Not sure what something means? Want to learn more about green event planning? Dig a littler deeper into the details of sustainable measures you may want to pursue to better understand the options available with the Glossary provided below. This knowledge can help your whole event planning committee make the most sensible sustainable decisions for your event. 


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Box-less Box Lunches
This funny term means reducing packaging and serving waste for individual meal items while providing your event guests with the kind of individual servings you’d expect in a lunch box. Do this by:
  • Serving sandwiches on a platter with tongs
  • Serving chips from a bulk package in a bowl with tongs
  • Serving fruit on a platter or in a bowl with tongs or a spoon
  • Serving side dishes like slaw or pasta salad in a bowl with a spoon
  • Serving cookies, brownies or dessert bars from a platter with tongs
You can keep sandwich and dessert portions to your count of estimated servings and add a personal touch of hospitality by having a volunteer serve these menu items.
How do I know if composting will work for my event? 
Food waste composting is more challenging than recycling, but it may be an option for your event. Think about the following components when deciding if composting is right for your Green event: 

Who in your area can accept and use organic waste? Having the right end-user is a make-or-break factor with food waste composting.
  • An end-user could be a commercial composting company, or a farmer who can use your event’s organics as livestock feed or soil amendments. 
  • That key partner needs to know in advance what kinds of organics you might be collecting, and tell you clearly what they can accept. 
  • It's up to your team to organize organics collection to keep contaminants out of that special waste stream.
Does your event have to use disposable food serving products? A big issue with food waste composting is the range of materials that could be involved, especially the countless single-use plastic items typically used at public events.
  • Conventional plastic contaminates the compost stream, so these products have to be sorted from the food waste itself at the point of disposal
  • Plastics made from corn or soy oil, instead of from petroleum, are used to make compostable single-use products. They are a Green addition to the range of single-use products but compostable products typically cost more than their conventional counterparts, and are not yet widely available and labeling of these higher-cost items can be inconsistent and confusing using terms like "biodegradable," "natural," "eco-friendly," as well as "compostable." These labels may all seem the same, but they mean different things or are simply greenwashing! 
  • Incorporating washable, reusable food service ware into your event can eliminate the barriers to food waste composting posed by disposables. 
Food waste composting is not yet common in the mix of Green community services, so really good “what-why-how” education for everyone who works and eats during your event is critical for success! Green Ambassador volunteers at an event waste station are important to help attendees understand and sort food service waste.
  • Green Ambassador volunteers at an event waste station are important to help attendees understand and sort food service waste. 
  • Home gardeners who know how to compost may balk at mixing meats, fats or any animal-based food waste into the event’s composting collection, because animal-based organic waste attracts unwanted critters to a backyard-scale composting system. 
  • Are any of your Green Ambassador volunteers also gardeners? They could be your best educators about the difference between composting at home, and the kind of large-scale composting process that can handle animal as well as plant waste, and event compostable serving items. 
A University Extension service is a likely to seek help with food waste composting. Check with your local Extension agent. If she or he has not worked with organic waste diversion options, they should be able to help you connect with a county or state program or a specialist in your regional office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 
Composting vs Recycling - what is my best choice? 
This is not an either/or question. The energy and material embodied in human-made items like cans, bottles, cardboard and paper continue in use through the recycling process, ultimately becoming “feedstock” for recycled-content products of all kinds. Organic matter  - which is anything that was living, including food waste, compostable serving ware made from plants - can continue in use when it goes through the composting process. The factors determining the best choice for your event are primarily:
  • Availability in your area of collection and processing services;
  • The space and equipment needed for collection stations; 
  • Green Ambassador volunteers to monitor proper disposal and explain the what-why-how of these Green systems to guests;
  • The capacity of your event to include these processes, and the person-power and budget to make them work; 
Compostable vs Biodegradeable 
 You will always spend more for a product making one of these claims! You will want this investment to generate a real benefit, but PLEASE ask before buying: "Can we send these items where they are intended to go?"  End-use is key achieving this Green Event goal. 

These two terms both seem Green and useful, but they mean very different things. These definitions come from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in its 2010 update to the Green Guide, an intensively researched body of definitions intended to clarify and regulate environmental advertising claims, to avoid misleading consumers. 

For an item to be marked Compostable, the FTC says: "There must be scientific evidence that the materials in the item break down, or become part of, usable compost in a safe and timely manner in an appropriate composting facility or home compost pile."

This very specific description is geared to support composting facilities that literally manufacture compost. Composting businesses work on the same principles as your home compost bin or pile, but they are charged with producing a product that is always consistent in quality and chemical makeup. Materials that could contaminate this process - like conventional petroleum plastics, coated papers, foil or plastic packets or wrappers - spell trouble for the composting enterprise. 

The FTC says a product is Biodegradable as long as it: "will completely break down and return to nature (i.e., decompose into elements found in nature) within a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal." 

In other words, the item will continue to disintegrate into small pieces until micro-organisms consume it. The "reasonably short period of time" is defined as one year after disposal, and "customary disposal" refers to sending the item to a landfill, incinerator, or recycling facility - which is where most items we throw "away" ultimately go.

This definition also applies to any product labeled as "oxo-degradable, oxo-biodegradable, or photodegradable." In an interesting footnote to the FTC requirements, metal residue is allowed from products labeled "biodegradable". 

These are reasonable legal definitions, but they don't translate into clear guidelines for people who want to use sustainable products. 

