded bins are available around our venue; one for wet waste (coffee grounds and garden waste, for example), and one for dry waste (paper, cardboard and plastic). Once full, the items in those bins go to Green Gorilla’s Commercial Resource Recovery Plant to be recycled and re-purposed.
We also recycle used glass via our supplier, Paper Reclaim, and have phased out plastic straws to the point where we don't even offer straws unless asked (and in that case, it's paper straws).
We try to cut down on unnecessary transport where we can. With catering taking place in our on-site kitchens, we use less energy to transport food than a mobile caterer might and we limit the number of suppliers we use in order to help reduce food mileage.
We also grow many herbs, vegetables, lemons and limes on site – all of which are harvested and used in our catering. We grow enough to "just about" meet demands for these ingredients too – so you'll rarely see us buying any lemons!
When we hold our own events, such as racedays, we do sometimes need to bring in third-party caterers to help with demand. In those instances, we typically book small-batch caterers whose benefit is that they use less automated, energy-sucking equipment. Being local, they end up using less energy in getting themselves – and their food – to our venue and, of course, supporting "local" helps give back to our community and sustains the income of a small business.
Our venue can cater for events of almost any size. Whether you’ve got 50 or 5,000 guests attending – that number of journeying people can make for a large fuel output which, in turn, contributes to air pollution. We are lucky in that we are easily accessible by public transport with a train station and bus stops just a short walk away.
In addition, we suggest clients encourage attendees to carpool to our venue in order to help make a much lighter imprint on our environment.
In 2018 we were one of the first in New Zealand to make use of REPREVE® fabric when taking delivery of 1,500 new chairs.
The fabric, which is made from recycling used plastic bottles and turning them into polyester, uses x22 500ml plastic bottles per metre and, compared to "virgin" fabrics, helps offset using new petroleum, emits fewer greenhouse gases and conserves water and energy in the process.
Further, the chairs themselves are also designed to be reusable - the upholstered seat pads and plastic components can all be replaced easily so if parts break, or if our décor ever changed, we can update parts of the chairs as opposed to throwing old ones out and buying new ones. It's estimated each chair should have a lifespan of 10 years - not bad when you consider we have more than 100,000 people through our doors & sitting on them each year.
And finally, just on fabrics... we wash our tea towels and uniforms on-site. We also wash a number of our raceday-related materials here site too (things such as saddlecloths and the bibs that the horses' grooms wear).
Sustainability is an ever-evolving proposition here at Ellerslie Event Centre.
It's something we recognise is of high importance – not just to us and our clients, but for our wider community and world too – and is something our team is focused on, working on and actively striving to improve on, each and every day.