Sustainability 101

Zero Waste Event Planning Guide: 10-Step Checklist

Plan a zero waste event with this Great Forest guide

Need help planning a zero waste event? This guide will put you on the right path in just 10 simple steps. Use this checklist to help you plan large or small events, including office parties, conferences, meetings, galas, or even festivals. It is especially useful to reduce waste during the holiday season, when Americans generate 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year! Every event can be produced less wastefully. Every event can be a zero waste event with just a little planning. Start with these 10 steps:

1) Venue/Vendors

Make sure your venue and vendors understand your zero waste event goals and will work with you to achieve that. Include a clause in their contract so they know what is expected of them; be prepared to help them identify reusable or recyclable items to use; and communicate with them to make sure they understand the event’s zero waste goals and how to achieve them.

2) Zero Waste Event Sourcing

Make sure as much of your supplies as possible can be reused or recycled. Consider using regular dishes and glasses or compostable versions. Use energy-saving LED lights and other decorations that can be stored and reused. Rent instead of buying. Or eliminate items totally, like invitations, by going digital.

3) Zero Waste Event Stations

Determine where to locate your zero waste stations, perhaps in the most high traffic areas of your event. A recycling consultant can help determine the optimal set up, including proper bin size and the number of bins or stations needed.

4) Remove or Replace Trash Cans

Cover up, remove or replace any large trash cans normally in your event space. If needed, use small garbage bins that might be used to collect the few pieces of landfill-bound trash your guests might have.

5) Back-of-the-House

Don’t forget you need zero waste event set-ups behind the scenes too, where your kitchen or catering staff work.

6) Signage and Staff

Clearly label your zero waste event stations and bins with instructions. At one outdoor event, we even used fun chalk illustrations to draw attention to the stations. Zero waste volunteers or staff should also be stationed near bins to guide guests and explain how to sort the items for recycling.

7) Educate

Ensure all guests understand your party is a zero waste event, and why. Remind them in the invitations so they know what to expect. Don’t forget to explain the benefits. Their buy-in is crucial.

8) Arrange Pickup

Make arrangements with your hauler/service provider to pick up material from your zero waste event in a timely manner. Additionally, vendors like TerraCycle can provide zero waste boxes for a wide variety of items from corks to party supplies.

9) Donate Food

Have a system to separate out quality, edible food from food waste. Make plans with a food rescue organization like Replate to pick up edible food after your event. You’ll be doing good and reducing waste at the same time. (See how food waste audits can help businesses fight waste and hunger.)

10) Track and Share Your Impact

Track your impact so you know how much material your zero waste event diverted from the landfill. Then share your event’s success with guests, management, staff, and vendors. You may motivate them to go zero waste far beyond your event.

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