As you are planning, remember: 
  • Biodegradable is NOT the same as compostable! 
  • A compostable item breaks down into "hummus," which provides valuable nutrients to the soil, and does not leave any toxic, harmful or un-decomposed residues. 
  • Biodegradable products are most likely to go to a landfill. There is no sunlight, air or aerobic (oxygen-using) micro-organisms in a landfill. If an item is in a landfill, research has shown that it will not break down for years, or even decades. 
  • If a biodegradable item is incinerated, the energy and materials embodied in this item will be burned up; in a waste-to-energy facility, some benefits results. 
  • If the biodegradable item goes to a recycling facility, it won't be among the kinds of materials commonly welcome and useful in a recycling facility. For example, a biodegradable fork, likely to be made of plant-starch coated with conventional plastic, would be sorted out of the streams of useful recyclable materials and ultimately sent to a landfill. 
To sum up, a compostable product can be transformed, after its single food service use, into compost in a composting facility. A biodegradable item won't meet the requirements to be composted, and the kinds of facilities that could let it break down and "return to nature" are not parts of our current waste management systems.  
 What is the Advantage of Biodegradable
 This seems like it is a good, Green idea, but given the ways we typically dispose of or process waste items, this term is really "greenwashing," meaning a Green claim that is misleading. If your event has the capacity to compost food waste and food service items - great! Otherwise, don't spend more for a product that is labeled "biodegradable.' It's really NOT an advantage, in any way. 
Green Guidelines
This important document will define the Green measures your event is taking, including information about the "why" behind each choice. To make the most efficient use of your time and energy as a Green organizer, consider keeping your Green Guidelines as simple as a list of measures, organized in the categories of the Green, Greener, Greenest framework, with a simple, personalized explanation about each one.

See examples below for some Green Guidelines you may include in your event. To provide your committees or attendees with more detail, you can copy/paste or link explanations about your choices taken from this Glossary. 
    Food Choices: Lunch will come from Lou's Catering, located on Front Street here in Springfield. The menu will feature three salads with produce from the Springfield Community Garden.
  • By using a local business, and featuring food produced right here in Springfield, our event will support our local economy, reduce the "food mile" impacts of getting commercially grown produce-and we will enjoy great green salads! 

Communication and Event Materials: We are using the website for invitations and registration this year. 

  • Going paperless is Greener, and will save time for our host committee. will keep track of "yes" and "no" responses, so we can target our follow-up calls or e-mails to folks who have note yet replied. 
  • Members who don't have e-mail will get a personal note and follow-up call. 

Communication and Event Materials: Strong's Office Supply is donating reusable table tents and a set of dry-erase markers, in exchange for a sponsorship of our event. 

  • Using these instead of paper place cards, we'll save money and reduce paper waste. 
  • Our group can offer to loan these tent cards out for other meetings, as an extended Green Community Benefit.
  • The colored markers will still let us create beautiful place settings; Margaret can we count on your calligraphy skills, please? 
Food Miles
The term "food miles" refers to the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer. For example, in our increasingly global food production and distribution system, grapes grown in Chile and purchased in Missouri would travel over 4,000 miles from vine to plate. 

Calculating food miles is a way to evaluate negative environmental impacts of global food movement including fossil fuels burned and carbon emitted in transportation, energy needed for refrigeration in transit, food spoilage and waste during shipping, the need for chemical preservatives, and more. Food miles bring awareness to the issues attached to getting any kind of food, anytime in the year, anywhere in the world - at any cost. 

The sustainable choice to eat locally produced foods reduces these impacts, helps keep more food dollars in local communities, supports small- to mid-sized farms compared to industrial scale food production, and gets fresher, healthier food to our plates. 

Choosing local foods  also means eating foods in season. This practice  supports a diverse food culture that varies from place to place, compared to getting exactly the same foods anywhere, anytime. 

"Local Food" is not a fixed definition, but the idea is to source food as close to home as possible, through farmers' markets or farm stands, or through grocery stores that do business with farmers in their service area. 

The choices of Local and Organic food are both good options to consider when planning an event, especially when balanced with other sustainability factors. When you can feature Local or Organic food in your event, promote this feature! Celebrate your local food system, and your event's efforts to support it!
Green Aspects of Food Choices
  • Source foods from local producers - and spotlight these choices with some local-food messaging to educate attendees
  • Source organic foods - educate and celebrate about these choices 
  • Work with caterers to develop vegetarian or low-meat menus that are healthy for attendees and the environment
  • Work with caterers to right-size portions to reduce food waste 
Minimizing Single-Serve Packaging
Any kind of food or beverage that is packaged to deliver one serving to one person can be a problem when an event is aiming to reduce waste. The plastic, glass and aluminum bottles or cans packaging beverage servings can usually be recycled. In most cities, containers for individual servings of foods like yogurt and milk can be recycled too, but these containers are not always accepted in rural recycling programs. and the plastic or foil packets and containers that deliver single-servings of things like coffee cream, cream cheese, butter and jelly, ketchup and other condiments, soy and other sauces generate many small bits of material that is rarely accepted in recycling programs anywhere.

A simple way to reduce this waste is serving condiments in regular bottles, tubs or cartons, letting guests dispense their own servings. If you can recycle these kinds of containers in your community, the materials in these recycled containers will be made into new products. If your community recycling program limits or prohibits recycling these kinds of containers, your event will still be reducing waste by generating only a few empty containers, instead of many individual portion packages.
Green Aspects of Food Service
  • Serve on washable, reusable ware - if dishwashing is an option
  • Encourage attendees to bring their own reusable ware 
  • Serve on ware with recycled-content, and/or that can be rinsed and accepted for recycling in your community’s recycling program 
  • Serve with all-compostable ware and compost both food waste and serving waste – if commercial composting is an option
  • Serve condiments, sauces, coffee and tea additions in bulk containers vs. single-serve packets
  • Serve food buffet-style or as “Box-Less Box Lunches” to encourage right-sizing portions and reduce both packaging and food waste
  • Make arrangements to donate leftover prepared food to a charity right after your event
  • Make arrangements to compost food scraps
Eco-Friendly Gifts and Awards
Recycled or Reclaimed Materials 
  Items made from reclaimed or recycled material demonstrate your event's Green commitments to honorees and the community they have served. Be sure to research what kinds of recycled-content material options are available in your area. Here are a few examples of recycled/reused awards: 
  • A small Missouri enterprise sells plaques made from compression-molded sheets of recycled plastic jugs (typically fabricated into store displays and state park restroom partitions) cut as the outline of their state; the award text is added on small locally engraved plaques glued to the state shape. 
  • The Missouri Recycling Association awards have been locally engraved plagues glued to chunks of polished marble and granite that are recovered from counter-top fabricators. 
  • Awards made from recycled glass, available commercially, can have recipient information etched into the glass. 
What About Edible or Service Gifts and Awards?
  Let your recognition send a Green message! 

