Winter Celebration: A Sustainable, Charitable Event

January 6, 2020
Winter Celebration 2019 set new sustainability standards and helped a BackPack Food Program

Winter Celebration, which was held on December 6, 2019, set new sustainability standards for employee events and also reached a new charity this year. The event is held every year as a benefit for full-time faculty, full-time and part-time staff, floaters, and retirees. 

In keeping with the holiday spirit, every year, employees have donated to local causes, including food pantries, school supply drives, and more. For the 2019 Winter Celebration, the University partnered with a local BackPack Food program, which provides at-risk students with a bag of easy-to-prepare food to take home with them in their backpacks. University departments were asked to team up and pack food bags, which were collected at the event. Four hundred weekend backpack food bags were donated, and the committee received many additional food items, which were donated to a local middle and high school food pantry.
Sydney Hobbs, a school counselor at Pole Green Elementary School, said, “Thank you for your generosity! We would not be able to provide for our families in need without assistance and donations. Because of you, we are able to provide ALL of the elementary students in our weekend backpack food program with meals and snacks the remainder of this school year! Since these students receive breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday at school, we often worry about what food they will have available to them on the weekends. These families are so appreciative of the program and we want to make sure that you are aware of the difference you have made for each of these students and their families.”
Elizabeth Beatley, a school counselor at The Georgetown School, commented, “Your food donation has made a huge difference in the culture of our school. Our students in the highest need, those who are food insecure at home, are able to take home bags of food on a consistent basis. Other students, who do not qualify for free lunch, but often lack the funds for lunch, are able to eat at lunch time. I can honestly say that having the food available seems to take away a stressor for some of our students. We are extremely grateful for your support.”

Not only was the event a charitable one, it also set new sustainability standards for employee events. The zero-waste effort was spearheaded by David Donaldson, the Operations and Summer Programs Manager in Events, Conferences, and Support Services.
Over the years, University Catering has been successful in exchanging the majority of their single-use disposable items for similar, compostable, alternatives. This year, Events, Conferences, and Support Services, along with University Catering, the Office for Sustainability, Custodial and Environmental Services, and the Winter Celebration Planning Committee partnered with N.O.P.E. (Natural Organic Process Enterprises) to capture and dispose of the compostable products that University Catering has worked to procure. 
"This is a huge accomplishment," Donaldson noted. "By doing this, we were able to close the loop on Catering’s investment. Rather than paying a premium for compostable forks and resigning them to the landfill, we were able to capture all of them, food waste too, and have them all sent to a commercial composting facility where they will be converted to rich compost that can in turn feed the land and ultimately grow more plants to make more compostable forks and more food for us to have at the 2020 Winter Celebration. We are committed to working toward making practices like these the Spider Standard, and we are committed to doing our part to help meet the University of Richmond Sustainability Plan’s ambitious goal of 75% waste diversion by 2025."