As part of Arizona State University’s commitment to creating a sustainable campus, the university has developed Sustainable Event Guidelines which aim to reduce the environmental impact of events held on campus.
The benefits of integrating sustainable practices into special events include:
- Meeting community expectations
- Making events marketable to sponsors
- Instilling positive change in vendors and attendees
- Diverting recyclables and compostables from the landfill
- Reducing greenhouse gases
- Increasing environmental awareness
- Reducing landfill costs
Throughout these pages, you’ll see tips and recommendations for making your event sustainable. We can all do our part to make a difference!
The university encourages ASU departments to reuse office or lab supplies, furniture, and other unneeded items.
ASU Green Event Program
A green event seeks to reduce negative environmental and social impacts and increase positive economic effects. Green events practices include recycling and waste management, energy efficiency, green purchasing and transportation practices, and the use of local and organic foods, among others.
If you have any questions about the sustainability guidelines, please contact:
Lesley Michalegko – Program Manager, University Sustainability Practices
Katie Schumacher – Program Coordinator, Zero Waste
Sustainable event planning
- Ensure that the planning committee is committed to the sustainable event. Establish sustainable criteria, assign duties, set goals and objectives, and measure outcomes.
- Locate sites that are transit-accessible (bus, trolley, tram, metro, rail), walkable, or bikable. Publicize transit options.
- Publicize your commitment to the sustainable event with your outreach materials and in your communications with potential sponsors, funders, presenters, participants, and contractors.
- Research event sites, contractors (organizers, caterers, etc.), and vendors (paper, printers, promotional, bioware manufacturers, etc.) that have a commitment to sustainable practices.
- Communicate your sustainability efforts:
- Guests need to know about your sustainability objectives. Communicate your sustainability efforts as much as possible. Note extra steps that you have taken to become more sustainable (lighting, composting, nontoxic cleaning supplies, materials use and energy conservation). Provide metrics if time allows.
- Reuse signage, do not date your event programs or any other printed items when you could potentially reuse for another event.
- Display signage throughout to inform participants about recycling, composting, water and energy conservation, and menu selection.
- Feature and give Certificates of Appreciation to those who have ‘walked the talk’ at the event (event coordinator, Food Service Team, eco-friendly vendor, and others.)
- Use reusable nametags and lanyards that can be collected at the end of your event
- Choose your presenters from the local community
- Use water based, non-toxic markers on reusable white boards instead of paper
- If you need more information about recycling, the City of Tempe has good information on their website.
Food and beverage tips
- Order your food from one of the sustainable catering companies on our Approved Food Providers List. These are listed in green color.
- Coordinate with a local food bank or soup kitchen to donate any left-over food. This would need to be coordinated for the whole event. Waste Not AZ is a good example of these organizations
- Recycling items such as plastic, aluminum, and paper diverts these materials from the landfills. Moving and Event Services can provide Recycling and Compostable containers, Request these online.
- If you hire caterers who will be present on site cooking and/or serving food, ensure that their staff comply with your efforts to make it a sustainable event by using the appropriate trash/recycling receptacles provided to them. Bin size, location placement, and grouping are very important.
- Recycling bins are much less likely to become contaminated if appropriate signage is used. Using different colored or different shaped bins or highly visible labels helps individuals realize where to put their recyclables and trash.
- Have volunteers stand next to recycling and trash bins to help ensure that recycling bins achieve maximum diversion rates without becoming contaminated.
- Use 100% biodegradable garbage bags in trash bins and recycling bins. Eco-Products offer several lines of 100% biodegradable, 100% compostable garbage bags.
- Consider planning a zero-waste event by offering a compost collector.
- Provide biodegradable “To-Go” containers for participants to use for left-over food.
- Prepare a sustainable menu by referencing the ASU Sustainable Menu Checklist below:
- Use locally or regionally grown and produced foods. If food is provided from local farms, note it as such. Place small cards in front of the food indicating what it is, from what farm, and where the farm is located.
- Use organic foods
- Use fair trade coffees and teas
- Serve foods that do need not to be individually packaged or require utensils. Like fruits and vegetables or cheese and crackers.
- Use fish that is on the seafood watch recommended, these include fishes from well-managed fisheries that do not threaten the environment or are at extinction danger
- Use low-waste water options – avoid disposable water bottles. Offer water bottle refilling stations and encourage your attendees to bring their own water bottles
- Request water glasses not be prefilled at banquets, this avoids sweaty water glasses and saves water
- Use paper products that include recycled content and can be recycled or composted.
- Use reusable dishes, cutlery, and glasses/cups. If this is not possible, use biodegradable dishes, cutlery and cups that will decompose quickly in a compost heap or landfill.
- Use non-disposable products where the food provider owns their china, flatware, glassware and linen products.
- Use cloth tablecloths and napkins if possible. If not, at least use paper ones that are made from recycled paper.
- Eliminate small throw-away items:
- Individually wrapped condiments (no sugar/sugar alternative packets, no salt/pepper packets, and no individual creamers). Use bowls and shakers that can be reused and people can serve themselves. Milk/cream should be in original cartons on ice or in pitcher.
- Avoid using plastic coffee stirrers, paper doilies, straws, or pre-packets of plastic flatware
- Use sustainable table centerpieces – such as potted plants, local/pesticide free flowers.
- If you’re having a buffet, use smaller than dinner sized plates for the food. This will inhibit people from taking too much food which would then just go to waste.
- Do not use disposable packaging, such as saran wrap. Aluminum foil can be used if it is washed afterwards so it can be recycled.
- Use earth friendly, biodegradable cleaning products.
- Rent or décor that can be reused
- Borrow décor from Engineering Deans Office. List of items available can be found at Events Inventory. If you need further information feel free to contact Elizabeth Cross at 480-965-7450.
- Use potted plants that can be given to the guests through a raffle at the end of the event.
- Aim for 100% paperless promotion! Promote and invite electronically. Require participants to register or RSVP electronically, post event information, downloadable versions of programs, handouts, and itineraries on a webpage for event participants.
- Advertise your organization’s efforts to reduce waste in all promotional and event materials.
- Ensure that program guides, handouts, brochures, and other written materials are limited and, when needed, are printed on 100% post consumer paper, use double-sided (duplex) printing and use vegetable-based ink.
- Contact Graphic Information Solutions, 480-965-1636, which is located at the Polytechnic Campus. They have received certifications from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).
- Find other approved printers at ASU Design & Print Services.
- For reoccurring or annual events, avoid printing dates and slogans on signs, posters, and banners so that they may be easily reused.
- Use biodegradable or 100% post consumer waste materials for signs, posters and banners.
Sustainable promotional items
- Promotional items should be made from recycled and recyclable materials or primarily consist of natural items from the earth. (Flowers, cactus, quartz, pumpkins, pine cones, etc.).
- Select promotional items that people will reuse or will want to keep.
- What message do your promotional items convey about you and your event?
- Provide seed packets, native plants, and other natural materials as thank you gifts.
- Use electric and hybrid vehicles to shuttle VIP’s.
- Encourage and provide incentives for the use of alternative transportation. Highlight bike routes to the event location and ensure that an adequate number of parking spaces for bikes are available. Provide resources on public transportation in the area including routes and schedules as well as the location of bike racks.
- Offer virtual attendance. Utilize video capabilities for attendees who are not local.
After the event
- After the event, tabulate the impact of your sustainability efforts. Publicize the results on the event website.
- Set goals for hosting a “greener” event next time!