Anything consumable makes a great special gift - that never needs dusting! A basket from a popular local bakery, confectionery, cheese-maker, winery or brewery can support and promote these kinds of enterprises, while giving recipients a special treat. Maybe consider a gift certificate from a local spa or restaurant as an award. Your event can support local cultural institutions as honoree's whole family gain benefit from a gift memberships to a botanical garden, zoo or museum in your area. Of course a general "gift card" is easy and appreciated - but can those plastic cards be recycled in your area? 
What is Locally or Regionally Produced? 
   "Local" can celebrate your town, country or state with this very Green value crafted into your message to honored recipients. When your event sources speaker gifts and organizational awards from a local producers - and spotlights that choice in the presentation - you can generate support for local enterprises of all kinds. 
USDA and Regional Organic Standards
Food products labeled "USDA Organic" are produced in accord with federal agency standards. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's organic program specifies a range of allowed and prohibited agricultural practices covering fertilizers, pest control, animal feeding and handling standards, product labeling, and other factors involved in food production. Because of the high cost and documentation required to obtain USDA Organic certification, this product is generally found on products from larger food producers. 

However, a growing number of small to mid-size farms are using organic methods, across the U.S. and internationally without obtaining the USDA Organic certification label. Farmers go organic to protect soil and water quality, to promote healthier eating, and to tap into the profitable, growing market for organic foods. While farmers and food producers at this scale are much less likely to choose or be able to invest in USDA Organic Certification, they may participate in state or county organic verification programs. 

The opportunity to know your farmers, by buying food at a Farmers' Market or farm stand, or even getting to visit where the food you eat is grown, has also become a kind of local organic verification, base in community relationships and shared values. 

Organic farming relies on inputs like compost instead of chemical fertilizers, integrated pest management and complementary planting instead of chemical pesticides and herbicides, and animal pasturing and raising practices that work with the animals' natural diets and habits (example: grass-fed vs. corn-fed, feedlot-raised and antibiotic/hormone treated beef cattle). A growing number of "eaters" are investing in organic foods to get foods produced with inputs that are healthier for animals, land, and humans. Another significant benefit of organic food choices is the higher earning power these foods generate for organic farmers, money that in turn largely circulates in the communities where the farms are based. 

The non-profit Environmental Working Group releases a list each year of foods that accumulate the most toxins through commercial production, and that provide the best health impacts when you buy them organic. This kind of list can help an event organizer educate your community about food choices, as an element of featuring organic foods.
Waste Streams: Recycle, Reuse, Compost
What can be Reused? 

It's a very Green choice to serve food and beverages using ware that can be washed and reused. Does your event venue have a kitchen with a dishwasher or sink? Can you mobilize volunteers for dish cleanup? You'll see very little waste from this serving option!

What can be Recycled? 

The range of materials that can be recycled varies from county to county, sometimes town to town. Check the details of the recycling program in your area and plan your event's food and beverage service to get as much serving waste into recycling bins as possible. 

What is Compostable? 
  Any kind of food waste can be composted. Paper and plastic food service ware of all kinds that is designed to decompose in a composting operations is available online and from Green-minded suppliers. Paper goods are made without plastic linings, yet still sturdy enough to work as well as non-compostable items. Plastic goods (cups, lids, straws, utensils) are being made from corn or other vegetable oils, instead of petroleum; these can be composted too and they work just like petroleum plastic ware. 

The key to making composting work with food waste and food service ware is the composting facility. A commercial-scale composting operation must be permitted to accept food waste. Home or even farm-scale composting sites are not very workable for food items. The serving ware must be chopped or ground up to facilitate decomposition, and any meat, dairy or oily food waste will attract unwanted pile-pests when animal-product food waste is added to a small-scale compost pile. 

Food waste composting is a very sustainable option to reduce waste, but it takes careful planning to get the right serving ware and get the waste material to the right kind of compost processing site.

A very simple, sensible Green option is to plan food quantities to minimize waste, serve on reusable or recyclable ware as much as possible, and donate any food not served to a local food kitchen or livestock farmer that can use your event’s leftovers.
Alternative Fuel Vehicle
Greener fuels are alternatives to conventional fossil-fuel gasoline. They include: 
  • Electric Vehicles (EVs), can be personal cars, buses, and commercial vehicles. EVs do not emit the tailpipe pollutants caused by conventional gasoline, although most electricity in the U.S. is still produced by burning coal or natural gas. They are the Greenest alternative when they get recharged using solar or other nonrenewable energy sources. 
  • Compressed natural gas (CNG) is used most often for commercial fleet vehicles. 
  • Biofuels are refined from plant-based oils, ranging from soy or corn grown for fuel production to French-fry fat recovered from restaurants! Ethanol and Methanol are boifuels, but are typically mixed with conventional petroleum as a vehicle fuel source. Disel-fueled personal cars and trucks can be retrofitted to run on biofuels, but they are most commonly used in commercial vehicles. 
  • Hybrid vehicles, powered by a mix of conventional fuel and electricity, are engineered to use the energy from driving and braking to recharge the vehicle's battery, which can boost fuel efficiency into the 50-65 MPG range. 
Electronic Registration Systems
 Set Up An Electronic System
   There are good, free electronic communication tools available online for event communications. You can customize some of the free versions with graphics and even your own photos. Using electronic communications saves paper and postage, and allows you to efficiently send the same message to many participants. 

Depending on your event audience, you may want to offer a mail or phone communication option in addition to using an electronic system.
What are suggestions for setting up an online RSVP?
Evite, Eventbrite, and Whova are communication sites that all offer free invitation and registration tools. You can upgrade from the free versions to add graphics, reminders, and other communication amenities. Check the capabilities of sites like these to best match their functions with your needs. For example: 
  • Eventbrite offers the ability to customize registration and tickets for your event, for a small fee you will have the ability to process credit card orders for tickets.
  • Evite allows you to create digital invitations; for a premium upgrade you can make sure that these invitations are personal, one-of-a-kind and advertising free.
Most event communication tools will allow you to connect information to the social media event pages you set up, this helps increase promotional and communication capabilities. 
Event Mobile Applications
New versions and upgrades of this kind of electronic tool are coming out often. There are also many informational sites that review these tools. Ask your friends or colleagues who work on events, or ask connections to your event from a business, meeting facility or college, for their recommendations - especially if you're new to using electronic event communication tools. 

