Host Sustainable Events
Tips to Reduce Waste and Carbon Footprint
Save time and create a great experience for your event attendees.
- Eliminate: Single-use decorations such as balloons
- Instead, go with: Reusable decorations, such as potted plants, which attendees can bring home and keep long-term
- Why: Balloons that are released by accident or on purpose become litter and end up in waterways or being ingested by wildlife. Even if disposed of properly, single-use decorations will increase the waste of an event.
- Eliminate: Bottled water
- Instead, go with: BYO or drink dispensers and reusable or recyclable cups
- Why: Americans buy more than 70 billion plastic water bottles per year. 3 out of 4 of them ended up in a landfill or incinerator. Hundreds of millions end up as litter on roads and beaches or in streams and other waterways.
- Eliminate: Single-use cutlery and disposable plates and cups, especially if non-recyclable
- Instead, go with: Reusable or compostable dining ware
- Why: No type of cutlery is recyclable and disposable plates and cups are common contaminants in the recycling stream.
- Eliminate: Menus that are heavy on high-carbon foods (meat)
- Instead, go with: Low-impact food options such as vegetarian and seasonal dishes
- Why: Food systems account for around 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Eating seasonally, locally, and plant-based can help to lower the impact of your meal by decreasing the amount of emissions from cultivation, land use, and transportation.
- Eliminate: Flying in presenters from around the world
- Instead, go with: Local speakers and/or speakers who will present virtually
- Why: A transcontinental flight from Los Angeles to Boston produces around 588 kg CO2: more than people in many countries produce in an entire year. Local speakers will also be familiar with issues relevant to your community.
- Eliminate: Events in locations that are hard to access via walking, biking, and transit
- Instead, go with: Events that are accessible via walking, biking, and transit
- Why: Public transportation produces significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions per passenger mile than private vehicles. Events in accessible locations encourage people to take lower-carbon methods of transportation.
- Eliminate: Events that are inaccessible
- Instead, go with: Events that are accessible (Connect with Disability & Access Services to learn more)
- Why: Supporting guests of all abilities is necessary for creating connections and ensuring all can participate in the opportunities available at Boston University.
- Eliminate: Printed programs and signage
- Instead, go with: Electronic programs and signage, QR codes, 100% recycled-content paper for necessary printables (If you are using a professional printing service, ask about recycled paper and soy-based inks)
- Why: Presenting information electronically saves time, money, and waste.
- Eliminate: Foam-core and corrugated plastic posters
- Instead, go with: Recyclable paperboard and corrugated cardboard posters
- Why: Although foam-core and corrugated plastic are technically recyclable, many places don’t accept these materials and they will often end up in a landfill even if you put them in the recycling bin.
- Eliminate: Single-use banners with specific event names or dates
- Instead, go with: Reusable banners without dates
- Why: Reusable banners will save you time and money in the long run, plus you will be reducing your environmental impact for every event by minimizing your waste and consumption.
- Eliminate: Guessing how much food to order
- Instead, go with: Requesting that attendees RSVP to help you have an idea of how much food and drink to order, and using past orders to help estimate
- Why: Guessing how much food to order usually leads to waste
- Eliminate: Buying all individually portioned food and highly packaged items (single-serving condiment packets, bags of chips, bagged/boxed lunches)
- Instead, go with: Buying large containers of something people can serve themselves from (A big salad, rice, a tray of desserts, chips)
- Why: In addition to reducing packaging waste, self-serve stations encourage guests to take the portion size that is right for them, which can help minimize food waste.
- Eliminate: Throwing out leftover food
- Instead, go with: Taking leftovers to an office common kitchen, offering to students, or partnering with local food rescue organizations
- Why: Food waste is a large emitter of methane, a greenhouse gas, and makes up a large portion of municipal landfills.
- Eliminate: Using trash receptacles for everything
- Instead, go with: Room setup which includes recycling and compost bins, with appropriate signage
- Why: The average American generates roughly 4.5 pounds of waste every day. Composting and recycling reduce the amount of waste going into landfills and incinerators, which in-turn decreases greenhouse gas emissions.
Build sustainable practices and products into your budget.
Catering on the Charles is BU’s preferred catering vendor. Zero Waste options are available for staffed and unstaffed events.
If you’re hosting a campus event, do what you can to make life at BU more sustainable.
For additional advice, see Events and Conferences resource, “Green Your Event.”