As a Green Business Aide with the San Francisco Green Business Program (SFGBP) for the past 2 ½ years, I have worked on many projects such as coordinating Green Business outreach and awareness campaigns. Through our last campaign I had the pleasure to meet and recruit Thomas John Events, a catering and events management company. In conversations with the owner, Tom, it was evident that he was passionate about sustainability; one of the main reasons why I believed the company would be a good fit for the Green Business Program. After becoming a recognized Green Business with SFGBP in 2014 I sat down with Tom to get his perspective on the process and learn more about his path to the catering industry.
Thomas John Henderson aka Tom, owner of Thomas John Events, has had quite the interesting journey into the world of catering. He began working in the catering industry during high school, helping a relative who owned a catering business. “It was the perfect work for a high school kid,” said Tom, “with most jobs being on the weekend and great pay at the time”. After high school Tom was going to pursue a college degree in welding and metallurgy: subjects he had become very fond of during his time in metal shop. When this did not pan out, Tom came back to catering and worked his way up the ladder, eventually starting his own catering business.
For the last 10 years he and the staff at Thomas John Events have been providing a client-centric approach to catering. There is a rooftop garden on Tom’s kitchen which produces 100% of the microgreens they use and consists of a soil-based hydroponic system. There is also a 1-acre farm located in South San Francisco which is used to grow specialty produce for corporate clients and events. The farm is managed and maintained by Thomas John Events employees who also operate a vermicomposting system to process a portion of their kitchen food waste. Vermicomposting is the practice of using worms to break down food scraps1.
Recalling his experience Tom remarked, "The whole process was quite the learning opportunity, from the effectiveness of efficient lighting and refrigeration, to the importance of composting and recycling." The catering industry has many different sources of waste, from the obvious food waste, to bottles, cans and various types of packaging. Tom mentioned he and his staff took tours of Recology and composting facilities to get a feel for the full life cycle of products.
SFGP through its high environmental standards and stringent criteria of measures developed by program staff with input from industry experts, utility companies, pollution prevention professionals, City inspectors and trade associations, allowed Thomas John Events to look at its entire operations: focusing on sustainability in all aspects of the company. Audits were performed for food safety and materials handling as well as wastewater discharge. In Tom's words, "These were largely educational and the auditors were always helpful and explained the return on investments as well as the cost-effectiveness of operating in the specified manner." Throughout the process the Green Business team was available via email or phone to answer any questions that arose and kept the business informed of their progress. "What I found most helpful is that when not in contact for a month the Green Business Program would reach out to us and ask how they could help us move forward or complete the next step."
Originally worried about the costs associated with participating in the program and making the required changes, Tom remarked, “Going through the process you find out that the return on investments more than outweighs the initial costs of implementation which tend to be minimal.” Tom believes the process was very worthwhile and has since recommended the program to several of his colleagues in the catering industry. “The green concept is just starting to gain momentum in the catering industry moving from a trend to the norm, with more clients and businesses are seeing value in sustainability.” This trend will hopefully spread to other industries in the near future. For businesses interested in taking advantage of this opportunity, join the San Francisco Green Business Program. In Tom’s words, “Just Do It”. To learn more about Thomas John Events visit www.thomasjohnevents.com. To learn more about the SFGBP visit www.sfgreenbusiness.org. 1. CalRecycle. Vermicomposting. 1/27/2015