Applications such as Eventbase or HelloCrowd often have free and premium pricing options so you can decide what is right for your event. 
Reduce Waste While Promoting Sponsors
Create a PowerPoint slideshow of sponsor logos and run it as a continuous loop during pre-event networking periods and during break times. Post your sponsor acknowledgments on your event website or social media pages. Of course, if you print up posters or programs, include sponsor acknowledgment in these resources too! 
Paperless Presentations
Ask your presenters to provide PowerPoint and other visual presentations and handouts to your event team as PDF files. Post these files to your event website and encourage attendees to access them online. You can then make just a small quantity of print copies, or ask your presenters to bring a small number of handouts, for pickup at the event. 
List of Ways for Participants to Reduce Event Environmental Impact
Keep it simple and encouraging! Limit your list to a "Top Five," and include these ideas on the event website, program, or mobile app. Choose from the range of conservation options described in this guide, and customize them for your unique event. For example: 
  • Pack your family's dishes and utensils for the church picnic and enter our "Prettiest Potluck Table Setting" contents.
  • Bring a refillable water bottle to the meeting and to our "We Care!" group photo. 
  • Join a carpool out to the fairgrounds. Meet at 8 a.m. at the High School parking lot. 
Choosing Housing Based on Sustainability Factors
A  little research on your part - or delegated to members of your event team - can offer your event attendees information on the Green practices of area motels and hotels. The interaction to about these Green practices might also help motivate motel and hotel owners to add some Green to their routines. Sustainable hotel/motel practices to look for include: 
  • Encouraging guests to use the same linens during their stay rather than having them changed and washed daily
  • Providing toiletries from bulk dispensers or donating partly-used individual toiletries to shelter charities 
  • Including recycling collection with trash cans in guest rooms and common areas
  • Providing paperless check-out
  • Use of water-efficient showerheads and faucets
  • Use of LED or other energy-efficient lighting
  • Having room lighting and climate control wired to turn on when a guest uses their key, rather than using energy for these functions in unoccupied rooms
  • Providing key cards made from recycled material and collecting them for recycling 
Creating a List of Sustainable Gets Tips for Event Attendees

With a little research you can create useful tips for your event attendees to extend their Green practices beyond the event itself. Create a list that best suits your attendees, event and local Green resources you have available. Here are some tips you may want to include:

When Choosing Restaurants Outside of the Event Venue
  • Order right-size portions or share a meal with another guest to prevent food waste
  • Ask for leftovers to be packaged in a kind of wrapping that you can reuse or recycle such as a plastic container or aluminum foil
  • Absolutely refuse to use Styrofoam - from leftovers to to-go cups just say NO to Styrofoam! 
  • Ask for drinks to be served without lids or straws 
  • Choose a restaurant that features locally-produced foods or beverages; research your local restaurants and provide suggestions to event attendees
  • Go meatless and order a vegetarian meal
When Staying At a Hotel or Motel 
  • Use towels and bed linens more than once; if your hotel or motel doesn't specify a reuse program, leave a note for the housekeeping staff asking that they do not replace the linens
  • Use your own toiletries rather than the guest-sized items. If you use a guest item, take it with you to use at home
  • Suggest that the accommodation save up used soaps and toiletries and donate them to a local shelter or charity
  • Turn off lights and the T.V. when leaving your guest room
  • Before leaving the room, set the room thermostat lower (for heating) or higher (for cooling) than you would set it when you were in the room; your effort will save energy overall, and the small space of your room will warm up or cool down quickly when you return and adjust the setting 
Specifying Waste Reduction Services - Working With Caterers and Event Venues
After you find out what kinds of recycling, food donating and possibly composting services are available in your area, you can write up these plans and include them in your requests for services from caterers, event venues, and helper organizations. 

Give your event partners clear direction about the Green measures you plan to implement. Include some of the “why” for your choices to help others learn together about sustainable options. Be sure to celebrate the efforts – and the learning – that occurs in your event! Valuable learning comes even from plans that might not go as Green as you intended. 

Specifying waste reduction services is like specifying a menu, to give the greatest satisfaction, meet budgets, and produce a smooth-running, productive, enjoyable event. 

If your event is on a repeating schedule, start with modest Green goals that you know will succeed. Next time around, add a little more learning and another stretch toward sustainable outcomes. Weed out measure that don’t work, or change them around. Like a good gardener, you can grow the Green in your events, with deep roots and participant appreciation, over time.
Creating a Sustainable Fact Sheet For Events
It doesn't have to be fancy, simply write up the choices selected from this Guide - and from your team's resourceful planning - a form most useful for your event. Include the list of your Green measures on your event website, program, or mobile app. Use simple graphics on event materials to spotlight your Sustainable Facts. For example, to highlight Green features on signs you may want to include a leaf graphic on on:
  • Signs designating preferred parking for carpoolers or electric car users
  • Signs designating parking for bicycles or shuttle stops
  • "Free Refills!" signs at a reusable water bottle filling area
  • Awards presentation projection, citing the features of a Green award
  • Collection areas signage for recycling, food waste composting or other special waste collection
  • Invitations and advance promotional materials where Green plans are listed
ENERGY STAR is a voluntary energy efficiency program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Producers of products ranging from light bulbs to whole buildings can submit product specifications, performance or testing data, or the products themselves to the EPA for evaluation; the ENERGY STAR logo can be used on products even whole buildings that meet EPA efficiency standards. ENERGY STAR is one of the most recognized and respected brands in the world. 
Green Building Certification & Rating Systems
What is LEED Certification?
  LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. In use across the U.S. and internationally since the early 1990s, LEED guides property owners, architects and construction professionals in making our buildings as resource-efficient and healthy as possible. A LEED project uses a point-based scorecard to plan and implement measures addressing: 
  • Energy efficiency and renewable energy use
  • Water conservation
  • Connection to alternative transportation 
  • Sustainable site design
  • Indoor air and environmental quality (including green cleaning)
  • Waste minimization 
  • Education and awareness bout the building's Green features
  • Innovations in design and building
Many federal and state buildings have been built to LEED standards. College campuses and corporate buildings are also likely LEED sites. If you can hold an event in a LEED-Certified building, be sure to arrange for a tour or talk about the facility's Green features for your attendees. Your group will learn a lot, and LEED building owners almost always build visitor education opportunities into their projects.     
What is WaterSense?
  WaterSense helps consumers choose products and services that are certified to use at least 20% less water, save energy, and perform as well or better than regular models. WaterSense is a voluntary program that works together with EPA's related brands ENERGY STAR, SaferChoice, WasteWise and SmartWay to inform and encourage conservation efforts for manufacturers and consumers. Look for the WaterSense logo to save both water and money. 
Creating a Survey or Event Evaluation Form to Gather Feedback
It's always a good idea to survey attendees and participants after an event. Stick to asking about what you really want and need to know so you can keep your survey as short and simple as possible. It's a good idea to always give respondents the option to include their contact information or remain anonymous. 

