UCSF Sustainability Stories


Isabel Jauregui, November 2018


5 Tips to Make your Next Event Zero-Waste

When planning your next meeting, event, or party, a little bit of upfront planning can allow you to create a great gathering with good food that leaves little to no waste, supporting UCSF achieve its Zero Waste goals. Hosting a zero waste event may seem daunting, but follow these five tips below to throw the ultimate eco-friendly celebration. Your guests and the planet will thank you.

Five Things You Can Do to Host a Zero-Waste Event

#1 Say No to Box Lunches
Avoid boxed meals. If sandwiches are served, have bread and sandwich fillings on platters. Or serve pre-made sandwiches on platters. If lunches must be pre-made, use paper bags in cardboard box trays. Whenever possible, serve chips, salads and other items in large bowls for self-service. 

#2: Recycle and Compost your Waste
Since you’re aiming for zero waste, try and make sure that everything is recyclable or compostable and gets to the right place. Sorting your waste correctly can be a little tricky, but, luckily, getting the right bins is easy. When you reserve your venue, contact Facilities Services and request recycling, compost, and garbage bins with signage for your event. Facilities will provide them and service them. Additional signage for compost,recycling and garbage is always recommended.

#3: Use a Green Catering Service
Pulling off a green event will be much easier if you select a caterer familiar with UCSF’s LivingGreen Event Guide. UCSF has incorporated green leaf icons on the America Go (ATG)/BearBuy Website, which makes it easy for UCSF meeting and event planners to identify on–campus and off-campus caterers that have been certified by the Office of Sustainability as meeting UCSF’s zero waste and sustainable food requirements. Thirteen of ATG caterers have been certified by the Office of Sustainability. On-campus green caterers include Moffitt Long Catering, Aramark at Mission Bay Conference Center, and the certified vendors listed in this article. Go here to learn more about the different levels of certification.

#4: Refuse to Use Single-Use Plastics
One of the easiest ways to green your event is to avoid plastic cutlery, dishware, and straws—and remember to avoid Styrofoam at all costs. Request re-usable utensils and dishware if possible, and if you must use single-use food ware products, ensure they are compostable and not ‘biodegradable.’ (Read this article.) World Centric provides 100% compostable products for all your needs. Better yet, encourage your guests to bring their own dishes (like going to a picnic) and limit your purchases of products.

#5: Say No to Beef and Lamb and Avoid Food Waste
Consider hosting a meatless event to reduce the impact of your event. If everyone in the US went vegetarian for one day, it would prevent GHG emissions equal to 1.2 million tons of CO2. This is because industrial cattle farming introduces large quantities of methane into the atmosphere and contributes to deforestation in order to provide grazing pasture.

Avoid food waste by implementing an RSVP system to confirm a final guest headcount. As a general note, 20-30% of guests will be no shows, so order food accordingly. However, if you do end up with leftovers, donate them to the Food4UCSF Student App

UCSF students: Sign up to use the app at saa.ucsf.edu/food.

Get More Information on Green Events