Venues & Theatres > Concessions

Food and Beverage

Selling local, organic, and environmentally preferable food and merchandise options at your venue can have significant benefits to the health of your audience and the environment. Consider consulting with your theatre’s current suppliers and vendors to determine the availability of more ecologically preferable ingredients and materials.

You may also want to consider including environmentally preferable food specifications in future contracts and requests for proposal with concession vendors, delivery services, or other food suppliers.

Environmentally Intelligent Food Specifications:

  • U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) “Organic” products
  • Seafood products certified by the Marine Stewardship Council
  • Zero trans fat
  • Non-genetically modified organisms
  • Vegetarian options
  • Free range and/or pasture-fed meat and poultry
  • Meat, poultry, and dairy products raised and processed without hormones and antibiotics
  • Fair trade, shade-grown coffee
  • Wine bottles sealed with natural cork instead of more polluting closures like plastic stoppers or metal screw-caps
  • Locally grown food
  • Minimal packaging
  • Products delivered in minimal, reusable, recyclable, or bio-based/compostable packaging

To locate nearby markets and other local food sources, search the Local Food Guide Database. The Organic Consumers Association’s business directory is another source of information about where to buy local and organic food.

See the Composting and Food Donation sections of this guide for information about reducing and recycling food waste.

Natural Cork Stoppers

Wine stoppers made from natural cork are renewable, biodegradable, and recyclable. Cork is harvested from oak trees in a traditional, environmentally sustainable process where only a layer of bark is removed and the tree remains intact and undamaged. Cork oak forests are concentrated in the Mediterranean Basin biological hotspot that support 25,000 species of birds, plants, and wildcats, and cork production provides thousands of stable jobs for local communities.

Many cork producers have acquired or are in the process of acquiring Forest Stewardship Council certification, which further ensures that the cork has been harvested legally and sustainably. Artificial stoppers or screw tops cause more global warming pollution during their manufacture, are made from non-renewable materials (including fossil fuel-derived plastics and aluminum) using at least five times more energy per ton to produce, and millions of artificial stoppers end up in our landfills and oceans.

Sample Letter To Suppliers And Food And Beverage Concessionaires:

Dear _______,

[Our Organization] has initiated a policy to improve our environmental performance in all aspects of our operations. We would like to meet with you to discuss buying ecologically superior food products in more detail. We would also like to discuss ways to cost-effectively switch to less packaging, recyclable or reusable packaging within the next few years.

We would like to reduce as much as possible the harmful effects on the environment and public health that are associated with our operations, and we would like to speak with you about healthier and environmentally preferable alternatives to the food products and food packaging that we are currently using.

Please call me at your earliest convenience so that we can organize a meeting to pursue this discussion.

Sample Contract Language:

[Our theatre] has adopted an environmental policy to improve its environmental performance. To further these goals, food-related products and services contracted for by the theatre will be evaluated in part on their health and environmental attributes. Specific factors to be considered include:

  • U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) “Organic” products
  • Seafood products certified by the Marine Stewardship Council
  • Food with Zero trans fat
  • Non-genetically modified organisms
  • Vegetarian options
  • Free range and/or pasture-fed meat and poultry
  • Meat, poultry, and dairy products raised and processed without hormones and antibiotics
  • Fair trade, shade-grown coffee
  • Wine bottles sealed with natural cork instead of more polluting closures like plastic stoppers or metal screw-caps
  • Locally grown food
  • Minimal packaging
  • Products delivered in minimal, reusable, recyclable, or bio-based/compostable packaging

Please address these concerns when submitting your proposals.

Environmental Benefits

The food we eat has diverse impacts on human health and the environment. Agriculture is one of the leading sources of water pollution in the world, causing pesticides, sediment, and fertilizer to run into rivers and streams, and the transportation of food contributes to global warming and other forms of air pollution. Food packaging uses considerable amounts of paper and plastic, and discarded food fills up landfills and contributes to the release of methane gas into the atmosphere.