If you're communicating with participants by e-mail, Survey Monkey or Google Forms are two user-friendly, free and paperless Green options that lets you ask questions in formats ranging from simple "yes/no" responses to a "check all that apply" list of possible responses. The basic free version of Survey Monkey will provide you with a very useful summary of responses to each question; paid upgrades will also summarize responses into features like charts and graphs. 

Follow-up electronic surveys can be easily modified to target questions for groups with different needs during the event, or who participated for different reasons: attendees, vendors, presenters, event planners, and/or workers. If you are creating more than one edition of a survey, be sure to send the correct link for each edition to the list of its target recipient group. 
Community and Event Stakeholders
Community Stakeholders are the individuals or groups in your area that are most important to the overall success of your event - and to your efforts to make it Green! These "influential" stakeholders could be elected officials, clergy, owners of sponsoring businesses (or the owner's personal secretary, often a very good connection to make!), a school principal or superintendent, a park director, etc. Other Community Stakeholders could be representatives of partner organizations, local media, law enforcement, health inspectors, recycling/waste haulers, etc. 

Your Event Stakeholders will include Committee Chairs (especially anyone not directly involved with Green efforts), speakers, day-of-event volunteers, representatives of host organizations, etc - these people are your key contacts in the focus areas defined by this guide: vendors, venue staff, food service staff, etc. 

So, once you've identified your key stakeholders how do you get buy-in for your event? A simple, personal conversation is often the best way to make sure these people understand the "what" and "why" of your Green efforts. Share your enthusiasm and just enough of your growing Green know-how to introduce your key partners to the benefits of adding sustainability to the community resources your event generates. If  it makes sense, share your Green Event Guide Checklist and other planning documents with stakeholders involved in event production. Answer questions clearly and simply as you go along. Remember that saying "I don't know but will try to find out" is a good answer; human beings are all on a Green learning curve! Be sure to include a Green reference on all thank-you notes to your key Stakeholders to remind them of the continued importance and value of going Green. 
Green Pledges
Asking people to sign a pledge is a way to engage them with new ideas. It's not a commitment, but it points a way toward action. What would you like your event participants to pledge to do? Improve, or start, recycling? Add locally produced foods into their shopping mix? Carpool or use public transportation? 

When developing your event's pledge connect the experience to the Green measures people will experience at your event, so you know they'll be possible in your community. Keep it simple: choose just a few options. Post your Green Pledge on your event website or social media page to keep the Green Pledge experience "Green on the screen". 

These two event pledges demonstrate how unique event goals can guide simple Green Pledges:
  • Meet Me Outdoors "Citizen Pledge" encourages event participants to plan outings that strengthen a connection with nature and 
  • The Missouri Botanical Garden's "Pledge to Hit a Green Note" asks attendees of  an outdoor concert series to plan green, sustainable, waste-free picnics.
Remote Participation
Remote Participation uses a combination of video, phone and web-based conferencing technology to allow people to learn from and contribute to an event without traveling. Less travel reduces the environmental impacts of air pollution and carbon emissions, and conserves personal energy and costs for individuals. Setting up an event like a training or conference for Remote Participation can also increase the size and diversity of your audience for the event. he simplest form of Remote Participation for a group is a Conference Call or a Webinar, but this scale of participation should be limited to short periods of time, an hour or two at the most. 

Skype technology can reduce your event budget by bringing a speaker to an event audience on a screen instead of a stage. While Skype-type technology is now simple enough to let family members visit over cell phones, you may want to plan to invest in professional tech support to make it work for a large audience and to explore various conference features you may be interested in using. 

Webinar (short for web or online seminar) technology can share information and foster discussion for groups of any size, with participants "tuning in" on their personal computers, or by phone. A community college, university or extensive service may be able to provide webinar tech support. Some webinar platforms are free and some require a fee to use the platform. 

If your informational event needs to have people in different locations see as well as talk to each other, or meet over one or more days, look for a Distance Learning partner to serve as a host site/sponsor. Community colleges, universities and larger businesses are most likely to have the equipment and staff to support this mode of Remote Participation. You will also need to connect with Distance Learning partner(s) where groups of attendees are located. Web-based video technology is often used to connect groups of event participants this way. 
Ecological Driving Practices for Buses
Planning a route that is most direct with the least amount of start-and-stop driving will conserve fuel, which reduces air pollution and fossil fuel consumption. When routing a bus through a commercial or residential district with a lot of stops, take a cue from the United Parcel Service and plot a route with mostly right turns! UPS delivery routes specify right turns as much as possible to minimize vehicle idling at traffic signals; right turns reduce fuel consumption, tailpipe emissions - and time! 

Smooth driving, instead of jackrabbit starts and stops, is a good rule of thumb for any vehicle - including buses. For buses, this awareness and practice is as important for passenger safety as for ecological footprints and impacts. 
Environmentally Responsible Hauling and Shipping

This option means using the least amount of fuel, to transport material as efficiently as possible, on the most direct route and over the shortest distance, to its point of use. 

What is Bundling for Shipping?

If you can get a produce supplier to bundle items in your order, you may save on shipping rates - and your shipments will be more efficient. Here's how bundling works: 

Freight and parcel carriers care primarily about two things - weight and size. What they are generally not concerned about are the number of pieces being shipped. When parcels in your shipment are bundled, you may be able to save on shipping costs, fuel, and time/human effort. 

Each item that requires a label qualifies as a "shipment". Your shipping rates are determined based upon the size and weight of that shipment. For example: 

  • For a very lightweight package, the cost barely changes between 1 and 6 packages when they are bundled together. 
  • Shipping costs increases significantly when packages are processed as individual shipments. 
  • As the packages get heavier, the cost difference eventually narrows, but bundling can still yield savings. 

