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Green Tips: Organizing a Zero-Waste Event

Green Tips | March 5, 2020

Held on March 5, 2020, NYLCVEF’s Westchester Clean Energy Summit was a zero-waste event! We learned a lot from this experience and want to share steps that you can take to make your next party, gathering, or business meeting a zero-waste event. 

Events of any scale typically produce a significant amount of waste, including uneaten food and disposable, single-use materials, but most of it can be eliminated with proper planning. This may seem like a tricky task, but with our tips, we hope you will consider taking on the challenge!

Know the Impact

Every day, our garbage, or municipal solid waste (MSW), is transported to landfills across the country. As it sits in landfills, MSW emits dangerous amounts of methane—a potent greenhouse gas—into the atmosphere. On average, Americans produce 4.51 pounds of waste every day, and what does not find its way to a landfill contributes to litter pollution and waterway contamination. By hosting a zero-waste event, you can help challenge wasteful habits and introduce peers to a new standard of sustainability.  

Event Prep

To host a successful zero-waste event, you will need to plan ahead. Here are some key things to remember when organizing your event:

  • Send an electronic invitation instead of using paper invitations. Be sure to mention in the invitation that the event is zero-waste.
  • Coordinate with your venue. Inform them that minimizing waste is a priority. Ask about reusable options.
  • Food waste contributes to 60% of the total waste generated by events. Minimizing food waste is one of the most important priorities for a zero-waste event.
    • Urge guests to register or RSVP as early as possible so that you can plan food for an accurate number of people. 
    • If hosting a small-scale event, designate a receptacle for food waste. Make sure you have a place to bring the food waste once the event is over.
    • If you’re organizing a large event at a venue that does not collect compost, you may need to hire a food waste hauler to pick up the compost.
  • Make clear signage for all of the bins. Recruit volunteers to instruct guests where to dispose of their food waste or recyclables. This will prevent any bins from being contaminated with the wrong materials. 
  • Plan your menu. You are likely going to do this anyway. Avoid store bought foods with excess packaging. 
  • Ensure you have enough reusable cutlery, cups, and plates, or ask guests to bring their own. If you must use disposable, consider purchasing compostable items.
  • Use reusable or up-cycled decorations. If purchasing decorations, consider whether you can use them again for events in the future. 
  • Avoid printing paper materials. Consider replacing using a digital platform. It may require asking participants to bring their own devices. If paper materials are necessary, make sure discarded handouts get recycled.


Take advantage of the opportunity to educate guests during your event. Share the reasons why you are hosting a zero-waste event. You may inspire your guests to do the same. Zero-waste events are a great way to show how being sustainable can be fun and easy. Good luck!

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