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Green Event Guide

Broken up into before, during, and after, we made it easy for you to achieve your Green Event Goals. There are plenty or resources/links below to make the process easy for you.

Before the Event

You’ll see that the biggest step in making your event a green success takes place before the event. Below are the different items to do prior, broken up in multiple sections.

General Planning

  • Print double sided or use scrap paper for checklists and materials
  • Use white board, chalkboards, or TVs during meeting planning times
  • Ideas for sustainable giveaways: water bottles (and give them info on the mug project!), reusable grocery bags, reusable straws, recycled paper note pads, items that do not have a lot of packaging, t-shirts made from organic cotton
  • For printed items, avoid putting dates and times so they can be reused
  • If you are hosting a conference, use the Guidebook application for schedules of the event
  • Send advertisements to the digital display boards around campus, rather than hanging up posters
    • If you are unfamiliar with submitting to these, our office can assist
  • Advertise your organization’s efforts to reduce waste in all promotional and event materials.

Communicating with Guests

  • Plan electronically (over email)
  • Inform participants that they will be attending a Green Certified Event
  • If they are coming from out of town, encourage carpooling or using public transportation


  • Stay downtown/close to campus so you can easily commute to campus.
  • Provide tips for your guests on how to be sustainable during their stay, such as:
    • reusing hotel towels
    • unplugging personal electronics when not in use
    • adjusting the room temperature while they are gone
    • bringing their own toiletries in a refillable bottle

Choosing a Space and Time

  • There are some great areas on campus where you can have an outdoor event: HSS Amphitheater, Fred Brown Ampitheater, Student Union Lawn, Ayres Lawn, Circle Park, Claxton Courtyard, Ferris and Perkins Engineering Quad, Fiji Island, Greve Courtyard, Massey Courtyard, Melrose Courtyard, Pedestrian Walkway, Presidential Courtyard, REC Sports Fields, Sorority Village Tree Park
  • LEED Certified Buildings: Ayres Hall, Haslam Music, Student Health Center, JIAM, Fred Brown, Min Kao, Baker Center
  • Have the meeting during off-peak energy periods
    • Winter 5 – 11am
    • Summer: 2 – 8pm
  • For events during the day, utilize natural daylight and open the blinds rather than using lighting


  • Recycle items from year to year
    • Keep dates off banners and other materials so you can use them year after year
  • Consider using natural décor, such as in-season plants or produce that attendees can take home at the end of the day
  • Use LED lights if additional lighting is needed
  • Limit the amount of balloons/confetti, as they are not biodegradable
  • If tablecloths are needed, use cloth ones rather than plastic/disposable ones so they can be reused
  • Ask local vendors for décor to help support the local economy and locally sourced goods

Waste Management

  • Contact UT Recycling prior to event to ensure that your event is zero waste and to map out a plan to ensure you have enough/proper receptacles
  • Limit giveaways for items that would really be used, or use sustainability themed giveaways (listed above)
  • Avoid styrofoam and other non-recyclable materials
  • View UT Recycling’s Zero Waste Guide to ensure that you are following all of the steps and for more information

Food for the Event

  • If your event will be catered by an outside company, see if you can use one of the vendors in the Nourish Knoxville Local Foods Guide: 
    • If your event will be taking at a restaurant, locally sourced restaurants in Knox County are listed on pages 39-42 of the guide
  • Shift away from boxes lunches, use buffet style if possible
  • Resist the urge to over-order, get a headcount and use that to know how much food to get.
    • If there is extra food have event planned bring Tupperware the day of the event to take home any leftover food
    • Remember that non-reusable serving items (plates, cups, cutlery, napkins) often must be disposed of as well if they are out on a serving line, so use your headcount to avoid oversupplying items.
  • When ordering though Aramark, order food with the green leaf symbol, which are vegetarian and/or vegan
  • Order in-season produce, see below for guide:
  • If ordering from Aramark, look for the section labeled Seasonal Specials
    Month In-Season Produce
    February garlic, mushrooms, sweet potatoes
    March garlic, mushrooms, sweet potatoes
    April garlic, asparagus, mushrooms
    May garlic, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, spinach, mushrooms, onions, berries, kale
  • Beware of hidden waste items!
    • Items such as creamers, butter, sugar, cream cheese and other condiments often come in single servings which produce a lot of waste. Ask for bulk servings such as creamer jugs, butter balls, ketchup/mustard pumps etc.
    • Plastic coffee stirrers are the default but you can request wooden, compostable ones or reusable spoons
    • Items like yogurt parfaits will always come single serve but you can have a “make your own” bar instead, with yogurt, granola, and fresh fruit
    • “Assorted” chips typically mean single serve bags but you can request self serve chip bowls instead
  • Sometimes there isn’t an easy right decision, but it’s helpful to know what things are MORE sustainable
    • large plastic jugs (drink dispensers are filled from these as well) > cans > plastic bottles
    • Reusable cups > compostable cups > plastic cups > paper cups (lined with plastic and not recyclable)
    • Reusable cutlery > bulk compostable cutlery > bulk plastic cutlery
      • You can avoid this issue altogether by choosing finger foods or items on compostable wooden skewers! Catering is always happy to help you adapt menu items to suit your event needs.
    • Make straws a request only item
    • ALWAYS avoid styrofoam and individually packaged cutlery as these can never be considered Zero Waste

