This manual serves as a valuable resource for academics, staff, and students who are committed to reducing their environmental footprint.
This manual will provide a list of recommended strategies that can be used for any event, whether organizing a small team meeting, department gathering, or large conferences and workshops. This guide outlines a compilation of considerations to keep in mind.
The information in the handbook may not apply to every event, as each event holds its unique attributes. While this list is not exhaustive, it serves as an excellent starting point to embark on the journey of organizing an exceptional ‘green’ event.
The University of Windsor sits on the traditional territory of the Three Fires Confederacy of First Nations, which includes the Ojibwa, the Odawa, and the Potawatomi. We respect the longstanding relationships with First Nations people in this place in the 100-mile Windsor-Essex peninsula and the straits – les détroits – of Detroit.” This territory is covered by the Upper Canada Treaties. The Indigenous People of Canada have a profound connection to this land and nature, and we would like to thank the people who have been acting as stewards and have cared for this land since time immemorial. Follow the link to learn more about the University of Windsor’s Indigenous initiatives and steps towards reconciliation.
Equity, Diversity, Inclusion
Being sustainable conscious includes being socially just, which means the commitment to seeing that events are accessible and inclusive for all. We encourage you to take the necessary actions in the incorporation of underrepresented communities and include their perspectives and ideas in your event’s content (speakers, judges and panelists). Ensure that the opportunity creates spaces of diverse representation and contributions from people of different ages, genders, race, ethnicity, and abilities and thus avoid tokenism - simple symbolic or performative inclusion.
When scheduling the event, check if there is a religious holiday or if the location is accessible. A date or location change can create better opportunities for participation. By promoting our campus diversity through intentional inclusion efforts within your event’s content, you contribute to a more equitable and socially just environment.
Sustainable Development Goals
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) is a framework to guide, support and track progress to create a sustainable future for all. The 17 SDGs address the interrelated global challenges that contribute to the climate crisis and various injustices worldwide.
We encourage you to incorporate the SDGs into your activities and consider how they align with different activities and areas of focus throughout your planning journey.
What is a Green Event?
A “Green Event” is one that focuses on reducing waste and supporting sustainable behaviours. It is an event that adopts an all-encompassing strategy to minimize the use of materials and energy. This includes making mindful decisions, both big and small, to reduce your impact on the planet; some can be relatively easy while others may take some extra effort, creating a positive impact for attendees and the planet. From an organizer’s perspective, a green event is set up to be as sustainable and less wasteful as possible while creating a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for attendees, that encourages ‘eco-friendly’ practices with ease.
Understanding the event’s sustainability targets in advance can aid decision-making that aligns with the values and objectives of the event. As an example, a Fair Trade event, and Zero (or low) Waste event would have different product offerings and priorities. Balancing the budget and sustainability can be difficult at first, but we are here to help with suggestions below. By applying the 4Rs of sustainability, zero waste activities strive to keep garbage out of landfills. An effective zero waste activity will depend on waste collection and thoughtful purchase decisions.
When organizing a green event, it is important to consider the 4Rs of sustainability, to use our resources more sensibly.
Consider if you really need to purchase or use specific materials and items.
- Is it necessary for the event? Are there reusable alternatives (e.g., refuse to use single use straws or single use plastic water bottles, they may not be a need for straws altogether, you can also encourage attendees to bring their own reusable bottles and mugs).
- Before buying new, can you borrow the items from other departments and groups to borrow common items, like tablecloths or decorations.
- Save materials and money by purchasing fewer items; also opt for buying in bulk.
- Ask vendors and suppliers to reduce the amount of plastic packaging or ask if it can be completely avoided.
- Work with catering staff to plan for the correct amount of food, to avoid food waste.
- Can items at your event be reused? Will A-Frames and banner signs have the date and time, or can they just have the event name (if it is a recurring event or meeting).
- How can resources be used in a new way? Can you collect mason jars from the planning committee, to be used as centerpieces instead of buying new.
- Reuse name badges or lanyards (collect from attendees at the end of your event).
Is it recyclable? Is it compostable?
- Learn more about what is recyclable and what is compostable!
- Ensure the venue has the capacity for recycling and/or composting. If it does not, have a plan regarding where the waste will go and who will collect it. Place a service ticket with Facility Services, before your event, if the location does not have the correct bins.