Additional Resources

 

Serviceware and Paper Products

At many venues around the country, beverages at concession stands are served in non-recyclable cups. Consider purchasing reusable containers that theatregoers can have refilled and take home as souvenirs. See the Reusable Bags and Cups section for more information.

If reusable items are not an option, choose disposable items that are recyclable and ideally made from recycled content, or alternatives to fossil fuel-derived products such as bio-based compostable options (ideally certified by a third party, such as the Biodegradable Products Institute, to ASTM compostable product standards and made from waste-based materials).

A recycling or composting program can save money while also improving your venue’s environmental performance.  See the Recycling and Composting sections of this guide for more information about setting up these programs.

Consider asking your venue’s current vendors and suppliers about compostable and recyclable serviceware options. You may also want to consider joining the EPA’s free WasteWise program, which provides members with several benefits, including a technical assistance team that will help your organization conduct a waste audit and reduce waste.

Installing and maintaining drinking water fountains both front of house and backstage can also help reduce the adverse impacts related to the production of plastic bottles, including global warming pollution, other hazardous air emissions, biodiversity loss, water pollution and solid waste impacts.

Concessions Paper Products

When purchasing napkins, paper towels and other paper products for concessions, choose products that contain recycled content.  Environmentally preferable paper products can often be purchased at little or no increase in cost. Consider the following attributes when making paper purchases, and see the Paper Purchasing section of this guide for more information:

  • Highest feasible percentage of post-consumer recycled content
  • Chlorine-free bleaching process
  • Wood fiber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council
  • Mercury-free pulping caustic

Bio-Based And Compostable Serviceware

Choosing bio-based/compostable products can be tricky. Look out for the following characteristics:

  • Avoid bioplastic “blends” that include fossil fuel-derived plastics and claim to be biodegradable without further information. Be sure that any product labeled as “bio-based,” “biodegradable,” or “made from renewable materials” is in fact made entirely from bio-based materials (plants or plant residues). Avoid products labeled only “biodegradable,” which is not an environmental benefit for packaging. Look for compostable products certified by a third party to ASTM compostable product standards, and a product description that says “bio-based” and tells what the product is made from.
  • Favor waste-based bioplastic options made from agricultural residues (such as bagasse, which is the residue from sugar cane production, or straw), which are crop residues left over after harvest from an existing agricultural land use and which would otherwise be treated as waste. Corn-based bioplastics like PLA are among the most widely available bioplastics — while these represent a positive first step in the growing market toward finding alternatives to nonrenewable, fossil-fuel-derived plastic, the production of these plastics (and other plastics derived from crops grown intentionally to make bioplastic rather than made from crop residues) raises concerns about agricultural impacts on land use, food production and global warming. These impacts are all significantly reduced by specifying products made from waste-based materials.
  • Consider working with your hauler to ensure that any compostable products you purchase are able to be composted in your local composting facility, as processes vary and some products pose challenges in particular facilities.

Compostable Serviceware Case Studies
In 2005, the McAfee Stadium in the Oakland Coliseum Complex became the first stadium to offer drinks in compostable bioplastic cups. This move keeps hundreds of thousands of cups from going to landfills and prevents the purchase of over three tons of petroleum-based plastic cups each year. Case study.

By introducing a comprehensive waste diversion program aimed at zero waste, the Seattle Mariners have increased the diversion rate at Safeco Field from 12% in 2005, to over 70% in 2010.  By switching to compostable serviceware and packaging, the Mariners were able to improve their waste diversion through an aggressive composting program. As a result, the Mariners saved $72,000 on waste disposal between 2007 and 2010. The Mariners have continued to improve these efforts, averaging an 82% diversion rate between 2010-2011.

