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Green Event Guidelines

Planning for a Sustainable and Zero Waste event starts before you place your catering orders. To host a Sustainable and Zero Waste event, consider the guidelines below.

  • Ask vendors/caterers about their sustainability commitments, such as offering at least 50% plant-based meals on their menus, reducing waste, or sourcing locally.
  • Serve plant-based meals by default and give diners the option to opt-in for meals with animal products. Check out DefaultVeg for information and guidance.
  • Serve food that is fair trade, local, or organic.
  • Consider cold food options to cut down on cooking and heating energy use.
  • Buy food in bulk as much as possible to avoid excess packaging.
  • Provide smaller plates so that people do not take more food than they will eat.
  • Offer reusable kitchenware. Compostable plates and utensils are the next best option.
  • Use reusable spoons and bulk cream/creamer at the coffee station. Offer plant-based creamer as the default option.
  • Use reusable tablecloths.
  • Choose decorations that can be stored and reused such as non-date-specific banners, cloth ribbons, or vase centerpieces. Renting items is also a great option.
  • If you decorate with flowers or plants, choose potted plants that can be gifted or planted. Loose flowers can be composted at the end of their life.
  • AVOID the following items:
    • Plastic items such as cutlery, straws, plastic wrap, and individual chip bags, condiment packets, butter pads, and creamer cups (none of which are recyclable)
    • Bottled water (request bulk tap water or pitchers instead)
    • Styrofoam, even in disposable coffee/hot cups
    • All types of balloons
  • Reduce the impact of promotional flyers and handouts by either eliminating them entirely, reducing the size or number of paper flyers, or printing on paper made from recycled content.
  • Invite guests to bring their own water bottle, coffee mug, or reusable utensils.
  • Encourage guests to walk, carpool, or use public transportation. Utilize www.american.edu/transportation to highlight commuting options. 
  • Provide information or signage about the green aspects of the event. For specific waste items, it's best to make a "housekeeping" announcement at the beginning.
  • For on-campus events, utilize AU's zero waste bins (recycling, compost, landfill). To request waste bins, e-mail 2fix@american.edu with (1) the event's location, (2) date/time, (3) number of attendees, and (4) if you are serving food.
  • Place staff at waste collection points to ensure proper sorting of recyclables, compostables, and other waste. If you wish to have waste stations staffed by sustainability interns, email sustainability@american.edu at least two weeks in advance. This is recommended for larger events (60+ attendees) where food is being served.
  • Give participants and presenters the opportunity to distribute resources and communications electronically.
  • Ensure that all of the materials from the event are recycled, reused, or composted.
  • Properly recycle or compost all decorations such as paper streamers (compost), cotton string (compost), or paper banners/signage (recycle).
  • Make a plan to donate unopened or leftover food and beverages.

The Kogod School of Business has created guides for planning inclusive and accessible events and for using inclusive language. Access these guides.

Need Assistance?

Contact the Office of Sustainability to learn more about how to plan a sustainable event.

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Need Waste Bins?

To request waste bins for an event, email 2fix with the location, date and time, number of attendees, and if you are serving food.

Contact 2fix