A lot of waste can be generated at events of any size, but with careful planning you can make your event low- or no-waste. The following tips will help you get started.
See the tips below and our green events checklist (PDF) (for larger events) or green parties checklist (PDF) (for smaller events).
Before the event
Planning for waste reduction and recycling
Plan to collect food scraps for composting if your event will have a lot of food. Using compostable containers to serve food can make food scrap collection easier. Local vendors of compostable products (PDF).
- Determine who will coordinate and implement the recycling efforts.
- Evaluate all the materials that will be at the event (e.g., packaging, giveaways, decorations, banners), and try to eliminate as many disposable materials as possible. Try to rent, borrow or buy items you need secondhand. Set expectations for what vendors can bring in and communicate with them.
- If there might be surplus unserved food, make a plan for donating food to another organization or sending it home with guests.
- Assess the waste that will be generated to identify recycling opportunities.
- Plan to collect food scraps for composting if your event will have a lot of food. Using compostable containers to serve food can make food scrap collection easier. Local vendors of compostable products (PDF).
- Determine the number and size of collection containers needed. Limit the number of recycling/waste stations to allow for ease of monitoring. Place larger stations in areas where high volumes of waste will be generated and remove any containers that are unpaired with others.
Consider city-specific requirements
Take into account city-specific requirements: Minneapolis and St. Louis Park have ordinances that require single-use food packaging, including packaging used at events, to be recyclable or compostable. Learn more about the Minneapolis Green to Go environmentally acceptable packaging ordinance and St. Louis Park’s zero waste packaging ordinance. These ordinances require that recyclable materials be recycled and compostable materials be composted, so be sure to plan for appropriate collection and transportation or drop-off for your event. The ordinance requirements do not apply to pre-packaged foods.
If your event is being held outdoors in Minneapolis, avoid using bottled water by getting water dispensers from the City of Minneapolis' Public Works Department. Dispensers are available for certain large events, such as races and festivals. For more information, visit Tap Minneapolis.
Use solar energy to power your event by renting the solar power trailer from the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society.
Include information about transit and biking options to get to the event. Also encourage attendees to carpool.
Communication and education
Start your planning early in the process to ask questions, set criteria and select vendors that can support your low-waste goals. If you already have a vendor relationship or don’t have choice over which businesses you use, inform vendors of waste-diversion efforts as early as possible to ensure they have adequate time to prepare for the event. To get started, use our customizable sample letters found in the Signage and communication tools drawer below.
Recruit volunteers and/or staff to help set up and monitor waste stations on the day of the event.
Include information about your waste prevention and recycling efforts in news releases, event programs, marketing and advertising materials.
At the event
- Label recycling, composting and trash containers with large, clear and specific signs. If possible, include pictures or post examples of what goes in each container. Download and use our event recycling signs found in the Signage and communication tools drawer below.
- Greet each vendor and exhibitor during set-up and provide clear instructions for separating and preparing their materials, such as rinsing food out of containers, flattening cardboard boxes, where to bring full bags, etc.
- Staff recycling stations at all times to help event participants place their waste in the correct container. If this is not possible, assign someone to check each area periodically. Community Recycling Ambassadors (formerly Master Recycler/Composters) may be available to help with your event. Visit the Community Recycling Ambassador webpage to make a request.
- Empty bins often, especially during the summer when bees and odors can discourage recycling.
After the event
Calculate your diversion rate by using the following formula: diversion rate = amount recycled/(amount recycled + amount disposed).
Share your success with sponsors, participants and coordinators!
Take note of what, if anything, you can improve for next year.