The 2011 U.S. Open launched a composting program at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center that diverted all food waste, kitchen wastes, and compostable serviceware and napkins from the food court to a compost farm in Connecticut.  52 tons of organic waste were kept out of the landfill, resulting in a 30% reduction in carting costs for the USTA.

Calculate the environmental benefits of composting.

Sample Letter To Current Suppliers

Dear _______,

[Our theatre] has initiated an effort to improve our environmental performance in all aspects of our operations. Because you are one of our food suppliers, we would like to meet with you to discuss these objectives in more detail. We would also like to discuss ways to cost-effectively switch to more environmentally responsible products within the next few years.

Our choice of serviceware can have a significant effect on the environment. Much of food serviceware is made from non-renewable fossil fuel-derived plastic whose production process involves several toxic compounds. In addition, many disposable items are not designed with recycling and disposal in mind.

We would like to reduce as much as possible the harmful effects associated with our operations, and we would like to speak with you to ensure that the products we are purchasing do not contribute to these problems.

Please call me at your earliest convenience so that we can organize a meeting to pursue this discussion.

Environmental Benefits

The production and disposal of single-use serviceware contributes to a number of environmental impacts. Most plastic is produced from fossil fuel-derived products, which increases our consumption of non-renewable resources. Fossil fuel drilling and exploration can contribute to oil spills and habitat destruction.

The paper industry is responsible for the harvesting of countless acres of forest habitat every year and is one of the world’s largest industrial sources of water pollution. By purchasing reusable, recycled content, recyclable or bio-based/compostable cups or bottles, and by recycling or composting these products at the end of their use, your organization can help reduce these impacts.

When selecting disposable serviceware products, compostable/bioplastic products might not be the best choice if composting services are not available in your area and this serviceware will end up in a landfill. When compostable items decompose in a landfill, they generate methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. If composting is not available in your area, consider recycled-content paper-based products or recycled-content plastic products that can be recycled.

If your venue does choose compostable/bioplastic serviceware, favor products certified by a third party as meeting ASTM standards for compostability, and waste-based bioplastics made from agricultural residues like bagasse or straw instead of corn-based plastics or blends that contain petroleum materials.

Additional Resources

 

Apparel and Souvenirs

Theatres and venues can sell a variety of products such as apparel, souvenirs, and other merchandise. Take the following attributes into consideration when contracting for the production and distribution of this merchandise:

  • Products that contain the highest percentage of postconsumer recycled content feasible
  • Products with minimal packaging
  • Products that are reusable, recyclable, and/or compostable
  • Products with sustainably harvested wood (Forest Stewardship Council Certified)
  • Products made with USDA-certified organic materials
  • Products that do not contain PVC or phthalates
  • Products that do not emit high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Products with no ozone depleting compounds
  • Products that are made using renewable energy
  • Suppliers that provide environmentally preferable products and can document the supply-chain impacts of their efforts

Reusable Bags and Cups

Many venues sell or give out reusable bags and/or cups at shows or events in lieu of disposable ones.  Consider providing the option of a reusable bag or cup when attendees make purchases at concessions or merchandise areas.  When choosing these products, consider the following attributes:

  • Products containing highest feasible recycled content (especially postconsumer recycled content)
  • Products containing materials that are organically grown and/or made from agricultural residues (byproducts of crops otherwise disposed as waste)
  • Products that are recyclable (or compostable, if that’s an option through your hauler) at end of life
  • Products that do not contain PVC (vinyl) which is associated with toxic emissions in production, use, and disposal
  • Products with minimal packaging

Environmental Benefits

The production and disposal of single-use plastic cups and bags contributes to a number of environmental impacts. Most plastic is produced from fossil fuel-derived products, which increases our consumption of nonrenewable sources. Fossil fuel drilling and exploration contributes to global warming pollution, oil spills and habitat destruction. By purchasing recycled-content and recyclable or compostable bags, cups or bottles, and by recycling or composting these products at the end of their use, your venue can help reduce these impacts.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES