Four Essential Tips for Hosting a Waste-Free Event

SSA had the opportunity to host various waste-free events over the past year. To support and inspire other organizations aiming to do the same, we’ve developed our top tips if you’re interested in hosting a waste-free event:

1. Communication is Imperative

Over-communicating is integral to the success of these kinds of events whether that be with employees, vendors, or the guests themselves. Making sure every person knows what their role is and how to be useful is something you can communicate prior to as well as during the event without interrupting the flow of the schedule.
Below are three key ways to communicate with each type of demographic:

Vendors: Perhaps the most critical communication you’ll make is with the hauling organizations that are in charge of properly disposing of the recycling and compost that you collect at your event. Having direct contact and discussing removal, pickup, container drop off, etc, will be imperative to the event’s success – these organizations will remove the material from your property and ensure it gets processed appropriately.

Staff: Your employees are your voice during the event and will help guests dispose of their food/serving ware/etc. properly. Educating staff on the flow of events so they can better communicate with your guests is paramount to event success. At our recent events, we had staff wear recycling backpacks that helped engage guests and made recycling super easy, bringing the receptacle straight to you. You can also have a staff member stand near receptacles to help guide guests if they need extra help.

Guests: Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by the options in front of alternative waste receptacles. The guests at your event want to be helpful and dispose of their waste correctly. But there is also an opportunity to be a storyteller during the event so guests walk away feeling more than merely useful. This extends from special social media hashtags for the event to having volunteers (or QR codes) next to waste stations giving quick tips or sharing specific examples of the impact they’re really making.

Communicating with guests prior to and during the event as well as having staff handy to answer any questions will help them feel useful and stay interested as well as reduce their stress so they can focus on their own enjoyment.

2. Plan Ahead

Working through the minute logistics over and over will ensure a smooth flow of events and lend itself to the greatest success in the reduction of overall waste. Make a list of things that could go wrong and work through a contingency plan if that scenario were to occur. Do the back-of-house staff know what to do with waste and leftovers at the end of the event? What happens if your front-of-house staff is late? Thinking through potential hiccups and necessary supplies will help leave little room for error when the event is live.

Further, on the subject of necessary supplies, consider what serving and dining ware you’ll need to properly recycle and compost far in advance of the event. You’ll want to order supplies like compostable plates and cutlery, and aluminum cups, as well as coordinate with compost haulers to confirm the specific service wear prior to purchasing. This will save you time, money, and increase your chances of waste reduction success.

When it comes to planning ahead, no stone can be left unturned as you uncover the multitude of complexities around the assurance of hosting a waste-free event.

3. Message with Intention
Providing concise signage with both the name of the material (e.g. METAL or COMPOST) that goes inside and corresponding imagery will help your guests and your volunteers ensure the event goes smoothly as well as save you trouble later on. Consider using different colors for your receptacles as well as where you place them within the layout to help reduce confusion.
4. Zero Waste vs. Waste Reduction
As the saying goes, don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress. Making an effort to get to less waste regardless of how much is better than trying to be perfect. While a zero-waste event is defined as “a waste reduction that’s 90 percent or higher”, aiming for any waste reduction is commendable and makes a difference in your community. Learn from your experiences and make a note of how to improve the next event while you celebrate the efforts of what you’ve already accomplished.
Ready to host a waste-free event?

We’re looking forward to hosting future waste-reduction events and hope we have inspired you to do the same! Please reach out to us below to receive our complete waste reduction guide.

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