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Waste Reduction and Diversion

All products have a cost, environmentally and ethically, that goes beyond the price tag. How we purchase and how we dispose of items can directly impact our local environment, so here are some suggestions to minimize and avoid waste while hosting events.1


Seek out products and services with reduced effects on human health, society and the environment, when compared with other options of the same function.1


  • Is this product or service absolutely necessary?
  • Can we borrow, share it with others, or buy secondhand to reduce costs and impacts?
  • What is this product made of?
  • How, where and by whom was this product made?
  • How long will this product last?
  • How will it be packaged and delivered?
  • Can we buy in bulk to reduce packaging and number of shipments?
  • What courier are we using, and do they embrace sustainable practices?
  • How will it be reused, recycled or disposed?

Asking these questions are not only critical to our campus’ sustainability mission, but are important for local environments, too.1

A hierarchy. From most favorable to least favorable: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Upcycle, Downcycle (Recycle), DisposeAdapted from “Reuse for Good” by the Post-Landfill Action Network2


Adapted from Princeton University’s Sustainable Event Guidelines

  • Choose reusable items (e.g., dishes, glasses, cutlery, etc.) whenever possible, and remember to ask your caterer not to include disposable items. Some options:
    • Ask for reusable items which can be picked up or returned after the event, and/or
    • Have your club, organization, or overseeing department buy reusable items, which can be your own or shared with other event holders, and/or
    • Host events in spaces with reusable items or ask your volunteers to assist in reduced waste clean-up.
  • Consider refusing the single use serving utensils that are delivered with the catered food. Plan ahead and bring reusable utensils to use instead of producing unnecessary waste.
    • Some materials have natural antimicrobial properties (e.g., bamboo)
  • Wash out aluminum catering dishes before recycling them; they cannot be recycled if they are food soiled.
  • Consider food options that don’t require utensils (e.g., pizza, sandwiches, etc.)
    • If this is not possible, encourage attendees to bring their own utensils (forks, knives, etc.)
  • Order platters instead of individually packaged items and order in bulk when possible.
  • If single-use items are absolutely necessary, ask or request that your caterer use items made of recycled or renewable materials. If they are unresponsive to this request or cannot offer it, consider seeking out caterers who can.
  • Educate attendees on what is recyclable versus what is compostable; this is key for productive waste diversion.
  • Order more sustainable single-use food service ware with reference to the Center for Environmental Health’s Database of Single-Use Food Service Ware Products Tested for Fluorinated Additives
Caterers Frequently Used for Campus Events

Coming Soon

Campus Spaces for Low-to-Zero Waste Events3

Have Kitchen spaces with a dishwasher and reusable plates/utensils:

  • The Lodge at the CPA’s

Have kitchen spaces with sinks (could be used to wash plates, etc.):

  • The Lodge at the CPA’s
  • Laurel Hall Kitchen


Adapted from Simon Fraser University’s “Sustainable Spaces: Events, Vancouver Campus

  • If you don’t buy it, you don’t have to dispose of it.
  • Have volunteers present at waste disposal stations to minimize waste contamination.
  • Place composting bins close to food and coffee stations.
  • Ensure adequate recycling and composting streams are available across your venue.

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