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Plan a Zero-Waste Event

What is a Zero-Waste event?

A zero-waste event reduces the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserves and recovers all resources, and does not burn or bury waste. A zero-waste event reduces all discharges to land, water or air that may be a threat to the planet and its inhabitants.

Events impact the environment.

Let’s face it. Events, although usually joyous, generate waste, overuse natural resources, and produce emissions. Extra transportation miles are clocked by attendee’s travel and deliveries. To supply enough tableware and save efforts in post-event clean-up, disposable items, made from paper and plastic are commonly used. Other packaging containers like glass and plastic bottles, plastic bags, cardboard, and aluminum and steel cans all add to increased waste, especially if recycling receptacles are not provided.

Create an environment-friendly event.

To be eco-conscious the host can appropriately plan and execute certain guidelines:

  • Provide carpooling and alternative transportation to and from the event
  • Correctly estimate the amount of reusable, recyclable or compostable tableware needed
  • Educate guests about their role in composting and recycling waste by providing instructional signage.
  • With thorough planning and forethought, a zero-waste event is possible, and the resulting clear conscience is a nice bonus!

Zero-Waste Quick Guide

  1. Use reusable tableware whenever possible.
  2. If reusable tableware is not possible, use products that are created from renewable resources rather than products made from fossil fuels and virgin fiber.
  3. Compost or recycle all of your waste; use separate clearly-marked containers to help guests and/or attendants efficiently separate items.
  4. Encourage guests to walk, ride their bike, carpool or take mass transit to your event, and provide information with your electronic invitations to make these alternatives accessible.
  5. Make your event carbonneutral and offset CO2 emissions by supporting initiatives that reduce greenhouse gases.

Products for a Zero-Waste Event:

A zero-waste event should only include disposable products that can either be recycled or composted. Choose disposables created from rapidly renewing resources like corn, sugarcane or potatoes, rather than using petroleum-based plastic or paper products made from trees.

  • Cups – PLA corn-based alternative to plastic: As opposed to “regular” plastics that are made from petroleum, these products are made from an annually renewable resource –corn. Cold cups are entirely made from PLA whereas hot cups are paper lined with PLA. PLA will fully compost in 45-60 days. (Compost period for a commercial composting facility.)
  • Plates – Bagasse, sugarcane-based alternative to tree paper: Sugarcane takes only one year to reach maturity, as opposed to trees which can take up to 30 years. The raw stalk pulp is used after the “cane sugar” is extracted, thereby reusing an already “used” resource. Previously, the excess crushed stalks were burned or discarded. Sugarcane will also compost in as little as 45 days. (Compost period for a commercial composting facility.)
  • Cutlery – vegetable starch-based alternative to high-heat plastic: To make this cutlery, vegetable starch is fermented, natural stabilizing products are added and the final product is molded. It’s made from renewable resources and, you guessed it, will compost in 45-60 days. (Compost period for a commercial composting facility.)
  • Napkins/Paper towels – 100% recycled: 900 million trees are turned into paper and pulp every year. Using recycled paper products uses 60% less energy than virgin paper, and each ton saves 17 trees!
  • Bags – compostable also: Trash liners and collection bags are available in compostable material. Made from corn, they compost just like PLA.

Find a local composting facility

  • Finding a local composting facility can be difficult. The best place to start is with the local trash hauler or recycling facility to find out if they oer a composting pick-up service or a drop-o site, or can recommend a company that does. You can find a list of composting facilities at: www.compostingcouncil.org
  • Additionally local farms may be interested in adding food waste and compostable products to their compost pile.

Q: Should I still use compostable products, even if I don’t have a local composting facility?

A: Yes! You are still reducing your environmental impact by using products that are made from rapidly renewing resources.

Offset greenhouse gas emissions

  • There are now many options online that will allow you to estimate the carbon footprint of your event and neutralize the carbon output through the purchase of carbon osets.
  • A carbon offset is a way to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in one location thereby osetting (or neutralizing) GHG emissions that are occurring elsewhere. For instance, you might use an online calculator to figure out how much carbon is released from your event. You can then pay toward an environmentally beneficial project which reduces carbon emissions somewhere else in the world.
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