As long as the bundle isn't so big that it warrants oversize or overweight charges, bundling multiple boxes together as one shipment can be a significant means of saving shipping dollars - and combining items in one shipment, saving fuel, labor and time. 

How to bundle? 

UPS and FedEx are very specific about how they want you to safely bundle your packages, using strapping, tape or shrinkwrap. 

As a customer, you may or may not be able to specific these shipping options, but they're useful to know. Consider bundling when you are shipping goods, or ask your shipper to bundle items. 

What is an EPA SmartWay Certified Hauler?

Who is shipping goods for your event? Check to see if your product supplier's shipper, or a shipper you work with directly, is a SmartWay certified company. Traveling the SmartWay, goods are getting to your event more sustainably.

SmartWay is a voluntary public-private program of the U.S. EPA. Launched in 2004 it: 

  • Provides a comprehensive and well-recognized system for tracking, documenting, and sharing information about fuel use and freight emissions across supply chains.
  • Helps companies identify and select more efficient freight carriers, transport modes, equipment, and operational strategies to improve supply chain sustainability and lower costs from goods movement. 
  • Supports global energy security and offsets environmental risks for companies and countries. 
  • Reduces freight transportation-related emissions by accelerating the use of advanced fuel-saving technologies. 
  • Is supported by major transportation industry associations, environmental groups, state and local governments, international agencies, and the corporate community. 

SmartWay helps companies that both order and ship goods advance supply chain sustainability by measuring, benchmarking, and improving freight transportation efficiency.  

Sustainable Transportation
It can be fun as well as good Green education to do some figuring and share results with attendees. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers a simple online calculator that can quantify the impacts of vehicle miles. Survey your attendees with some simple questions such as: 
  • How far did you travel today? 
  • How many people rode together in your carpool? 
  • How far did you travel by bus/train/bicycle instead of a personal car? 
Use the EPA Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator with data you are able to get from attendees to share some positive examples of how sustainable transportation options can reduce environmental impacts. It's a good idea to frame your report as an estimate, for example: 
   Twelve members of the Delta Chapter carpooled today, from Springfield to our celebration here in Richland Center. That's an 80-mile round trip. If they had each driven their own car, they would have pumped out nearly half a ton of polluting Greenhouse Gas Emissions. By sharing the ride, these Deltas made it a sustainable trip, reducing the Greenhouse Gas Emissions for their travel down to just about one-tenth of a ton. Still some pollution, but MUCH less. Thank you Green Deltas! 
Accessible Facility
"Accessibility" is the combination of various elements in a building or outdoor area which allows access, circulation and full use of the building and facilities by persons with disabilities. Family Restrooms are increasingly common and especially helpful areas to note in a an accessible building!  
Energy Efficient Venues
For starters, simply ask your venue contact what kinds of energy efficiency improvements they have made. A meeting planning staffer may now know this, so ask him or her to introduce you to the building operations or maintenance person. Go together to talk to that individual. If the facility has ENERGY STAR or LEED Certification, take a photo of their sign or plaque and use it in your event promotions. 
Energy Efficient Lighting
Lighting is a basic energy update - and one of the best paybacks on an efficiency investment. Lighting technology continues to refine efficient options, making LED (Light Emitting Diode)  bulbs increasingly affordable and designed for varied uses. LED technology is eclipsing CFL (compact fluorescent) lighting, which began to replace incandescent bulbs in the 1990s. Efficient lighting uses less electricity to produce a variety of lighting levels and color temperatures, and does not waste the energy consumed giving off heat. 

If a venue staffer is not aware of lighting updates, you can do a visual assessment. Look at the light fixtures as you walk around the building. Are there compact fluorescent bulbs visible? Can you see the "dots" of light often visible in LED bulbs? Are any tubular fluorescent bulbs visible in fixtures wide or thin in diameter? The thinner they are, the more efficient the bulb. Are there dimmers or motion sensors in use as light control options? These measures are all visible evidence of lighting efficiency updates. And- most importantly - is natural daylight a key element of the facility's lighting scheme? Daylight is a healthy, free light source! 
High Efficiency HVAC Systems

HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. We have come to rely on these mechanical systems, usually powered by fossil fuels like natural gas and the coal still used to produce most electricity in the U.S., to control the climate in our homes, schools and public buildings. HVAC efficiency measures include keeping these systems well-maintained, clean and in tune; sealing the ducts that transport heated and cooled air to occupied spaces, and – most importantly, when it’s time to install or upgrade HVAC equipment – choosing systems designed for super-efficient operation.

National evaluation programs provide basic HVAC efficiency information. Labeling on the piece of equipment should clearly indicate its efficiency rating. While understanding HVAC efficiency may help you select a Greener event venue, it’s also useful information to share with attendees, because these efficiency ratings apply to equipment for both residential and commercial buildings.

  • SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) numbers apply to air conditioning; a higher SEER (13 and up to 20) indicates efficient use of cooling system energy, and lower related pollution and costs.
  • HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) applies to heat pumps, which can be electric or gas powered systems; HSPF numbers from 7.7 to 10 indicate minimum to maximum efficiency.
  • AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) ratings applied to gas furnaces and boilers are stated as a percentage; if your unit’s AFUE is 75%, that means that only 75% of the energy in the fuel is being used to produce heat and the other 25% is non-combusted, wasted gas that must be exhausted through a chimney system. Gas heating systems are now available with up to a 98.5% AFUE, meaning that only 1.5% of the fuel consumed is wasted, and providing the option of direct-venting furnaces using simple exhaust piping.

How can you tell if an event facility you are considering has efficient HVAC? For starters, trust your senses: if it’s freezing in summer, or overheated in cold weather, efficient controls or equipment are probably not a feature there. Especially if you think it’s an energy efficient facility, ask to talk to the building operations person; she or he will be a good source to learn more about the place, adding to your event’s education resources. 

Toward Zero Waste
This is more of an ideal than a reality, but it's a goal worth working toward. A better descriptor would be "Working Toward Zero Waste!" This would involve ensuring that waste from food service, room service, building operations, etc., was recycled, composted, or reused properly and that energy efficiency measures were in high use. 

