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Energy & Sustainability

Host a Zero Waste Event

UD is working to reduce our waste going to the landfill. Make your event Zero Waste and help us achieve that goal!

The biggest step in making your event a success takes place during the planning process. Please follow the guidance below to get started or contact with any questions. 


Zero Waste Planning Guide

Making your event “Zero Waste” (reducing total waste generated and diverting 90% of remaining waste from the landfill through recycling and composting) is the single most impactful thing you have control over as an event planner to make your event more sustainable. 

  • Explain your Zero Waste commitment to your caterer and all others involved in the event planning process. Ensure all food service and event materials are reusable, compostable, or recyclable by addressing each of these items below with your catering contact:

    Items to Use:

    • Reusable or Compostable Utensils
    • Reusable or Compostable Plates
    • Reusable or Compostable cups for hot beverages (coffee, hot chocolate, etc.)
      • Reusable spoons and compostable wooden stirrers are available upon request
    • Reusable, compostable, or plastic recyclable cups for cold beverages
    • Bulk packaging for items like water, tea, sugar, condiments, butter, dressing, etc.
  • Items to Avoid:

    • Plastic bags/wrapping
      • If this cannot be avoided and there will be a lot of it, let us know and we can bring a specific bin to recycle the material. It cannot be placed with mixed recycling!
    • Aluminum Foil
    • Foil-lined bags (candy wrappers/chip bags)
      • Ask for self-serve chip bowls instead of individual bags
    • Straws
      • Make these a request-only item for guests of different abilities
    • Styrofoam
    • Individually packaged cutlery

  • Use reusable tablecloths. Rent tablecloths consider purchasing a set for annual events to save money. The plastic disposable kind are not recyclable.
  • Eliminate paper tickets, programs, and schedules. Instead, send all information via email or utilize event planning apps.
  • If providing lanyard-style name tags/badge holders, ask attendees to return them at the end of the event for re-use the following year.
  • Avoid physical giveaway items when possible. Raffle off experiences instead!
    • Examples: tickets to a UD sporting event or performing arts event, gift cards to local restaurants, vouchers for local attractions
  • When physical giveaways must be purchased, keep dates, locations, and event names off items so that extras can be used for multiple occasions. Instead of placing one at every seat, make the giveaway optional so guests can choose to take an item only if they will actually use it.
    • Slightly more sustainable giveaway ideas: reusable water bottles or thermal mugs, recycled paper notepads, grocery totes, other relevant items with a higher use beyond simple promotion

Provide a substantial vegetarian or vegan meal option. Extra points for making the entire meal meatless!


  • Keep dates, times, and locations off of banners and other decorations so they can be reused each year.
  • Avoid balloons and confetti, as they are not recyclable or compostable.
  • Invest in centerpieces and decorations that can be reused or modified for different events:
    • Examples: flower vases; upholstered bulletin boards or frames for photos, event schedules, or informational cards; UD-themed decorations; etc.
    • Alternatively, use natural decor like fresh flowers or produce that guests can take home after the event.

  • Offset the emissions produced from your event by purchasing carbon offsets, renewable energy credits or donating to carbon sequestration projects.
  • Reduce electricity use.
    • Utilize natural light for daytime events and supplement with LED lighting as needed.
    • Avoid meeting during peak energy periods:
      • Winter 5 – 11am
      • Summer: 2 – 8pm
  • Encourage local attendees to use public transit, bike, or walk to the event.
    • Dayton RTA bus routes 6, 7, 11, 16, 17, and 18 run within one block of campus.
    • The Flyer shuttle provides free runs between campus and downtown.
    • Link bike rentals and e-scooters are available throughout campus and the city.
  • Consider live-streaming conference sessions or video conferencing large meetings to cut travel emissions from non-local attendees.

Include an invitation to attendees to bring a reusable water bottle and cutlery to the event on all promotional materials.


  • Reflect on what went well and what didn’t and make notes for next year.
  • Share your successes! Be it with us, with your supervisor, or on your office’s social media accounts, let others know about your efforts. You never know who else you may inspire to make their next event a little more sustainable!