How to Plan a Sustainable Event

Almost everything involved in events - from the menu to the material used to serve food and share information to the heating or air conditioning of the event space - requires natural resources. How those resources are made, used and disposed of impacts our environment, for better or worse.

While this "How to" is designed to offer practical tips for environmentally friendly event planning, take a minute to consider the social and economic impacts of your events as well. Want to talk further about that? Reach out to the Office of Sustainability and Energy Education and we'll get you connected to some great contacts.

Minimize Materials

The fewer resources you use and dispose of the better. Not all options will work for all events, but a little thought can go a long way.

  • Encourage guests to bring their own water bottle/coffee cup.
  • Work with catering/vendors to plan a meal served with resusable rather than disposable serving-ware.
  • If the event requires disposable serving-ware and is catered by W&L, compostable materials will be provided and a compost bin will automatically be included in your event set-up.
  • If you are using an outside vendor for food at your event but still wish to compost, you will need to:1. Confrim with the vendor that disposable servingware is compostable (it can be purchased through W&L Catering if needed, see How to Order Compostable Servingware from Catering), 2. Submit a Work Order for set up of compost bins and for compost collection services. Compost collection staff is limited and it may not be possible to honor requests made at short notice.
  • Use pitchers/coolers for drinks. If that is not possible, choose canned drinks over plastic or glass bottles (there is currently only limited glass recycling available in our area) when possible. Be sure to include recycling bins in your set-up Work Order!
  • Source necessary materials locally if possible. Keep in mind W&L's own campus garden can offer seasonal produce and flowers.
  • Avoid handouts and giveaways. Share digital links instead of printouts and provide a great experience instead of a branded stress ball!

Consider Energy Impacts

Good lighting, heating and cooling are important event elements (!), but also have a direct environmental impact. To make sure you have what you need without waste:

  • Make a 25Live reservation and keep it current. Heating and cooling schedules are based on events scheduled in 25Live so you must reserve a space to ensure the right conditions. If you change or cancel the event, update that reservation to make sure you have heat/AC when you need it - and not when you don't.
  • Keep exterior doors closed. It is hard - and energy intensive - to maintain a target indoor temperature when exterior doors are open. Worried this will make guests feel unwelcome? Consider posting a greeter by the (closed) door.
  • Consider clustering. If your event requires use of multiple rooms, consider keeping them all in one building. While less important during the normal workday/academic year, this can have a big impact during off-hours (over breaks, evenings and weekends) when buildings may be empty except for the one room reserved for your event. In these cases, scattered scheduling can require HVAC systems to run in multiple buildings that would otherwise have been off.

Think through Transportation

  • If your event is off campus, consider including a central sign-up (e-bulletin board etc.) for carpooling. For larger groups, consider providing a shuttle to/from campus.
  • Will your event include guests/vendors from off campus? Make sure they are aware of the campus No Idling Policy. For details, check out the No Idling FAQ.

Celebrate your Efforts!

  • If you have taken the time to plan an environmentally friendly event, let people know! If ingredients are local, indicate it on the menu cards. Make sure signage about compostables/recycling is clear. Thank people for carpooling. Messaging not only helps with practical matters (like ensuring people know where to throw their waste), it raises awareness about sustainability on campus and sets a great example for others.

Get in touch!

If you have questions, suggestions, or would like assistance thinking through a sustainable event plan, please contact director of sustainability Jane Stewart at or ext. 8388