UCSF Sustainability Stories

Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, December 2012

Five Tips for a Greener Holiday Party

Green giftTis the season.  Office parties and gatherings can create a wake of waste.  Check out some easy tips below to green your holiday party. 

What Makes a Party Green?

The ideal green event creates little or no waste and incorporates environmental considerations throughout planning and execution in order to minimize environment impacts.  It is easier than it sounds. 

Below are five tips for hosting a low-waste, green party.


Tip #1:  Request Recycling and Composting Bins

When you reserve your venue or room, let Facilities Management (FM) know you will need both recycling and compost bins with clear signage. FM will provide the appropriate waste receptacles.

Tip #2:  Pick a Green Caterer

Pulling off a green event will be much easier if you select a caterer familiar with UCSF’s LivingGreen Catering Best Practices. When possible, give preference to Moffitt Catering at UCSF, which offers sustainable catering, or UCSF Restaurants, which are already implementing many green practices.  If you use an off-campus catering service, be sure to provide them with the LivingGreen Catering Best Practices.  If you must use an off-campus service, please use a caterer on the City of San Francisco Department of Environment’s list of caterers with a commitment to sustainability.

Tip #3:  Ban Plastic Water Bottles

Eliminating plastic water bottles is a simple way to green your event. Serve drinking water in pitchers or at water stations, reducing your carbon footprint and the amount of waste produced. Food and Water Watch offers a resource to help you plan a bottle-free event called Free Your Event from Bottled Water.

Tip #4: Use Reusable Dishes, Glasses and Linens

If your budget allows, another way to minimize waste is to ask your caterer to use reusable dishes, glasses and linens.

If reusable isn’t an option, follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid polystyrene foam:  The City and County of San Francisco prohibits any establishment that serves food prepared in San Francisco from using polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) containers.  Any caterers from outside San Francisco are expected to avoid polystyrene foam service ware.
  • Avoid plastic plates and bowls: Paper plates and bowls can be composted.
  • Use paper cups where appropriate:  Paper cups can be composted.  If clear plastic is necessary, use plastic cups and recycle them.
  • Avoid compostable clear plastic cups and flatware:  To avoid confusion, we currently do not encourage the use of compostable plastic cups and flatware (they often end up contaminating the recycling bins).  We recommend using plastic flatware and cups that can be recycled.
  • Use high post-consumer recycled content for paper napkins, towels and tablecloths:  Do not use plastic tablecloths.

See the LivingGreen Catering Best Practices for more guidelines on how to serve food.

Tip #5:  Reduce Use of Virgin Paper and Minimize Paper Waste

Where possible, communicate with guests electronically and print any necessary materials on high post-consumer recycled paper.  Be sure the party room has a clearly labeled recycling bin. Think twice before you offer giveaways.