Green Events Guide

Greening Your Event at Penn

Penn’s Climate Action Plan provides a framework for greening the day-to-day operations of our University.  The multitude of events held on campus each year provide an opportunity to inform visitors about the philosophy of our Climate Action Plan while reducing environmental impacts and helping us reach our sustainability goals.

Penn hosts a variety of campus events each year, ranging from office brown bags to formal receptions.  As such, event greening will vary based on the scope, location, and size of the event.  This guide was created by the Green Campus Partnership to provide overall guidelines for event greening.  Innovative ideas that go beyond this guide are always welcome!


There are countless ways to green your event. To help determine the most appropriate choices for your event, think about how you can:

  • Reduce packaging and waste.
  • Integrate composting into events that generate food waste.
  • Make your sustainable decisions visible to guests.
  • Make it convenient for attendees to recycle, compost, and conserve.
  • Provide local foods.
Quick Links to Content on this Page:
Food + Drink
Waste + Recycling
Energy Conservation
Participation + Education

Food + Drink

General Guidelines

  • Provide filtered water instead of individual bottles.
  • Provide beverages from bulk containers or refillable dispensers to reduce single-use plastic bottles.
  • Provide reusable cups / mugs.
  • Opt for buffet food and reusable plates over single-serve packaging and disposables.
  • Purchase local, organic, and/or fair-trade food and drinks.
  • Provide vegetarian and/or vegan options.
  • Choose products with minimal packaging.
  • Ask guests to RSVP so you have an accurate estimate of attendance and do not over order.
  • Include educational signage about local food and drink choices.
    • For example, “fair-trade, organic coffee beans” or “all vegetables are organic and locally grown in Lancaster, PA”

Create reusable signs or print on recycled content paper (minimum 30%).


Questions For Your Caterer

  • Can you provide food in reusable or compostable containers?
  • Can food be served family style to avoid excess waste generated by individually boxed meals?
  • Can you provide beverages in bulk containers?
  • Can you provide reusable plates, cups, silverware, napkins, table cloths, etc.?
    • If not, can you provide compostable alternatives and recycled paper products with a minimum 30% recycled content?
  • Is your food sourced locally?  Is it fair trade and/or organic?
  • Can you provide vegetarian options?
  • Can you provide condiments (dressing, mustard, mayo, etc.) and coffee additives (milk, sugar, cream, etc.) in bulk containers instead of individual packets?
  • Will you provide clearly labeled compost bins?  Can everything we purchase be composted, if not recycled?
  • Are your centerpieces / decorations reused or reusable?
  • Will you label foods and services with education information about sustainable choices?

Suggested Local Caterers

Waste + Recycling

Waste Minimization Strategies

  • Provide ample, clearly labeled, conveniently located recycling and compost bins.
  • Make sure there are no stand alone trash cans.
  • Always group trash cans with recycling and compost bins to reduce contamination.
  • Need event bins?  Consider repurposing a trash can and ask your housekeeping staff to line it with a blue bag - this signifies recycling to your cleanup crew.
  • Be sure to provide adequate signage for your visitors.
  • Give out reusable nametags, mugs, bags, and water bottles for use during the event or as favors, if applicable.
  • Alternatively, ask guests to bring their own mugs, bottles, and bags.
  • If this is an annual event consider printing signs, favors, etc. without dates so they can be reused.
  • Collect name tags, etc. at the end of the event for reuse.
  • Ensure that There is a convenient drop-off point for unwanted handouts, etc.
  • Use reusable decorations and centerpieces.  Potted native plants work well.  Encourage participants to take plants home and grow them as a souvenir.  Or see if another campus office or group has decorations you can borrow.

consider a zero-waste event

 A zero-waste event is one from which at least 90% of event waste is diverted from landfills. Download this Zero-waste Event How To guide to get started.

Need signs?

Click here to download recycling and compost signage for your event.

Compost Collection Services

Contact about other composting options.


  • Purchase products with recycled content or reuse where possible.
  • Purchase in bulk to reduce packaging.
  • Avoid single use containers.
  • Use local vendors where possible to avoid excess emissions associated with shipping.

Switching from copy paper made with 100 percent virgin forest fibers to 100 percent recycled content affords the following significant benefits:
* total energy consumption cut by 44 percent
* net greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 38 percent
* 41 percent fewer particulate emissions
* half the amount of solid waste

Purchasing Links


Alternative Transportation Options

  • Provide information regarding local transit and ride share for participants traveling to the event.  Consider including information on the environmental impacts of various transit choices.
  • Encourage carpooling, public transit use, biking, and walking during the event.
  • Ensure the event venue has adequate bike parking.
  • Consider providing shuttle service or transit passes to participants.
  • Transit schedules and maps, including routes to the event should be included in event information.
  • Include carbon offset information as an alternative.

On Campus Programs

Public City and Regional Transit

Directions to campus from the airport on SEPTA Regional Rail

Take SEPTA’s Airport Line to 30th Street Station.
Click here for SEPTA schedules and information.

Regional Bus Services

Regional & National Train Service 

Carbon Offsets

Virtual Attendance

Encourage virtual attendance options in lieu of travel where possible. 
To set up web resources, speak with your office IT manager.
Click here to see resources available through Perelman Quadrangle.

Choose Convenient Hotels

Encourage participants to stay within walking distance of campus or in accomodations near a transit line.
Click here for a list of hotels on and around campus.

Energy Conservation


  • Dim or turn off lights during presentations.
  • Remember to turn off the lights when you leave the room!
  • Use natural light when possible.

Heating and Cooling

  • Ask guests to dress for the season and make sure the room is kept at a seasonally appropriate temperature to reduce energy costs.
  • Choose a room with natural light but be sure blinds are drawn to block direct sunlight in the summer and avoid excess cooling.
  • Be sure windows are closed if the HVAC system is running.
  • Consider purchasing emissions offsets for the event.

Participation + Education

Raising Awareness

  • Provide educational signage about sustainability goals and actions at the event.
  • Keep signage as specific as possible.
  • Inform participants ahead of time of campus sustainability goals.
  • Ask for feedback from event attendees. (Did they understand the sustainability component?)

More information about Penn’s sustainability goals and Climate Action Plan can be found on the Green Campus Partnership website.

Contact about including the Green Campus Partnership logo on your event marketing materials.