Racing towards sustainability: Circular food practices at Grand River Ag Society

Along with the excitement and energy at the Grand River Raceway and GrandWay Events Centre, there is a dedication to sustainability. Both are operated by the Grand River Agricultural Society (GRAS), which embraces innovative waste practices across its operations.

GRAS was a pioneer of Guelph-Wellington’s Commercial Food Waste Diversion Collective when the pilot launched in 2020. The program, led by the Circular Innovation Council (CIC), diverts usable food to local charities and keeps food scraps out of landfills.

“We were an original sponsor,” says Doug McCaig, Facilities Manager at Grand River Raceway and GrandWay Events Centre. “Being concerned about the environment is part of our mandate, and we look to support programs and places. Food and food waste felt like a natural fit. We believed in the cause, even though success wasn’t guaranteed.”

McCaig was still game to try, and he led the implementation of the project on behalf of GRAS. The timing was perfect: in 2022, amidst the lasting challenges of the pandemic, GRAS unveiled its new GrandWay Events Centre. When the doors opened, the food waste diversion program was in place.

“Our team had a few hurdles to work through, but that’s common when implementing any new program,” says McCaig, who praises CIC’s initial training as key to supporting their efforts. “In the end, staff came together to push the initiative forward and we’ve had some success; there is significant opportunity for it to be successful and positive.”

GRAS’s commitment continues: Grand River Raceway and GrandWay Events Centre remain in the program, and its tenant, Elements Casino, has joined as well. Together, the three are pooling their efforts and streamlining food waste management without significant cost increases.

“The environment is more important than any bottom line,” says McCaig. “Moving forward, GRAS’s goal is to make it a strong and functional program, and we’re looking forward to increasing our volume. I would absolutely recommend this program.”

Article is written in collaboration with Circular Innovation Council.

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