Sustainable Events - Green Gala 2018

Sustainable Events Guide

The Sustainable Event Guide is a resource for all event organizers and planners to help make UofT events more conscious and inclusive. You can download a PDF version of the Sustainable Events Guide here.

Choose an accessible venue with sustainable travel options

When selecting venues, start by communicating your commitment to hosting a sustainable event and explore ways in which the venue can help assist. 

» Select a venue equipped with accessible entrances and restrooms.
Check the U of T Accessibility Map (, if hosting the event on campus. Post signs/directions to accessible and all-gender restrooms. 

» Choose a venue that is well serviced by public transit and pedestrian/cyclist paths.
Such venues encourage attendees to choose the more sustainable mode of transportation. Feature public transit directions to venue on flyers/posters, and share information about availability of bike rails.

» Reduce energy use by hosting your event during the day or outdoors to utilize natural light. 

» Find out if your venue has sustainable building features
Many U of T buildings have sustainable features like solar panels, green walls, rooftop gardens, etc. Use the ‘Green U of T’ feature on U of T Maps ( to identify some of these buildings.  

Go paperless: utilize digital communications

Going paperless is quite easily achievable with some conscious changes in your communications plan.

» Digitize event promotions, invitations, and signage; use e-invites, e-registration and digital check-in.

» Refuse to give out single-use promotional materials and handouts.

» Provide attendees with digital agenda/packages to limit printing. Additionally, project the information on presentation slides.

» Print double-sided on (postconsumer) recycled paper, if needed.

Provide local, seasonal, plant-based food & beverages; limit food waste

Careful planning around food and water can significantly reduce the environmental impact of your event as these are usually the largest contributors to the emissions footprint. Use the following as pointers.

» Request RSVP and dietary restrictions from guests.
RSVP helps estimate quantities of food thus reducing chances of waste. Being mindful of dietary restrictions and allergies makes the event more welcoming for a variety of audiences. For drop-in events (with no RSVP), feature vegan, halal and/or gluten-free alternatives anyway.
Cater a local, seasonal, organic, fair trade and plant-based menu.
Try your best to feature a menu with the above characteristics. Ensuring the menu is environmentally sustainable (local, seasonal, organic and vegan) and ethically sourced (local and fair trade) sends a clear message to your guests about your commitment. Openly publicize these features of the menu at the event for guests to naturally engage in discussion. 

» Ensure compost bins are available and visible for food scraps. 

» Specifically request the venue/caterer to have the bins on the event floor to encourage guests to separate (and see) their own food waste. Have a food waste management strategy.
Have a plan for excess food at the end of the event. You can: 

a. Bring or ask attendees to bring reusable containers for take-away.
b. Donate the food.
c. If on campus, offer excess food in a communal space for students/staff. 

» Make waste-free drinking water arrangement.
U of T is bottled water free. Set up water in big pitchers or large dispensers. For outdoor events, consider HTO To Go offered by the City of Toronto. 

Strive for a zero waste event: provide reusables; limit single-use items

» Use reusable plates, cups and utensils for food and beverages.
Tip: Talk to your caterers about your zero-waste goal! Eliminate individually packaged items, like bottled beverages, disposable coffee creamers, and condiments.

DYK: Did you know that the University of Toronto Environmental Resource Network (UTERN) has reusable utensils and dishware available, free-of-charge to campus organizations? Reserve them for your events, meeting, conferences and more. Email for more information or check out their website:

» If that is not possible and you will be using (some) disposables, use green-bin safe or recyclable materials.
Know how to correctly sort the waste that will be produced at the event! Clearly communicate this to guests via signage, presentation slides or announcement. 

Typically: Black plastics, bioplastics (compostable or biodegradable plastics) go in the garbage. Other plastic or aluminum containers need to be emptied and cleaned of large food residue, before recycled. Used tissues or paper napkins can go in the green-bin. 

» Have waste-sorting station(s) with proper signage.
Request additional Waste bins if necessary by submitting a Service Order.
Invite the Sustainability Office’s Waste Outreach Team to table at your event. This will increase your diversion rate and decrease recycling contamination. 

Reduce décor, borrow/re-use supplies

» Minimize waste from decorations by aiming for sustainable minimalist set-up.
Decorations and centrepieces contribute to the aesthetics but also to environmental impact of the event. Re-evaluate if (a wasteful) décor is absolutely needed. If unavoidable, consider: 

a. Borrowing from around campus
b. Contacting Sustainability Office for sustainable decorations/centrepiece ideas. 

» Avoid handing out free swag and gifts to guests or VIPs.
Reflect on what value the gifts and free swag add to your event versus its environmental impact. Consciously diverge from the standard practices of gifting items and try to establish a new, sustainable culture of event planning by setting an example. 

» Borrow supplies, like from U of T’s Lanyard Lending! Ask guests to return name tags/straps for future events.  

Post event: reflect on the event and prepare a transition document

Retrace and reflect on the environmental impact of the event and counteract it by purchasing emission offsets (Wondering what emission offsets are?), planting trees for each attendee, or donating to local environmental organizations. 

» Prepare a ‘Best Practices’ document that outlines the sustainable strategies used. Encourage feedback from all parties and share your tips and resources with other organizers.