Zero Waste practices are being applied primarily in manufacturing and health care, but the principles can be useful in many business sectors. The U.S. Zero Waste Business Council maintains a certification program for Zero-Waste. An example of an event venue that holds this certification is Circle D Corral at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Reading about the practices at this very public event space will give you an idea of what Zero Waste Certification demands - and the sustainability services a Zero Waste facility can offer. 
Assigning People to Waste Stations
When assigning people to work the Waste Stations you want to provide enough training and information that they will feel comfortable with their duties as a Green Ambassador. Here are some important things that Waste Station volunteers should know: 
  • What can and cannot go into each kind of bin; this may change depending on services available and products that are seen throughout the event. Try to collect examples to show the volunteers what they are looking for. 
  • Simple talking points about why your event is making the effort to recycle or compost: 
  • You're keeping the materials and energy embodied in recyclable items and organic waste in use, as feedstock for new products -instead of sending items with useful life remaining in them to a landfill
  • Recycling is a good business, benefiting local-to-global economies and generating jobs! 
  • Recycling prevents pollution because it takes less energy and water and produces far less air, water, and solid waste pollution to make products from recycled materials (paper, plastics, metals, glass) compared to manufacturing with virgin materials. 
  • Recycling is easy and convenient!                 
Managing Collection of Trash, Recycling and/or Compost
Start by thinking about what kinds of waste your event will generate. To make these Green actions work, take stock of the waste stream you anticipate for your event and research local collection options. 
To minimize waste at your event, at least offer recycling. If there are end-users in your area for food waste, consider adding food waste composting to your event plan. 

Your event will have t o include landfill trash pickup of some kind. If recycling is not already offered at your venue, or if you're adding in food waste composting, be sure to add securing pickup for these material streams to your list of arrangements and to your budget for event costs and person-power. 

Town or county public works or health departments are the most common checkpoints for recycling and composting service information. Visit your local government website, and talk directly with officials to learn what waste diversion options are possible for your event. Your efforts could form partnerships to advance waste minimization in your area!

The easiest waste diversion practice is recycling collection for cans, bottles, cardboard and paper. Most U.S. communities now offer recycling, but the range of items accepted is locally determined by recycling enterprises that could be a small-scale, corporate or sheltered workshop operation. If you're not sure what your event can recycle, check directly with the enterprise that serves your community. Consider trading a sponsorship for recycling collection services. 

Food waste composting is more challenging than recycling. Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning food waste composting: 
  • It's not yet common in the mix of Green community services, so really good "what-why-how" educational messages for everyone who works and eats  during your event is critical for success!
  • Having the right end-user is a make-or-break factor with food waste composting. An end-user could be a commercial composting company, or a farmer who can use your event's organics you might be collecting, and tell you clearly what they can accept. Then it's up to your team to organize organics collection to keep contaminants out of that special waste stream. 
  • Another big issue is the range of materials that could be involved, especially the countless single-use plastic items typically used at public events. Plastics made from corn or soy oil, instead of from petroleum, are used to make compostable single-use products, but labeling of these higher-cost items can be inconsistent and confusing across the market. Do your research and know what products you will be using throughout the event. 
  • Home gardeners and individuals who know how to compost may balk at mixing meats, fats or any animal-based food waste into an event's composting collection, unless they understand how commercial scale composting works. If food waste composting seems possible for your event, know that you'll need trained "Green Ambassador" volunteers at every disposal station to educate attendees about these options. 
A University Extension service is a likely place to seek help with food waste composting. Check with your Extension agent. If she or he has not worked with organic waste diversion options, they should be able to help you connect with a county or state program, or a specialist, in your regional office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

Education about waste minimization is an ongoing need in our throwaway culture, especially at public events where "disposable" is seen as the most convenient, cheapest option, no matter the real, ongoing environmental costs. Your Green efforts will matter if you tackle this challenge! 


Adding Compost Bins to Waste Stations Effectively
Add compost bins, bags, signage and volunteer talking points to the recycling and landfill collection resources described in the Pairing Recycling and Trash Bins Effectively glossary section. Train your Green Ambassador volunteers about what can and cannot go into the compost and what will happen to the organic waste they are working to collect! 
Biodiesel Generators

Diesel engines, used in generators to produce portable, stand-by and emergency electrical power, can be run on used vegetable oils instead of fossil fuel. Processed waste vegetable oil, called biodiesel , is a renewable energy source. It produces less pollution than petroleum. Vegetable oil is thicker than conventional diesel fuel, so it reduces wear and tear on generator engines that may run continuously day and night, but the oil must be processed to work as a primary fuel source. 

Commercial production and distribution of biodiesel fuel is not yet common, but the process of refining waste cooking oil to make a very inexpensive, reliable fuel is simple enough to be DIY - using just a blender! Check with local generator rental businesses or diesel engine mechanic shops to find out if someone in your area is working with biodiesel. 

When you locate an alternative generator source, a business or an individual, consider offering a sponsorship in exchange for all or part of the rental cost. Give them the opportunity to educate attendees about renewable energy in exchange for providing event power. Adding education into an event mix can be a win-win-win!
Pairing Recycling and Trash Bins Effectively
Plan to place a recycling bin with every trashcan in use around your event. Most event sites have trash containers, so you may only need to secure enough recycling bins to match an existing number of containers. This common practice helps make recycling obvious, easy, and makes it harder to dispose of items in the wrong bin. 

A great way to bring attention to waste minimization efforts is to replace random pair-of-bin locations with Waste Stations staffed with trained Green Ambassador volunteers. These stations should be set-up in areas of food service, by entrances and exits and at other key gathering points for your event. 

