Ask for the use of reusable linens, china, and cutlery. Another option would be to purchase 100% biodegradable products, including utensils, plates, cups, to-go containers, soup containers, deli containers, straws, dome lids, flat lids, even garbage bags. These products typically break down within 30-60 days.
Offer bulk water dispensers or use pitchers of water or beverages.
If hotel occupancy is part of your event, look for bulk soap and shampoo dispensers. Ask about recycling or donation programs for unused toiletries, food, decorations and display materials.
Use media and technology whenever possible to cut down on paper usage. For example, electronic registration and confirmation, advertise using email or the web, encourage presenters to put their information online. If paper must be used choose at least 30% post-consumer content whenever possible. Expand margins and print double-sided.
Name badge holders can be reused from event to event. Ask your guests to return theirs at the end of the event and provide a receptacle for them.
Offer local or organic food choices. Organic food may increase your food and beverage costs, local food in season may be comparable in price. Work with the venue or caterer. Creative adjustments of the menu through portion control or substitution of less expensive items will help you manage your budget.
Recycle and compost. Ask what services are already provided at the facility and to what extent you will need to be involved. In some cases, you may work directly with the waste hauler, while in other situations, it may be handled for you. Your event should offer recycling for paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and metal. Bins should be placed in prominent locations with effective signage. Make announcements during the event reminding your guests to recycle and direct them. Volunteers stationed at the bins is usually the best strategy. Events should have at least one recycling bin for every trash bin. If composting, two compost bins for every trash bin. One station is needed for every 200-300 people, depending on the venue. Typically, waste stations should be no more than 150 feet apart to ensure adequate coverage. When composting, compostable products should not be mixed with recycling. They damage the recycling process if they get into a normal plastic recycling waste program. Provide clear, consistent signage at each station so attendees can learn about products being used and how waste is diverted from the landfill. Signage may be more effective with pictures rather than just words.
If you need to work with the waste hauler directly, establish that partnership early. Determine the level of involvement you will have with them. If you are interested in metrics of your event’s waste stream communicate closely with the hauler to help you capture weights for reporting purposes. Here are some questions that are helpful to ask your hauler to ensure sustainable success for your event:
• How many bins, dumpsters, or roll–offs will the event need?
• What is the cost for each?
• Where will bins/dumpsters be delivered?
• Who will place and empty the bins/dumpsters?
• Where will the dumpsters be located?
• How often will dumpsters be emptied? At what time?
• Who is responsible for emptying satellite collection containers?
• Does hauler pick up after business hours and/or on weekends? If so, are there additional charges?
• Does the hauler collect garbage, compostables, and/or recyclables?
• Should recyclables be mixed or separated?
• Does the hauler take waste to a materials recovery facility?
• Which recycling center will the recyclables be taken to and which plastics do they accept?
• Can the hauler pick up and deliver the compost material to the closest commercial compost facility in the area?
• If they cannot haul the compost, is there another company that can?
• Request reporting on weights for each waste stream after the event.
• Ask for references if you are unfamiliar with the company
Encourage public transportation and offer an incentive program for those who use it such as a free beverage or raffle prize to any attendee who turns in a receipt from public transportation. Take advantage of ride-share programs. Offer a secure place for bicyclists to park their bikes. An incentive should also be offered to those who ride a bike or walk to your event. Make transportation information available to attendees by putting the information on the web, radio, or any flyers you may be using.