How to Host a Zero-Waste Event

A Zero-Waste event is about deciding to not only reuse and recycle, but to eliminate waste all together. It’s about planning a meeting with the first “R” in mind – Reduce. A meeting of approximately 3,000 delegates typically generates 90,000 cans or bottles, 75,000 cups, 87,500 napkins and 62,500 plates according to Meeting Strategies Worldwide.

The easiest way to host a Zero-Waste event is to work with a facility that has previously hosted a Zero-Waste event or hire a consultant who specializes in greening events. Tourism Toronto can recommend green consultants and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre was the first facility in Canada to have hosted a Zero-Waste convention with the 2007 PCMA Annual Meeting. If the facility you are working with has not held a Zero-Waste event, let them know that you are planning one – by advising the facility of your goals, you’ll avoid small problems that could potentially undermine your event (such as supplying numerous disposable bottles of water throughout the day).

Here are some simple tips on how you can host a Zero-Waste event:

Waste Management: Remove all garbage bins and replace with recycling and compost bins. Nothing reduces waste better than eliminating the option!

Decorations: Reuse decorations. Ask for on-site/existing decorations to avoid purchasing new ones. If you have to purchase decorations, buy some that can be used again for other events, then either offer to donate them to the facility or keep them for your next event.

Food and Beverage: Use china, linen napkins and table cloths and avoid disposable plates and cutlery. Instead of stir sticks and sugar packets, use sugar dispensers and spoons. You can also arrange to have left over food donated to a local charity.

Favours and Gifts: Give gifts that require little to no wrapping or packaging such as tickets or vouchers for local restaurants and attractions. Other options include offsetting your guest’s flights ( or making donations in their honour to local environmental charities such as Evergreen,

Registration Packages: Programs and booklets – give attendees zip disks with all the information they’ll need and provide all notes online which they can download before or after your event, this also generates website visits.
Water bottles – provide your delegate with a reusable water bottle bearing your company logo or offer water jugs and glasses rather than disposable bottles of water.
Name tags – encourage attendees to return them. A sure way to collect more is to use the badges for a prize draw.

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