At Pildora, sustainable events are our specialty. But that doesn’t mean pulling them off seamlessly is an easy task. It takes a team, a carefully thought out plan and a smart execution.

It can be easy to overlook how wasteful an event can be. Little things, like plastic wrap for items being brought in, are easy to forget about. When planning our most recent #FASHIONABILITY event during New York Fashion Week, we wanted to go the extra mile to show New York how a sustainable event should be done.

Our main mission was figuring out how we could compost at #FASHIONABILITY, an event for 200 people, and arrange for it to be picked up the end of the night. The first thought was to provide a large bin for the event, then take it home and compost at the local farmer’s market the next day. After further research, we learned that meat and dairy weren’t accepted as part of that composting program. We also discovered that the compostable cups we were planning to supply could only be composted at an industrial facility.

With these obstacles before us, we decided to reach out to our host committee. With the help of Celeste MckMickle a knowledgeable NYC sustainability advisor, we were connected to Reclaimed Organics.

Reclaimed Organics accepts all food waste. They could also take industrially compostable products, making them the best partners for our needs. They provided us with large composting bins as well as smaller compostable bags for the event, and promised to collect them the next day — via bicycle. They asked us to fill the smaller compost bags individually so that they could easily be moved the next day.

This presented us another small challenge: How could we best arrange smaller bags of compost? Would they fill up too quickly? We created makeshift mini composting bins by placing the smaller compostable bags inside of old paper takeout bags.

The venue staff at World of McIntosh was enthusiastic about our composting mission. Together, we made a plan: tie up the smaller compost bags as they filled up, toss full bags into the larger composting bin, then replace bags in our makeshift bins throughout the event.

We printed signs from Reclaimed Organics (on recycled paper as an extra touch) that explained which items could and could not be composted. At the dedicated composting table, we also had a sign to help educate and explain to guests the benefits behind composting. The WOM staff also suggested we designate two large bins for composting since they knew the smaller bags would be filled up so quickly. The plan was to separate the contents from those larger bins into the smaller compostable bags at the end of the night.

During the event, we found it challenging to ensure that the smaller compost bags were being replaced often enough. In the future, we’ll have to think about having dedicated staff for this task, especially when serving delicious rich foods.

When the event came to a close, the cleaning happened quicker than expected and we lost track of the larger bags that were also designated for compost. We also realized that, because the venue had several floors where food and drinks were being served, there were more compostable cups, plates and food that could have been composted but hadn’t been accounted for.

But with those hiccups came a lot of successes: Our delicious vegan and gluten-free desserts from Ocka treats were served in reusable glass jars. When guests were finished with the mousse, most returned the jars. The next day, Ocka Treats came to pick up their jars and display platter, which they clean and reuse in the future.

Minimizing the event’s carbon impact and contributing the circular economy was the overarching theme of #FASHIONABILITY. Our takeaway is that when it comes to compost, coordinating with venue management takes more time than we’d expect – how to the recycle the sustainable “Flow” water bottle started quite a discussion on the day of the event; turns out the paper bottles are fully recyclable and the caps are made from sugar cane. This informs an alternative way to print the recycling signs next time: with all the pictures of the products used at event telling guests where bin each product goes, from utensils to containers.

Composting is like flossing, everyone has full intention to do it, we say we will do it. But when it comes to actionability, you know how it is. Which is why we want to make it as easy as possible. We realized it isn’t mission impossible to plan composting and recycling to a seamless process, but it takes a substantial amount of efforts. We have learned fast and are ready for the next challenge.

In the end, while we did have a handful of missteps, we learned a significant amount along the way and took on the challenge of curating a successful sustainable event. These events are a learning moment for our guests and for our team. In the future, allowing for more education around what we’re doing and providing resources to attendees will hopefully continue to help people make changes in their own lives.