Working towards and achieving a zero waste event may seem like a daunting task. Yes, it is not an easy feat to divert all of your waste away from landfill; however there are several common strategies to working towards a zero waste goal at your next event. It is necessary to remember it is the steps along your journey, not your end product that will make your goal have a lasting effect and a legacy for future generations.
When planning a waste diversion goal at your event, start with a target that is not only realistic, but challenges you to take action. This goal should take effort, but not strain all your resources. Meet with your partners and discuss what is feasible and what may be done immediately, vs. what should be done over a period of time, including years and events. Not everything can be achieved at once, and not everything in a waste program should be started at the same time. A waste plan is a process that is a marathon, not a sprint.
Achieving a zero waste event, begins with the procurement of items and materials for your event. Practice responsible purchasing to limit packaging and avoid hazardous materials. This ensures that you are brining the least amount of waste onsite as possible, and whatever you are bringing onsite is either reusable or recyclable.
Before your event, try to anticipate what items will need disposal. The main goal of a zero waste event is diverting away from landfill. This includes several options, including donating leftover supplies from your meeting. Work with your venue to determine if they have any partners or a donation program. Many items, that would be considered waste, such as leftover food or giveaways can be donated to local food banks and charities.
Next, implement a plan to divert as much waste as possible away from landfill through reusing, recycling, and composting. Work with your venue to use appropriately labeled waste bins in both front-of-house and back-of-house. For your front-of-house plan, look at your venue floor plan to determine where attendees may be discarding waste. Place the appropriate bins next to locations where attendees are most likely to dispose of their waste. For example, if you plan on having concessions with food and bottles, place composting bins alongside recycling and landfill bins. Make sure to also to include back-of-house waste, such as kitchen scraps and office paper into your composting and recycling plans. In addition to placing the correct number of landfill, recycle, and compost bins throughout your venue, make sure to also label the bins correctly to ensure the correct waste is going into the appropriate bin. Use signage to label receptacles with examples of what goes in each bin. For example, label the recycle bin with glass, plastic, and paper; and label the compost bin with organics.
It is also necessary to determine if you will have large debris leftover at your event, such as carpet or construction debris. Work with your venue to determine if they have previously disposed of these materials. If not, work with your destination to find recycling facilities that will accept large debris.
As you plan your zero waste journey, remember, working with your venue is the necessary first step in achieving your goals. Many venues may already have plans in place to help you get started. According to the 2015 Green Venue Report, over half of the reporting centers surveyed are willing to go above and beyond in the name of waste diversion. 10% of venues have an active program in place to provide waste audits to planners after their event. An additional 21% of venues can do so upon request at no additional fee to the planner, and an additional 31% can provide a waste audit, however, the event planner may incur a fee for this service. Remember, achieving your goals not only has an impact on your event but on future events and the entire destination you are hosting in.