How to Plan an Event with Sustainability in Mind

Events have impact; that’s why we plan them. Why not add to the positive impact of your event through thoughtful actions that reduce negative impact on the environment, community and your pocket?

Sustainable events save resources and money while also creating a positive reputation for your organization. That’s why you’re beginning to see sustainability in all types of events — from professional sporting events and festivals to conferences and even weddings. On campus, your event could even earn Wolfpack Certified Sustainable recognition for sustainability efforts.

Get started planning a sustainable event with NC State’s Sustainable Event Planning Guide that provides real-world examples and dozens of tips and tricks such as these:


Find a Champion

Find someone to lead the event’s sustainability efforts. It makes the planning easier and helps ensure that decisions aren’t working against each other such as buying compostable plates but not remembering to offer composting bins at the event.


Choose an Event Location

If possible, consider holding an outdoor event during the day. It’s fun, uses little energy and might be cheaper than renting indoor space. Also when choosing a location, consider public transportation such as proximity to Wolfline bus stops or availability of bike racks.


Promote Paperless

How many people really look at flyers anymore? Digital promotion is often cheaper and more effective without the environmental impacts of excess printing.


Benefit the Community

Consider adding a service component to your event. Whether it be a donation to a community organization or the opportunity to actually participate in a service project, community engagement will increase your event’s positive impact.


Purchase or Rent Sustainable Supplies

First, ask yourself, “Do you really need this?” before making any purchase. That alone will save you money and resources. Remember there are other options than buying. You could borrow or rent equipment such as tables, chairs and tents. If it is more cost effective to purchase, consider buying items that can be reused such as banners and decorations that are generic enough to be used at future events. Here are some other sustainable purchasing ideas to keep in mind:

  • Buy items with recycled content and/or reduced packaging.
  • Don’t hand out giveaways that just end up in the trash. Use giveaways that someone will want to keep and/or a service or consumable such as coupons, tickets, food, etc.
  • Support socially responsible companies or local businesses whenever possible.
  • If your event includes t-shirts, buy sustainable shirts that have a great story such as being made from recycled plastic bottles (you wouldn’t believe how soft the fabric is).
  • Need a generator? Try a solar or biodiesel-powered one to reduce your energy impact.



Food is often part of (and maybe even the highlight) of events, and numerous sustainable food options exist:

  • Yes, pizza is cheap and a crowd pleaser but there are many other food choices that might be healthier for event participants.
  • Be inclusive of all participants by offering vegetarian and vegan options.
  • Buy local food to support local farmers and shorten the distance that food has to travel. Bonus: the food is likely fresher than food shipped from thousands of miles away.
  • Save money by featuring foods that are in season and by purchasing food in bulk (not individually packaged), which also happens to reduce waste.
  • Serve food on compostable plates (paper works great) and if you need it, use compostable tableware.
  • If possible, work with a local organization or soup kitchen to donate leftover food. Or just make sure the leftovers aren’t thrown away — college students hardly ever turn down food.


Reduce Event Waste

Striving to reduce event waste is one of the best and most visible ways to make your event sustainable. If your event is on campus, the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling can help make a waste reduction plan for your event. They can also provide recycling, composting and landfill bins to collect waste from your event.


Once you’ve made steps to make your event more sustainable, be sure to spread the word. Announce the sustainable aspects of your event or that your event is Wolfpack Certified Sustainable. You can even engage participants by offering rewards, incentives or recognition for sustainable actions such as walking/biking to the event or recycling/composting at the event.

After the event, toot your own horn by promoting the success of your sustainability actions,  and be sure to send electronic thank you notes to anyone who helped make the event possible.