This Events Guide is a tool for event planners to make their events more sustainable.

You will find tips for sustainable practices during your event, including what to do throughout the planning process (before, during and after the event) and small things to remember like paperless invites, sustainable food vendors and clearly marked waste bins. This guide is the result of many event planning staff across UW and is sure to keep growing so please do come back soon and often. Have a question or suggestion? Contact us at:



Planning guidelines: use these guidelines to help plan your event


  •  Make your green commitment
  •  Opt for sustainable food choices
  •  Request compost and recycling from UW Recycling (see venue for buildings needing bins) 
  •  Omit bottled water (pitchers or dispensers are good alternatives)
  •  Minimize promotional items or print them on 100% recycled paper
  •  Encourage alternative transportation: send invitees links to public transportation
  •  Use natural or reusable decor

Day of the Event:

  •  Look for small ways to conserve energy
  •  Check for proper waste bin set up and place them in areas where they’re easily accessible
  •  Promote/advertise your sustainability efforts through social media, websites, blogs and interactions with campus partners
  •  Collect unused materials and store them for future events   
  •  Be sure that lights/power are turned off before exiting event space

Post event:

  • Figure out what to do with leftover food (donate, bring to students, staff members)
  • Make sure you save materials that can be reused
  • Evaluate event and share with team via onenote, highlight what sustainable features went well and what to improve upon

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Some of the caterers with UW contracts focus on sustainable, locally sourced ingredients and are committed to using eco friendly disposable products with an emphasis on composting. 

They provide:

  • Healthy food options that feature organic and local ingredients
  • Offer substantial vegetarian options
  • Provide compostable cups, plates, napkins, utensils, and other service-ware. See this list of acceptable items
  • Offer beverage pitchers and air pots as an alternative to bottled water/drinks and aluminum cans

View the list of UW approved caterers (Please note that caterers other than Bay Laurel may require food permits and approval from EH&S.)


  • Have most food be vegetarian (25% can be non vegetarian)
  • Provide compostable take away boxes
  • Serve mostly Local foods
  • Serve mostly finger foods (produces much less waste)
  • If having seafood ensure that it’s sustainably sourced

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Opting for locally sourced and organic beverages decreases our environmental impact and supports the local economy. The following companies support sustainability in their products.


  • Serve organic and local beverages
  • Fill pitchers with water instead of providing individual bottles
  • Provide compostable cups

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  • Promote public transportation to and from events (provide directions in your invitations on how to access the venue by public transit such as buses or light rail) or promote alternative transportation (walking, biking, etc.)
  • If providing transportation to events, opt for the most efficient vehicle and least number of vehicles. Ie: don’t let carpools leave until full
  • Avoid transporting speakers/guests from long distance
  • Select a venue that can be accessed easily from public transportation routes

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The following Seattle area venues are either LEED certified or are committed to being green

Off campus events:

On campus events:

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  • Opt for mood lighting by turning off unnecessary lights
  • Try to use natural light for your event, book event during mostly daylight hours and choose rooms with lots of windows, for evening time, opt for low voltage lamps 
  • Use LED lights for stage lighting
  • Turn off electronic equipment when not in use
  • Keep windows and doors closed when heat or AC is on

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  • Request vendors turn off their vehicles instead of idling while making deliveries
  • Inform caterers of compost and recycling receptacles
  • Use non toxic cleaning products
  • Choose a green caterer (Food Section)
  • Plan a menu that is not susceptible to having leftovers

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Before providing giveaways, please ask yourself if it is really necessary as most items are never used or simply end up in the trash. If there is a compelling reason to provide giveaways for your attendees, choose sustainable goods that can be used multiple times and are made from reused materials. If you are ordering an item with UW marks, you are required to use a licensee.


  • Whenever possible, utilize resued materials for decorations, and make sure it is reusable, recyclable or compostable (fruit baskets, flowers, live herbs, etc.) 
  • For alternative décor items opt for used materials, such as from UW surplus or area thrift stores
  • Borrow or rent equipment from campus instead of renting from outside company
  • Use recyclable materials for name badges, paper communications, etc.

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If using flowers, ask your florist if they use locally grown flowers and their sustainability practices.

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  • Try to reduce printed materials for your event
  • If printing is necessary, print double sided on 100% recyclable paper
  • Use dry erase boards or black boards instead of paper flip charts
  • Ask participants to bring a laptop for note taking or set up a meeting notes page that is emailed to everyone (one note, Google docs)
  • Distribute brochures, handouts only upon request
  • Decrease margins and font size to optimize paper used
  • Send out email reminders or digital invites (mail chimp, evite, etc.) 
  • Use an online form for RSVP's
  • Send out digital thank you cards rather than printed
  • Offer teleconferencing or phone call-ins for guests/speakers not living in the area
  • Email event schedule/timeline to attendees instead of printing it out
  • Use digital signage and electronic media to inform participants about event

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  • Ensure all bins are well marked and grouped together for easy access
  • Reuse unwanted marketing/event materials
  • Check for correct waste bin set ups
  • Ensure that all bins are properly labeled
  • Bins should be easily accessible and grouped together
  • Note: compost bins should always be equipped with a compostable bin liner
  • Place logo on marketing materials/collateral to encourage green practices
  • Create a “green” notes page to inform what green practices went well and which areas can be improved

Most areas on campus use UW recycling to ensure proper bin set up, however the following list consults with their own waste bins. Be sure to ask if they provide recycling and compost bins for your events:

  • Burke Museum: contact Event Rentals
  • Center for Urban Horticulture: contact the Rental Program Office
  • Foege Building: contact Classroom Services
  • Gould Hall: contact Meegan Amen
  • HUB: contact HUB Event Services
  • Kane Hall: contact Classroom Technology & Events
  • Magnuson Health Sciences Center: contact Classroom Services
  • Mary Gates Hall: contact Classroom Technology & Events
  • Paul G. Allen Center for CSE: contact Sophie Ostlund
  • South Campus Center: contact Health Sciences Room Reservations
  • Suzzallo/Allen Libraries: contact Library Facilities
  • UW Tower: contact UW Tower Facilities

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