Loyola University Chicago

School of Environmental Sustainability

Green Events

A green event or meeting incorporates environmental considerations to minimize the negative impact on the environment. Green events are about increasing economic and environmental efficiency by minimizing the use of resources and reducing the amount of waste produced from event activities.

Planning a green event involves looking at the decisions you already make in a new light. The main categories to consider are:

  • Venue: Selecting the most convenient, sustainable location for the space, and environmentally sensitive hotel accommodations
  • Food & Beverage: Ensuring catering and area dining options satisfy your sustainability criteria
  • Communications: Reducing paper waste from programs and materials, reusing signage and using efficient audio/visual equipment
  • Transportation: Promoting and providing alternatives to single occupancy vehicles

This document will help you by outlining ideas to consider implementing, and stimulating questions you can ask of event contractors and providers. It is separated into two versions; one covers smaller, more frequent events, like departmental meetings; the other covers larger, higher impact events.

Please note, although each event is unique, we have created checklists to be used in planning your event. Although not every action may be relevant to your event, please see how far you can go towards having a green event.

Small Events

Examples: Departmental monthly meeting, fine arts gallery opening, small conference or meeting


  • Reserve a space on the campus where most attendees are usually located.
  • Place a Work Order with Facilities Management to set-up recycling and trash bins at the event. Work order instructions should specify recycling and trash bins are to be placed next to each other. State the types of recycling bins needed: Paper, Containers or both. Compostables (plate waste and compostable serving ware can be taken to a drop off collection bin at the Lake Shore Campus starting September 1, 2012. Contact sustainability@luc.edu for days the collection is open.
  • Turn off all lights, computers, projectors and electrical equipment when not in use and once the event is completed.

Ordering Food & Beverages

To avoid excess food and beverage remaining at the end of the event:

  • Request invitees to RSVP to better estimate the actual number of attendees
  • Inquire with catering services if they do a 5% or 10% increase of food to the estimated headcount you provide. And with this information, adjust accordingly.
  • Loyola has a no bottled water policy, therefore bottled water will not be on the menu starting August 1, 2012, with Loyola's catering services team. Instead, serve fresh tap water in pitchers with reusable or compostable cups.
  • Light fare orders: it is not necessary to order all food items for estimated headcount. For example, if expecting 75 people, order a cheese tray for 30; cookies for 30 and brownies for 25; hummus and vegetables for 25.
  • Beverages: regular coffee try 2–3 gallons; decaf 1 gallon; teas 1 gallon, etc. Try ordering punch or lemonade instead of individual cans of pop or bottled juice to avoid creating more waste.
  • Include vegetarian and vegan options and reduce the amount of meat served.
  • Discuss with catering the options for seasonal and local foods.
  • Order fair-trade coffees, teas, and chocolates.
  • Avoid individual packets of chips, condiments, etc. Make arrangements with catering for these to be served buffet style.
  • Smaller events can be managed with reusable serving ware and cloth napkins, which adds an aesthetically pleasing element to an event, and take into consideration how to handle the used serving ware while event is still underway.
  • Plan a buffet style and a "used serving ware" station where guests can return them when finished eating. For example, the used serving ware station set-up outside of the conference room. This removes the need to have a catering staff on hand thus reducing the cost. Plan with catering services accordingly for such a set-up
  • Events serving light fare, request no serving ware except for cup and napkins. Disposable or reusable.
  • Compostable/biodegradable serving ware is not the same as recyclable serving ware. Recyclables with #1–5 or 7—yes it is recyclable at Loyola
  • For the more casual events or meetings - ask participants to Bring Your Own Dishes. Have a few extra reusable dishes on hand for those that forget to bring them. Departments: purchase reusable serving ware from a thrift store or ask colleagues to donate the extras from homes
  • Arrange to have leftover, unserved food donated to a local food bank or soup kitchen.
  • Sample Food & Beverage Vendor Language to use


  • Cut down your paper use by distributing agendas and handouts electronically before the event to avoid duplicate printing.
  • Anything that must be printed should be double-sided on recycled paper, with narrow margins, using vegetable-based inks.
  • Use whiteboards rather than paper flipcharts.
  • If you are having refreshments, encourage participants to bring their own utensils and beverage containers.
  • Make the attendees aware of your efforts at greening your event and ask for feedback.


  • Consider whether video or teleconferencing is a viable alternative to traveling between campuses.

