UCSF Sustainability Stories

Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, December 2013

5 Tips for Giving your Next Event a Green Glow

earthTis the season!  With just a little bit of upfront planning, you can add a green glow to your next event or holiday gathering. It is easier than it sounds.  Below are five tips to get you on the right track to greening your next event.

Tip #1: Location.  Location.  Location.

One of the easiest ways to green your event is to pick the right location.  Campus Life Services (CLS) and the Mission Bay Conference Center make it easy for green-centric event planners to host a zero-waste event, by offering meeting rooms where it is easy to provide recycling and composting stations.  “Everything counts toward the care of our planet—food sourcing, waste reduction, energy use—everything,” says Mark Wallace, General Manager of the Mission Bay Conference Center.

Tip #2:  Go Zero Waste

GrinchI’m not going to go Grinch on you and say, “No decorations, no lights, no sparkle.”  For the upcoming holiday season, do try to select decorations that can be recycled.  And sorry, balloons and tinsel are LivingGreen no nos.  Here are a few other tips for a zero-waste event: 

*  Use online invitations or if you want to use printed invitations, request 100% recycled paper.
*  Instead of a gift exchange, consider a white elephant gift exchange, a financial donation to a favorite cause, or a donation to One Warm Coat or San Francisco Food Bank.
*  Instead of buying gifts, consider making something from scratch, such as baked goods.
*  If you do buy gifts, consider purchasing from a site like Vine.com that offers products for natural living.
*  When you reserve your venue, let CLS Facilities Services know you will need both recycling and compost bins with clear signage in the meeting room and lunch/meal location. They will provide the appropriate waste receptacles (blue, green, black) for catered events.
*  Recycle broken lights with Lights for Life, a partnership program with Ace Hardware.  Another resource for recycling lights is Christmas Light Source.

Tip #3:  Support Local UCSF Vendors

Recycling and composting will be much easier if you pick a caterer familiar with UCSF’s LivingGreen Catering Best Practices. When possible, give preference to Moffitt Catering at UCSF, which offers can create a customized sustainable menu, or UCSF Restaurants, which are already implementing many green practices.  Every time you buy from a campus retailer, your dollars fund campus activities, programs, and entertainment to improve your quality of life at UCSF.

Consider offering a meatless event, which reduces the carbon footprint on your event and choose local, organic food when possible.

Tip #4: Use Reusable Dishes, Glasses, and Linens

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

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

*  No Styrofoam
*  Use paper products, which can be composted, over plastic
*  If clear plastic is necessary, use plastic cups and recycle them
*  Use plastic flatware that can be recycled
*  Use high post-consumer recycled content for paper napkins, towels, and tablecloths:  do not use plastic tablecloths.

UCSF does not recommend the compostable plastic cups and flatware because they often contaminate the recycling bins.  If you want to use them for a single event, we suggest you provide messaging where the cups and flatware are picked up clearly stating “I’m compostable,” along with a clearly marked compost bin.

Tip #5: Ban Bottled Water

I’ve said it before.  I’ll say it again.  Please no bottled water.  Offer water in pitchers with paper cups that can be composted.  Food and Water Watch offers a resource to help you plan a bottle-free event called Free Your Event from Bottled Water.

Bonus Points:  Get Certified

For 2014, consider making a commitment to make your next event a LivingGreen Event Certified (LGE).  With the tips above and a little bit of planning, you can easily host a zero waste, green event and earn a seal of endorsement.