- During the event, assign volunteers to monitor waste bins to help attendees sort appropriately.
Zero Waste Event
A Zero Waste event can show your significant commitment to the environment while modeling best sustainable practices to your attendees and guests. A zero-waste event aims to reduce waste, while promoting recycling and composting as much as possible to divert waste from the landfill. You may think it is difficult to make a completely zero waste event, however we encourage all event organizers and meeting coordinators to following as many suggestions as possible, outlined in this guide to minimize the waste and overall environmental footprint of any UWindsor event. We encourage all to rethink event planning, while we aim to reduce waste and increase the use of reusables during the event planning process. Below is a list of considerations when planning an event or meeting.
Go paperless! Flyers and handouts have a smaller environmental impact if they are never used at all or are replaced with reusable or recyclable materials.
- Use online communication channels, digital display boards, emails, social media platforms, QR codes, and link-building to promote your event online.
- Email event and meeting documents to attendees and guests before or send a follow-up email with all documents after the event.
- Be mindful of the paper you use; if you must print posters or handouts, print double sided (it will cut your costs in half), or only print a few hard copies, as not everyone may need a hard copy.
- Create signs and banners that can be reused. When creating new posters for upcoming events, think twice before adding specific info that may vary from year to year, such as dates.
- Laminating posters and signs are a great way to keep them in shape to last longer and be used again in the future. This is particularly effective for directional indicators or signs that only feature the name of the event or your brand (no specific dates or times).
Giveaways, swags, or prize materials:
- Rethink what swag can mean for your event. Is swag needed? Will the item add value to your event, and does it connect to the theme of the event? Free swag is fun but often ends up in the garbage. Learn more at The Story of Stuff: The Story of Solutions.
- Will it be useful to attendees or end up in the trash? Ensure items are useful to attendees to reduce waste such as reusable water bottles and travel mugs.
- For prizes and speaker gifts: choose local and ethically made gifts; gift cards to local shops, or have funds loaded to attendees' UWin Card (can be used at campus food outlets and the Bookstore).
- Focus on the “memories and “experiences” at your event rather than swag.
- Have attendees and participants vote to have funds donated to a charity instead of buying swag; they will leave your event with a great ‘feeling’ of giving back.
- Collaborate with catering services to make sustainable choices regarding food options and practices. If your event is catered externally, connect with them early to discuss sustainable possibilities.
- Seasonal and/or locally sourced ingredients.
- Certified Fairtrade products (Fairtrade coffee, Fairtrade tea, etc.).
- Ethically sourced ingredients (e.g. Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of seafood).
- Consider increasing the plant-based food options at your gathering. There should be at least one vegetarian or vegan choice available at every meal or break. During registration, ask attendees for their dietary restrictions, to provide the most inclusive meal possible.
- Give community members, food banks, and food pantries the chance to address the issue of food insecurity. There may be options to collect non-perishable food items at your event for donation.
- Promote to attendees, prior to event, to bring their own reusable water bottle or mug. You may also ask attendees to bring their own reusable food containers.
- Consider using reusable dishware and serveware including plates, cups, and utensils, where possible, instead of items made of single use plastics to reduce waste. As an alternative, offer compostable or biodegradable dishware and serving ware. Almost all plastic wrapping, cutlery, and straws are not recyclable.
- Communicate with your caterer early to offer a precise estimation of how much food is required to prevent food waste. Ask how they determine the correct amount of food for per person (sadly not everyone attends that has signed up).
- Have a plan to handle leftover food. Have a team member arrange for it to be donated to local organizations or inform attendees, they have the option to take excess food home.
- Arrange a water dispenser with reusable glasses (or compostable), or for table-seated events, provide water in jugs, rather than single use plastic water bottles.
- Ask for cream or milk carafes, or containers of sugar and other condiments rather than individual packets from the vendor or caterer.
- Consider using greenery and plants as décor; they can also be used as door prizes or giveaways.
- Request three stream recycling bins for your event location, if they are not present. Place a service ticket with Facility Operations.
- Ensure clear signage regarding trash and recycling bins’ location and sorting. To make sure that they are easily seen and that it is apparent what kinds of goods are being disposed of in the bin, we advise posting signage above the bins.