Waste stations should have: 
  • Simple, clear signage on table, tent or cans. Use single key words (Recycle, Landfill, Compost - Cans, Bottles, Paper, Cardboard) in large print. Use bright colors and simple graphics of the items you intend to collect.
  • A set of collection containers. If possible, use the same type of container for each type of waste you intend to collect. 
  • Volunteer staffing at all times. Training a group of Green Ambassadors to stand at Waste Stations and tell people what to put where helps ensures good waste system outcomes and boosts the educational outcomes of your Green Event efforts overall. 
  • A kit including disposable gloves, hand sanitizer, some talking points for volunteers and a supply of collection bags. Consider using clear bags for recycling, black for landfill trash; if you're collecting food waste with bags, you'll have to invest in compostable bags! 
  • A simple system to track how much waste was diverted for recycling or composting compared to amounts being sent to a landfill. Include a pencil and index card in each Waste Station kit and instruct volunteers to add hash marks each time a big of any kind is changed out. Alternatively, if you are collecting materials in similar sized dumpsters back-of-house, you can make estimates on the % volume filled for each collection type. For example, the landfill dumpster may be approximately 40% full at the end of the event while the recycling dumpster is nearly 98% full. 
  • At outdoor events, a tent should be provided to help shade volunteers from the sun. 
  • Consider including big spigot water coolers in your Waste Stations. This will allow your Green Ambassadors to direct attendees to these spots to refill reusable water bottles. 
Portable Solar Generators
The same technology that increasingly powers buildings is available in portable form. Solar generators incorporate photovoltaic (PV) panels that convert the energy in sunlight into usable electricity, making them a non-polluting, quiet sustainable alternative to conventional fuel-burning portable power sources. The main drawback to relying on a solar generator for power is the need for consistent sunshine during use, although the latest solar generator kits include batteries for limited power storage capacity. 

Is there a solar energy business in your area? Check with them about solar generator availability and compare their rental rates to conventional diesel generator providers. Solar advocates tend to join communication networks, to keep up on technological and cost advances, and a solar power provider may know of individuals using portable solar power. 

When you locate an alternative generator source, a business or an individual, consider offering a sponsorship in exchange for all or part of the rental cost. Give them the opportunity to educate attendees about renewable energy in exchange for providing event power. Adding education into an event mix can be a win-win-win!
Preventing Damage to the Natural Environment

When your event will be using outdoor spaces - for functions like parking, deliveries, or performances - be aware of the natural features of those spaces and take steps to protect them. 

Ensure that parking does not damage the natural environment

  • Designate parking spaces away from trees. The weight of vehicles compacts soils, damaging tree roots and hurting a tree's ability to take up water and nutrients from soil. 
  • Keep parking areas away from streams or creeks; fluid leaking from any vehicles can pollute waterways and harm aquatic creatures. 
  • Be aware of any environmentally sensitive features of your site. Are there any animals living - and possibly breeding - on or around your site? If so, designate traffic and parking spots well away from known or possible wildlife habitat. 

Ensure that structures built for the event do not damage the natural environment

  • Are you erecting any tents or building any temporary structures? Follow the guidelines for parking to protect natural features around your site. 
  • Be aware of overhead and underground wiring, especially when erecting tents. For human as well as natural safety, don't drive steaks into these kinds of areas unless wiring is marked. 

Ensure that large vehicles do not impact Sensitive Natural Environments 

  • Follow the guidelines for parking, especially when your event includes any large and extra-heavy vehicles. Types of vehicles to be aware of include a bucket lift, fire truck, tractors, semi-trailers hauling carnival rides, etc., 
Sustainable Give-a-way Guidelines

Vendors give out freebies to circulate their logo and cultivate business. We go to events eager for stuff that we may not need or want - or even remember who gave it out. We take the stuff because it's "free," but that price tag doesn't account for materials waster, excess packaging, labor conditions where the freebie was made - or a host of other unsustainable aspects of the give-a-way item. 

When you give your vendors some simple guidelines to educate them about these impacts, and encourage a Greener choice of items, you are helping them promote their enterprise in a sustainable, memorable way. Sustainable Give-a-way options include:

  • Tickets for a gift card drawing. Vendors get attendee contact info, winner gets a useful prize. 
  • Items recipients can sustainably reuse. For example, refillable water bottles, magnifying hand lens, reusable cutlery sets.
  • Items made with recycled content. For example, coaster made from recycled tires, memo or Post-It pads with recycled content. 
  • Items shipped with no, minimal, and recyclable packaging. Support vendors by providing a recycling bin and encouraging attendees to unwrap and recycle on the spot! 
  • Items made locally, or at least made in the U.S. reducing transportation impacts and supporting domestic jobs. 
  • Edible items, especially any healthy food choices. 
Eliminate Handouts
  • Ask your event vendors and presenters to provide their handouts to your organizing team and post them - or post links to them - on your event website or social media page. 
  • Ask event vendors to us QR codes or other mobile-device access methods to encourage attendees to take handouts electronically. 
  • Allow vendors and presenters to bring a small number of copies of their material for attendees with limited electronic access or preference. 
Handling Wood, Metals or Other Special Waste Materials

Reuse materials from the event: 

  • Use washable table coverings instead of single-use disposable products.
  • Build any structures using screws to help facilitate deconstruction with reuse in mind.
  • Donate leftover building and decorating materials to a local theater company, school shop class or craft material center.
  • Donate leftover decorations to a skilled nursing, rehab or adult day care facility.
  • Ask your vendors to describe display materials they will use; negotiate with them to minimize waste through display planning, and/or take back of their materials for reuse or recycling. 

Recycle Special Materials: 

  • Pre-arrange a set-up day check-in call with a community recycling expert, then evaluate potential special waste streams during event setup; arrange for recycling based on your report of recycling options and your expert's knowledge of special recycling services in your area.
  • Collect plastic shrink wrap, bags and air-filled packing materials. Recycle these "plastic film" materials at a grocery or home improvement store participating in the Trex program

Composting Wood

  • Avoid use of treated wood products in temporary structures. The toxic chemicals that weather-proof these products is a serious contaminant in compost or mulch. 
  • If you have a commercial composting business in your area, find out how you can get wood waste to them after your event. 
  • Ask your parks department to help you minimize wood waste by accepting it for mulch grinding. 
Green Vendor Pledges

Asking people to sign a pledge is a way to engage them with new ideas. It's not a commitment, but it points a way toward action. What would you like your vendors to pledge to do? Improve (or start) recycling? Reduce packaging? For food vendors, consider asking them to eliminate the use of Styrofoam, a material rarely accepted in recycling. 

Connect your pledge options to the Green measures people will experience at your event, so you know they'll be possible in your community. Keep it simple: choose just a few options. To "keep it Green on the screen," post your Green Vendor Pledge on your event website or social media page, along with the names or logos of vendors who join in.