Large or Major Events

Examples: National Conference, Basketball game, Graduation, Feast of St. Ignatius


  • Choose a location which minimizes the requirement for travel, particularly by plane or car, for the largest number of people attending.
  • Find and recommend hotel accommodations within walking distance of the venue or use a venue which also offers accommodation.
  • Ask if a hotel offers a linen reuse program and bulk dispensers for shampoos and soaps in guest rooms.
  • Coordinate with the meeting venue to ensure that lights, electrical equipment and air conditioning will be turned off when rooms are not in use.
  • Ask if venues have environmental policies and practices of their own, such as using energy and water-efficient devices and fixtures, low VOC paints and natural cleaning products.

Food & Beverage

  • Request invitees to RSVP to better estimate the actual number of attendees
  • Include sustainability clauses in all contracts with your caterer or food & beverage provider.
  • Ask if the caterer adds a 5% or 10% increase of food to the estimated headcount you provide, and adjust accordingly.
  • Ensure all event staff, including caterers and bartenders, are trained on what is expected and how to separate recycling and composting into the appropriate containers.
  • Ask for reusable plates, glassware, cutlery, tablecloths and napkins.
  • If disposables are unavoidable, make sure to ask for paper recyclables and biodegradable plastics.
  • Loyola has a no bottled water policy, so bottled water will not be on the menu with Loyola's catering services starting August 1, 2012. Instead, serve fresh tap water in pitchers or water coolers with reusable or compostable cups.
  • Order items such as chocolate, coffee and tea only from fair trade sources, if available.
  • Include vegetarian and vegan meals, and have meals planned using local, fresh, seasonal produce. Reduce the amount of meat served.
  • Serve fish only from sustainably managed sources that are harvested in a manner that does not lead to over-fishing or depletion of exploited populations.
  • Serve food buffet style and condiments in bulk, rather than individually packaged.
  • Recover food scraps, compostable food service ware, and food-soiled paper for composting.
  • Have food & beverage providers post signs showing attendees how to dispose of materials appropriately.
  • Arrange to have leftover, unserved food donated to a local food bank or soup kitchen.
  • Sample Food & Beverage Vendor Language to use


  • Use electronic technology and new media to cut down your paper use.
  • Create an event website to offer registration electronically and to provide up to date information without the use of paper.
  • Advertise and communicate using e-mail, and include environmental messages within the pre-event marketing.
  • Encourage attendees to bring their own reusable drink container.
  • Reduce paper use by distributing agendas and handouts electronically before the event to avoid duplicate printing.
  • Anything that must be printed should be double-sided with narrow margins on non-glossy, recycled paper, using vegetable-based inks.
  • Use reusable name badges, rather than event-specific ones, and collect them at the end.
  • Avoid putting the date on reusable signs and display materials and collect these items after the event for future use.
  • Suggest exhibitors get booth materials from providers carrying sustainable displays, and limit giveaways and materials in courtesy bags.
  • If bags are needed, use reusable organic cotton, jute or recycled bags rather than plastic, and advertise the benefits on the bags.
  • Make attendees aware of the sustainability measures being taken to improve the image and reputation of the organization and to protect the environment with information in the program, at announcements and as part of any necessary signage.


  • Reduce the distances traveled by speakers, participants and attendees by choosing a venue and hotel that are close to an airport and within walking distance of each other.
  • Find a venue close to public transportation, provide transit cards and promote the available transit links.
  • If venue is not within walking distance of public transportation, offer a shuttle service or encourage taxi or car-sharing.
  • For those travelling to the event by car or taxi, encourage ride-sharing by setting up ride-share websites or lists to coordinate taxi trips, such as from the airport.
  • Provide a link to a map and show how to reach the venue on foot.
  • Have maps of walking trails and local parks available and suggest off-site events and tours that involve event attendees in the area’s natural environment with minimal impact.
  • Produce a video, webinar (Goto/WebEx) or live teleconference to present an alternative to travelling to the event at all.


  • Offer attendees the opportunity to provide feedback electronically or on a recycled paper form, preferably before they leave to event.
  • To improve transparency, produce a post-event evaluation and email attendees and other stakeholders to inform them of the successes and areas for improvement.

We are looking for feedback on these suggestions. Please contact the Office of Sustainability at sustainability@luc.edu with your ideas to green events at Loyola. Thank you.