Sustainable Events Checklist

Employees eating lunch at Eco Summit in background, plant leaves in foreground


Waterloo has set bold sustainability commitments in its Environmental Sustainability Strategy, from striving for zero-waste practices and responsible purchasing to lower-impact community and carbon neutrality. Event planners on campus have an important role to play in achieving these goals.

This checklist is a set of best practices that will help you:

  • Minimize the negative environmental impact of your event
  • Improve attendee satisfaction
  • Consume fewer resources and save money
  • Align with Waterloo's values and commitments
  • Keep it simple for your attendees to do their part

Step 1: Before the event

Venue selection

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  • Communicate to your venue partners your desire to host a sustainable event, so they have the context for requests made of them.
  • Choose a venue well serviced by trails and public transit to accommodate multiple modes of travel.
  • Advertise how to get to the event by walking, cycling, rolling, or transit. 
  • Encourage carpooling and/or virtual attendance options for long-distance travellers.

Food & beverages

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  • Communicate to your catering partners your desire to host a sustainable event, so they have the context for requests made of them.
  • Get an estimate of the number of attendees and dietary restrictions to order appropriate quantities and reduce food waste.
  • Always incorporate vegetarian and vegan options, and prioritize lower-impact options (e.g. chicken, fish) if serving meat.
  • Ask your caterer to source local and seasonal food where possible.
  • Provide Fairtrade coffee and tea products if serving hot drinks (standard through Catering Services).
  • Request food, drinks, and condiments in bulk instead of individual packaging.
  • Use or request reusable dishware, cutlery, and napkins instead of disposable items. (Note there is an additional cost for renting reusable dishware for events outside of Fed Hall at this time.)

Waste management

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  • Ask attendees to bring their own water bottles to use at nearby water refill stations.
  • Ensure you have appropriate bins to collect all waste from your event, including organics and recycling (bins can be rented from Plant Operations).
  • Try to have as few discardable materials as possible to make sorting simple and straightforward.
  • Create waste signage specific to your event using Waterloo’s standard waste signage templates (request templates from the Sustainability Office). If you are unsure, refer to the Shift:Zero sorting guide or contact the Sustainability Office!

Purchasing & materials

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  • Rent or borrow equipment and other supplies instead of buying new. Departments are encouraged to check with the Green Office ambassador network for borrowing!  
  • If giving prizes, gifts, or swag, consider giving consumable, experiential, reusable, or sustainably-made items. Refer to Waterloo’s sustainable procurement guidelines for inspiration.


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  • Publicly state your goal to host a sustainable event.
  • Advertise and manage event registration digitally.
  • Make your agenda and packages digital to limit printing. For unavoidable printing, print double-sided on FSC-certified paper.
  • Invest in durable and reusable signage. Omit dates/years so that signage and printed materials can be reused.

Step 2: During the event


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  • Depending on the size of the event, have dedicated volunteers at your waste sorting stations to help with sorting questions. For very large events, designate a central collection spot and have volunteers sort all waste themselves.
  • Have a collection bin and/or dedicated volunteer to collect nametags for reuse.

  • Note: For events hosted at Fed Hall, Catering staff will manage waste generated at the event.

Food & beverages

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  • Display signage to advertise sustainable features of your food and drink options (e.g. plant-based, local, Fairtrade).
  • If there is food or drinks leftover once everyone has been served, invite attendees to have another serving to minimize food waste.

Waste management

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  • Centralize your waste bins in one spot. This not only makes waste disposal easier for attendees, it also will help potential volunteers ensure sorting is done correctly.
  • Ensure all bins have clear and specific signage. Taping physical objects to bins can be very helpful.
  • Ask guests to return name tags for future events.


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  • Send your attendees a reminder ahead of the event about zero-waste practices (e.g. bringing a reusable water bottle, water refill stations).
  • Make announcements about sustainability aspects of your event, such as proper waste sorting and food choices, in the opening comments and before breaks/meals.

Step 3: After the event


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  • Reflect on what went well/what did not and consider how you can improve for future events (e.g. signage, location, logistics).
  • How much food and/or drinks were leftover?
  • How well sorted was your waste? Were certain items sorted better than others?
  • Were most nametags returned?
  • Invite attendees to share feedback through an anonymous post-event survey.
  • Share highlights from your event on your website, newsletter, or social media to inspire others.
  • Feel free to contact the Sustainability Office for support or to share your successes!