My Day at COP26: ‘It’s my job to keep the summit fed – sustainably’

Related Topics

  • COP26

Image source, Levy UK + Ireland

Lorna Wilson is in charge of catering at COP26. In the latest in a series of personal accounts from the Glasgow summit, she describes the unique challenges of preparing for the event.

My day usually starts the night before – I like to draw up a plan of action and feel prepped. But nine times out of 10 there's something that throws a spanner in the works.

In the last few days I've been up at 04:00, jumped in the shower, and been on site between 05:00 and 05:30. Then I move around all the different catering outlets, making sure the staff are all where they should be and that the service is delivered.

It's a bit overwhelming as the site is absolutely massive. I'm averaging about 35,000 steps a day. We had 14,000 people here on each of the first two days.

GETTY IMAGESWe’ve eradicated single-use cups and single-use plastics have gone tooLorna Wilson
Head of catering at COP26

My official job title is head of catering operations at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) with the company Levy UK + Ireland. I've worked in catering since I was really, really young – I'm from the Isle of Lewis originally. I like working shifts. I really like the diversity and unpredictability – not being in a routine.

But this isn't just a regular event. There's been so much thought put into it. And now everything we've been planning over the past couple of years has come to fruition.

We've changed everything about our operation. We've eradicated single-use cups. Single-use plastics have gone out, too. Instead there are nearly 400 water coolers around the site for delegates to use with reusable bottles.

Every single product line has been looked at individually: where did it come from, can we validate its source?

  • My Day at COP26: 'I told world leaders: We're not drowning, we're fighting'
  • My Day at COP26: 'My island home is threatened – we have no hill to run to'
  • My Day at COP26: ‘My police dog doesn't care if Biden is here – he gets on with the job’

It goes right the way down to which tea bags we use, which wine we're purchasing – to uniforms, pens and pencils. We've had to ask, where do we get these from?

We have a website that tells you the stories behind all the menu items – where the haggis is made, where in Aberdeen the fish batter was produced, and so on. I've met the farmer we get the cauliflowers from, face to face.

We're working towards a strategy of 80% Scottish food, 15% from the rest of the UK and 5% beyond that. The menu is 40% plant-based and 60% vegetarian overall.

You definitely feel under pressure to get it right. We've been under scrutiny – certain individuals have challenged us on our menus' carbon labelling, which shows how much carbon has been used to produce each item.

But on the whole it's a very low-carbon menu and I think it's been well received by the delegates.

Working on COP26 really does make you think about the bigger picture.

Now when I go shopping I'm hesitant to pick up stuff from outside the country. I'm looking for Scottish produce, Scottish fruit and vegetables. I've been living and breathing it at work and if I bought home plastic bottles of water I'd feel I wasn't practising what I was preaching.

As told to Jon Kelly

The COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow is seen as crucial if climate change is to be brought under control. Almost 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut emissions, and it could lead to major changes to our everyday lives.

  • Why the COP26 climate summit is important
  • Simple guide to climate change
  • Life where it's too hot to work, too hot to sleep
  • What will climate change look like for you?
  • Will the UK meet its climate targets?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *