Greener Events > Green Event Guide

Greening an event

Greening an event means that you are reviewing an event’s supply chain and operations in order to reduce its ecological impacts by producing less waste; consuming less energy, water, and paper; and using resources more efficiently.

From energy and water use at the event venue to the materials used to produce a red carpet, from recycling and composting programs to paper purchased for invitations, tickets, programs, and bathroom tissue, there are many ways to reduce the impacts of an event.

Greening initiatives will depend on the parameters of your event and the existing operations of your event venue. Whether it’s a one-time event or an annual event, there are many opportunities to reduce impacts that can often have lasting benefits for the venue and the community.  Greening an event is a journey, not a destination; an event is never “green,” but can always be “greener.”

Depending on the size and scope of your event and your control over the venue and its operations, there are a variety of ways to implement environmental initiatives. Below are a few suggestions to get started.

» Assemble a Green Event Team

Greening an event is a team effort.  Convene a working group that includes representation from operations staff from the event venue, event managers, staff in charge of purchasing and suppliers, vendors, caterers, waste haulers, and event-related hotels.  Notifying all key event staff in early stages of event planning about the greening initiatives associated with the event is key to making sure that products and services are procured with environmental attributes in mind.  See the Purchasing section of this guide for more guidelines.

Talk to members of your green event team about tracking energy and water use, waste diversion and recycling data, and environmental attributes of purchases and services, which can be used to assemble an Environmental Achievements document of your event’s successes.  See the Tracking Your Progress sections for more guidelines on metrics and reporting.

» Venue Operations

Talk to the operations staff at your event venue to find out about energy and/or water efficiency efforts and recycling infrastructure in place at the facility.  Where possible, if the venue has not had an energy, waste, and/or water efficiency audit in the last five years, arrange for the local utility to perform an audit as far in advance of your event as possible to identify areas for increased efficiency and possible cost savings.  See the Energy Audit, Indoor Water Use and Waste sections of this guide for more information.

» Renewable Energy

Also talk to the operations staff about whether any energy consumed at the facility comes from renewable sources.  Consider working with the venue and their local utility to procure Green-e certified renewable energy credits (RECs) for the electricity used during your event.  If this is not feasible, consider purchasing third-party verified carbon offsets for the emissions associated with energy use at your event.  For either of these options, talk to the operations staff and energy utility about getting energy consumption data from past bills to estimate amounts needed to offset electricity use with RECs or carbon offsets.  See the Renewable Energy and Carbon Offsets section of this guide for more information.

» Waste Reduction

Find ways to reduce waste by purchasing reusable or recyclable items like banners, signs, and other event décor.  Reduce paper use by circulating event information, invitations, media guides and other print collateral electronically, where possible. See the Reduce & Reuse, Paper Use Reduction, and Décor sections of this guide for more information.

» Invitations

Electronic invitations or “e-invites” are an efficient, cost-saving, and convenient way to send invitations to guests and provide reminders closer to the event. Guests also appreciate the ease of using e-invites to RSVP to your event electronically. There are many free and easy-to-use e-vite websites that provide template designs that can be adapted for any style of event, or you can design your own e-invite from scratch. See the Paper Use Reduction section of this guide for more information.

» Purchasing Paper Products

When purchasing tickets, invitations, programs, media guides, or any other print material, request the highest feasible post-consumer recycled content for each paper grade. Talk to the venue operations about incorporating 100% recycled content into bathroom tissue used at the facility. For more environmentally preferable paper and other product specifications, see the Purchasing and Suppliers sections of this guide. 

» Recycling

Talk to the venue’s waste haulers about what recycling options are available in the area.  Ideally, your event should recycle metals, plastics, glass, paper, cardboard, and electronics. Work with venue operations and event organizers to implement recycling programs for waste generated at the event. Clearly labeled bins, well-placed signage, and pairing recycling bins with trash bins can help boost recycling by attendees.  Make sure caterers, bartenders, waitstaff, and kitchen staff are trained to separate recyclables.  See the Recycling section of this guide for more information.

» Composting

Talk to the venue and their waste haulers about composting options available in the area. If possible, consider working with venue staff and caterers to implement a composting program that diverts food waste from kitchens, organic décor (e.g. flower arrangements), any biobased/compostable food serviceware, and perhaps attendee food waste.  Clearly labeled compost bins and well-placed signage can help boost composting by staff and attendees. See the Composting section of this guide for more information.

» Red Carpets and Décor

When choosing décor favor reusable and/or recyclable items over disposable ones.  For instance, instead of purchasing cut flower arrangements, choose live plants that can be returned for reuse, given to attendees as mementos, or donated. Choose FSC-certified wood products where possible. For more information about environmentally preferable décor specifications, visit the Wood Products and Interiors and Décor sections of this guide.

If your event is using a red carpet, talk to your vendor about renting a carpet that can be taken back for reuse. Whether renting or purchasing, ask your vendor about incorporating post-consumer recycled content in your event’s carpet, and ensuring it is a low-VOC emitter and that does not contain PVC. Finally, make sure the carpet will be recycled at the end of its use.

» Food/Catering

Work with your caterers and vendors to find local and organic food options, where possible. See the Food and Beverage section of this guide for more environmentally friendly food specifications and sample letters for vendors.

Also talk to caterers and vendors about reusable serviceware if this is a possibility for your event.  If this not an option for your event, consider recycled-content, recyclable, or bio-based/compostable serviceware options. If composting services are not available in your area, compostable/bioplastic products might not be the best choice as this serviceware will likely end up in a landfill. If this is the case, consider recycled-content paper-based products or recycled-content plastic products that can be recycled.

If your event does use compostable/bioplastic serviceware, favor waste-based bioplastics made from agricultural residues like bagasse or straw instead of corn-based plastics or blends that contain fossil fuel-derived materials. See the Serviceware section of this guide for more information. Also talk to caterers and food vendors about collecting unused leftover food from the event to donate to local food banks.

» Accessible Location and Event Transportation

When planning your event, consider event sites that maximize pedestrian and alternative transit options between locations. For instance, choose a venue that is within walking distance to event-related hotels, and/or in proximity to pedestrian centers and public transit options.

Consider using fuel-efficient, hybrid, or electric shuttles or vehicles for transporting attendees to and from your event.  Also consider promoting carpool options for attendees.  If your event has a vehicle sponsor, ask your sponsor to provide and highlight their most fuel-efficient and/or hybrid options. If possible, incorporate options like videoconferencing into your event to enable attendees to minimize travel. See the Travel section of this guide for more information.

» Biodiesel Generators

For events that require mobile generator systems to provide electricity, consider using generators that can operate using biodiesel fuel.

» Hotels

If staff and attendees will be using local hotels for your event, work with hotel managers and staff to promote environmental initiatives.  Ask hotel managers about energy and water efficiency efforts, recycling programs in event spaces and guest rooms, linen and towel reuse options, and other sustainable practices in place at local hotels.  See the Hotels section of this guide for more guidelines and resources about greener hotel options.

Environmental Successes Documents

Environmental Achievements of the 79th Academy Awards
Environmental Achievements of the 50th Grammy Awards
Sustainability Achievements of the 2011 NCAA Final Four

Additional Resources

LEED: Green Venue Selection Guide
Live Earth: Greener Events Guide
Green Events Guide