Planning 101: A Guide to A Zero-Waste Event

By Julia Spangler, April 22, 2019

4) Communicate

Communication is the lynchpin of a successful zero-waste program because everyone arrives at an event with their own ideas about what can and can’t be recycled. Recycling programs can vary greatly even within the same city, so your guests and staff are likely to have a lot of conflicting ideas. Since you’ve done the legwork of talking to your zero waste partners, it’s your responsibility to clearly communicate what goes into each waste stream in the specific context of your event. Create instructional signs for every waste bin at your event showing the accepted items for each bin. Conduct training with your event staff, venue operations staff, and catering staff about the zero-waste program so everyone is on the same page.

5) Collect

To make waste sorting easy for your guests and staff, group your bins into zero-waste stations. A zero-waste station includes one bin for each waste stream you have. In addition to the signs you’ve posted on your bins, create a zero waste concierge team to monitor the stations throughout the event. Sorting mistakes are inevitable when guests are focused on the content of your event, so your zero waste concierge team should be in charge of graciously correcting any missorted items.

6) Measure

To find out how much waste you kept out of the landfill, weigh each bag of waste using a floor scale, a handheld luggage scale or even a simple bathroom scale. (I promise this doesn’t take as long as you’d think!) Along with the weight, record what type of waste the bag contained. Use this data to calculate your event’s waste diversion rate.

Zero-waste events may seem impossible but, in reality, they only take six simple steps to achieve. What kind of zero-waste impact will you have at your next event?


Author bio: Julia Spangler helps organizations and event professionals reduce the environmental impact of their events in order to preserve our planet and deliver powerful sustainability results. Julia specializes in reducing and diverting waste at meetings and events. She has led waste diversion programs at events with up to 24,000 attendees and her programs have resulted in waste diversion rates as high as 92.5 percent. She is based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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