Sample Menu

Menu Items Sustainable Zero-Waste
Request only reusable or compostable cups, plates, and cutlery
The Winter Garden Grain Bowls/Platters

(Asian Grain Bowl, Mediterranean Grain Bowl, Lale Quinoa Panzanella Salad, and Build-Your-Own Ancho-Lime Portobello Burrito Bowl, Taco-Seasoned Ground Beef Burrito Bowl, and Southwestern Chicken Bowl)


Includes several vegetarian options

Choose the Build-Your-Own options rather than proportioned options

If one of the other options seems most appealing, request it be served as Build-Your-Own

Medi Eats Buffet

(Chicken Souvlaki Skewers, Falafel, Roasted Eggplant, Sauteed Spinach, Couscous, Pita)

Includes several vegetarian and vegan options

Served buffet style

You can make the menu even more Zero-Waste by modifying it to only include items, such as the eggplant, that can also be put on skewers or eaten as finger foods
Ultimate Breakfast

(Breakfast Pastries, Scrambled Eggs, Cheddar and Onion Frittata, Crisp Bacon, Breakfast Sausage, Pancakes with Butter and Syrup, Breakfast Potatoes, Fresh Seasonal Sliced Fruit, Assorted Juices and Bottled Water and Coffee, Decaf and Hot Water with Tea Bags)

Seasonal fruit

Includes several vegetarian and vegan options

Includes many items that are easy to take as leftovers

Request ice water instead of bottled

Ensure that the juices are not bottled and that the syrup is not individual size

Traditional Carving – Slow-Cooked Beef

(Slow-Cooked Beef served with Fresh Rolls and House-made Condiments: Roasted Garlic Aioli, Tarragon Horseradish and Pesto Mayonnaise)

Carving stations help reduce food wasted at the table

“House-made Condiments” means it will never be severed in individual packages!

Includes many items that are easy to take as leftovers

With reusable or compostable service items, this is a perfect example of a Zero Waste meal item!
Heartland Buffet

(Baby Spinach Salad, Roasted New Potatoes, Fresh Herbed Vegetables, Grilled Lemon Rosemary Chicken, Bakery Fresh Rolls with Butter, Oreo Blondies and choice of Beverage)

Can be seasonal vegetables upon request

Includes many items that are easy to take as leftovers

With reusable or compostable service items and butter balls, this is a perfect example of a Zero Waste meal!

Many items could also be served on skewers upon request

During the Event

Set Up

  • Ask vendors to turn off their vehicles when they are unloading, so they are not idling
  • Use wagons/carts rather than golf carts to move supplies around|

Transportation to the Event

  • For guests coming from Knoxville, use the KAT (Knoxville Area Transit) bus
    • Bus routes #10, 11, 17, 10, 42, and 42 run directly through campus, with those 6 routes connected with all other routes at some point
    • The Trolley: the free bus run through KAT that goes between campus and downtown
  • Send out a feeler to all attendees to see if anyone would be willing to carpool, especially if they are coming from far away
    • Either your office, or our office can assist in seeing who lives close together (based off responses)
  • If possible, use a livestream for attendee who live far away to they don’t have to drive
  • Limited transportation for people to get there
    • Or if they use a sustainable transportation method
  • Venue has ample bike racks close by for bikers
    • Use PACE bikes to get around campus


  • Remind guests/vendors that they are at a sustainable event, and see if they have any day-of questions
  • Use whiteboards or TV’s to post announcements
  • Only distribute paper materials (like handouts or notepads) upon request
  • Post signage or have volunteer’s direct participants to waste stations


  • If appliances are needed, use a power strip to easily shut down all appliances during breaks/when not in use
  • Use rechargeable batteries for electronic devices (cameras, laser pointers, etc.)
  • While at the event make sure your office/wherever you came from is shut down
    • Lights off
    • Computers in sleep mode
    • Room temperature set to a 68 during winter months, and 72 during the summer months

After the Event

  • Encourage guests to take home any leftover food/leftover materials they may have use for
  • Discuss with vendors the possibility of recycling excess materials after the event rather than disposing them
  • Make plans to donate materials and centerpieces after the event.
    • The Free Store, Goodwill and KARM are great places to donate items like linens, art supplies, reusable center piece material and more. Check with your catering company on where best to donate food
  • Collect all items that can be reused later and store them for future events
  • Share your success stories with us!