Check out how you can put an eco-twist on your wedding catering with Danielle as she visits Sage Catering in New York.  (Nick Scott/MNN)

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Danielle:  For this week’s installment of our wedding series, we’re going to be talking about eco-friendly catering.  So, I’m here with my most-favorite New York caterer, Leslie Nilsson from Sage Events.  First, tell me a little bit about Sage.  We’re here in the general store, which I love, but it doesn’t really speak of -- it doesn’t scream “weddings.”  So, tell me about your company and all the different things going on.

Leslie: Okay.  Well, Sage American Kitchen is our original company brand.  And we started that company in order to have a sandwich shop and a catering company that was working with local vendors, supporting local farmers, and basically opting out of the big business model.

Danielle:  So when you started the business 11 years ago, you were sustainably-minded right out of the gates?

Leslie:  I would say that our original mission statement, which has not changed in 11 years, is very much indicative of who we are, which is that we want to work as locally as possible with supporting small local businesses.  We haven't really changed our business model.  We do work more--more closely with more and more local farmers and--and try and in trying to even get our radius closer to just working with the Hudson Valley folks.  So that’s been -- and local cheeses and working with people directly rather than going to a cheese, a local cheese vendor here in the city.  So that’s been good for us.  And also when I write my menus now for brides who are very much interested in that, we will create different kinds of catering scenarios that focus and showcase specifically the sustainability of what we do.

Danielle:  So when a client comes to you and says, “Okay, I want a -- I’m coming to you specifically because I want to use local purveyors and I want to focus on organic produce,” is that -- are they inevitably going to break the bank now with their budget?

Leslie:  Yes, it is more expensive.  I can’t beat the price of a caterer who’s using frozen food from a large distributor like Sysco or US Foods, because everything we use is fresh.  So my take on weddings is not to break my client’s bank, but rather to come up with something that will work for them within their budget, whether it is just a dessert buffet or something like that, or to do like a local market table is my favorite thing to do where you get some local cheeses, you get some vegetables.  We can make quiches out of the local vegetables.  We can have maybe one entrée dish with a local grass-fed beef or chicken.

Danielle:  So over the years, have you seen an increased demand for sustainable catering for people talking about organic or different buzzwords?

Leslie: You know, when I explain to somebody that we compost our waste and that that’s all going back to the farms in Long Island in order to sustain their, you know, their fertilizer methods without having to use chemicals, then people go, “Okay, well, that’s great.”  I mean, do they really care?  Maybe not.  But in two years they might be in a situation where somebody else is talking about composting and they say, “Oh, yeah, my caterer at my wedding was composting.”

Danielle:  Right.

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Danielle Venokur, creator of a Manhattan-based sustainable event planning company, hosts MNN's "The Green Party." In this series, Danielle offers her easy and elegant ideas for hosting intimate gatherings and big events in an eco-friendly way. Danielle has mastered the art of blending stylish and hip while being sustainable and responsible. You can learn about her party style by looking at other chapters of "The Green Party" video series.

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