- Reduce or eliminate single-use plastics; reduce individual wrapped items (while maintaining safety standards) e.g. Instead of cut-up fruits, provide whole fruits (oranges and bananas which have a peel).
- Advertise to attendees to bring their own reusable bottles and mugs.
- Choose reusable, compostable and recyclable products. Where possible, use reusable plates and cutlery.
- Use reusable bags.
- After the event, pick up all the trash and remaining items.
- Lessen generated waste pollution and guarantee that school garbage is managed as responsibly as possible by employing the proper disposal techniques on campus.
- By using the appropriate disposal methods on campus, we can reduce contamination in waste streams and ensure campus waste is handled responsibly.
- Don’t waste energy: use natural lighting; reduce excessive lighting, switch off lights/power bars when not in use.
- Avoid use of single-use decorations, like balloons where possible. Choose artwork and decoration items that can be utilized for future events. Or borrow items from other offices or departments to avoid creating more waste. Thrift shopping or community swaps can also provide various products that will save you money and keep items out of the landfill.
- Transportation is one of the leading emitters of carbon dioxide. Choose a location that will be easily accessible via bike, public transit, and walking.
- Include directions to the event for walking, biking, taking public transit or carpooling, encouraging attendees to use sustainable modes of transportation including micromobility and electric vehicles.
- Consider the transportation impacts of your event; try to buy local where possible or use local vendors or suppliers.
Consider various aspects such as material composition, manufacturing practices, packaging, and transportation. Here are some key questions to ask:
- Does the vendor or supplier have any green or sustainability-related labels or third-party certified products? This may include FSC certified paper products, Energy Star equipment, B Corp Certification, Fairtrade products, etc.
- Where is the item manufactured? Is it locally sourced?
- What is the item made of? Is it easily compostable or recyclable? Is it made of recyclable material?
- How will the item be packaged?
- How will the item be transported to you?
- Is it possible to reuse this item?
When considering these different questions, recall feasibility and priorities for what works best for your event and your budget. Assess if the items are reusable, use sustainable packaging (or no packaging at all), travel well, or locally made.
Green Event Checklist
Use the Green Event Checklist as you plan your event to ensure that you have accounted for everything needed, feel free to use the document as a further elaboration alongside the checklist.
- Choose an accessible event location.
- Share how to access event by sustainable modes of transit (e.g. bus route).
- Encourage carpooling or provide bus tokens, if possible.
- Turn off lights and electronic devices when not in use (computers, projectors, etc.), where possible.
- Advertise your event as a green event! It is quite an accomplishment!
Decoration and Giveaways
- Aim to have decorations that are reusable; rent or borrow from others.
- Avoid single use plastic items, like balloons, streamers and plastic tablecloths.
- Seek out decoration materials that are recycled or recyclable and biodegradable.
When providing promotional material and giveaways, ensure that:
- Items have utility (serve a purpose/ function).
- Items are considered long-lasting.
- Items are made from recycled materials, if possible and can be reused or recycled.
- For apparel, ensure that it is made from sustainable materials, organic and/or recycled-content materials.
- Promote digitally (through email, list serves, social media, and web-based marketing).
- Use recycled content or tree-free paper for printed materials, such as posters and handouts, if needed, and print double sided.
- Ensure that banners or other printed content are made of durable materials; avoid printing with specific dates if event is recurring.
- Ensure that garbage, recycling, and compost bins (*where available) are easily accessible to event attendees or provide alternatives.
- Waste collection bins are clearly labelled.
- Assign a volunteer to monitor the bins to prevent overflow.
- Be available to guide attendees on where items can be properly discarded during the event.
- Provide handouts and flyers to attendees via email, but if hardcopies are needed, make sure to print double sided.
Food and Catering
Have a conversation with catering services on sustainable requirements and possibilities:
- Use of locally sourced food, sustainably and ethically grown or cultivated ingredients.
- Offering vegan and vegetarian meals.
- Reduce single-use food packaging, where possible (minimize individual plastic wrapping).
- Have event registration to provide an accurate count of attendees to reduce food waste.
- Create a plan for leftover food (donate to Campus Food Pantry, student groups, local shelters, or offer attendees to take home).
- Serve food and drinks in reusable containers, recyclable or compostable materials.
- Encourage attendees to bring their own reusable items (reusable water bottle, mug or reusable utensils and containers).