Emory Sustainable Events Checklist

Emory's Sustainable Events Checklist and Certification is a way to encourage and support event planners to embrace sustainability principles when planning and running events of all sizes. Emory's Office of Sustainability Initiatives encourages all event planners to pursue as many items from our checklist as possible. Some aspects of this checklist were integrated with permission from the Department of Accessibility Services’ Program Planning Checklist, we advise event planners to utilize both checklists while planning events. Please contact accessibility@emory.edu if you have any questions about accessibility at Emory. After completing this checklist, you will be contacted by the Office of Sustainability to confirm your certification level and receive information on how to market your commitment to sustainability at the event. If given permission, your event will be featured on the Office of Sustainability Initiatives website and social media.

There are two levels of certification an event may receive:

-Zero Landfill Waste: Your event will be rewarded the Zero Landfill Waste Certification if event planners eliminate all polystyrene (Styrofoam) from the waste stream, provide both recycling and composting bins throughout the event space, and forgo using extra landfill bins for the event. Any pre-existing landfill bins should not be available for use or repurposed and clearly labeled as recycling or compost bins. Emory's goal is for all events to be certified Zero Landfill Waste by 2025.

-        -Gold Certification: 75% of all applicable checklist items are achieved including all Zero Landfill Waste credits.

In an annual raffle, each Gold certified event planner and department will be entered to win a $100 Emory Dining gift card to use for future events.

Questions about the Sustainable Event Checklist and Certification? Email emorysustainability@emory.edu.

Event Information
A red asterisk indicates that the question is required.

ZERO LANDFILL WASTE: For our event we agree to...
*All three of these actions are mandatory for your event to be considered for Sustainable Event certification

The World Health Organization (WHO) categorizes polystyrene as a probable carcinogen. Researchers estimate that polystyrene may take 500 years to biodegrade. Emory does not have the ability to divert polystyrene from landfills, and the material must be landfilled. 

People in the U.S. throw away an average of 4.9 pounds of solids per person, per day. Emory has committed to composting, recycling, or reusing at least 95% of food waste, non-hazardous animal bedding, and construction materials by 2025.

The need for landfill bins is virtually eliminated through Emory's recycling and composting capacity.

WASTE MINIMIZATION: For our event, we agree to...

The EPA estimates that only 29.1% of plastic bottles are recycled. Plastic water bottles take over  450 years to fully decompose. Emory pledges to phase out unnecessary single-use plastic, including plastic water bottles, by 2026. Additionally, all university functions will be plastic bottle free by 2025. Consider using filtration systems like water filters instead of packaged bottles and gallons.

It is estimated that 2.5 billion single-use coffee cups are discarded globally every year. This equates to a staggering 5000 cups every minute. To combat this problem, request guests to bring their own bottles/mugs.

It is important to have event staff who are knowledgeable about how to properly sort waste on Emory’s campus! Emory’s waste system is different than anywhere else because of the waste vendors who service our waste. Here is an informative video on waste sorting, and here is more information on our volunteer, peer education program open to all University affiliates, the Zero Waste Ambassador Program.

Plastic utensils are the 7th most collected item in waste collections. Using reusable items can be a great way to reduce waste from your event and can make for great conversation and awareness-raising!

Please minimize give-away items to avoid excess waste and reduce costs. The best branded items to hand out at an event are those that are reusable not one use. Consider giving away reusable water bottles, reusable bags, or reusable utensils from ethical sources. Here is a memo with more information.

Approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper are wasted EVERY year. Paper purchases for Emory University were on the rise prior to the pandemic and recycled paper markets, on which Emory has relied, are experiencing paper shortages. Utilizing electronic sources like Canva, Evite, and other websites can help you creatively and colorfully express your event details without any waste!

100% post-consumer waste paper generates less solid waste and fewer emissions and avoids using virgin wood. FSC-Certified products ensure water quality protection, prohibit old-growth forest harvesting and hazardous chemicals, and engage local communities. Tree-free paper is made from the residues of other products, such as sugar cane production, which would otherwise be burned or landfilled. 

Reusable name tags are a great long-term sustainable solution.

Out of all manufacturing subsectors, paper production consumes the third largest amount of energy. Help reduce this energy consumption with electronic, laminated, or reusable plastic flyers. 
DATE ACCESSIBILITY: For our event, we agree to...

Please contact the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life for guidance on religious observances. 

Please contact the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life for guidance on religious observances. 
LOCATION: For our event, we agree to...

Utilizing natural lighting increases energy efficiency and reduces climate impact, while also improving the indoor environment and sense of well-being of occupants.

A vampire load is the amount of energy an appliance uses while in "standby" mode or switched "off" while still plugged in, and can account for a large amount of a building's energy consumption.
FOOD/FLORAL/DECOR: For our event, we agree to...

Balloons contribute to a shortage of helium, a nonrenewable resource. When balloons are released, they pollute the land or waterways and are hazardous to animal populations. Reusable decorations extend the life of the resource inputs and can serve dual purposes. For example, beeswax candles or potted plants can liven up event tables and be used as give-away items.

The cut-flower industry grows many flowers in developing countries. Companies that don't have environmental/ethical certification may overexploit water and land resources and risk workers' health due to pesticide exposure and low wages.

The Department of Accessibility Services advises that 36” ensures food service areas are accessible to individuals who use wheelchairs for mobility or those with other types of mobility impairments.

Having an attendee headcount improves accuracy in food estimates, thus reducing potential waste.

Guests with disabilities should not have to go out of their way at an event to request access to something that other guests are enjoying without barriers, when it is something than can be avoided by preliminarily asking the guest at registration and planning for it. Please contact the Department of Accessibility Services for more information on accessibility at Emory.  

The current livestock production system accounts for 36% of US methane emissions, one of the most potent greenhouse gases. Producing 1 kilogram of beef protein requires twice as much water and over thirty-five times more greenhouse gas emissions than producing 1 kilogram of protein from beans. 

Sustainably grown food supports environmental health, worker welfare and wages, and farm viability, in addition to improved nutrition. Purchasing locally grown or raised food supports the local agricultural economy and allows for attendees to eat more according to what is locally, seasonally available. Signs serve as visual cues to remind us to incorporate sustainable behaviors into our day-to-day lives and help attendees with dietary restrictions or preferences make informed food selections, which can help reduce wasted food.

Fair trade certification improves incomes and working conditions of small farmers and gives these individuals the tools to improve their quality of life.

Bulk dispensing containers can be refilled, thus reducing packaging waste. Individual condiment packets that are still full contaminate the recycling stream, therefore bulk options are best.

Rotting food in landfills is a significant source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. U.S. landfills collected 35 million tons of food waste in 2018. Having a food recovery plan can help you feed more people, not landfills.
TRAVEL: For our event, we agree to...

Sustainable commute options contribute to reduced traffic congestion and emissions. Biking and walking improve personal health, and public transportation/carpooling can encourage community building and provide opportunities for social networking. Emory shuttles are wheelchair accessible and free to anyone. Carpooling decongests roads, saves money, and can save time where there are HOV lanes.

Out-of-town guests and speakers use a lot of energy in transport- one roundtrip economy class flight from New York to Atlanta emits 0.24 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person, which are the same emissions as driving a typical passenger vehicle nearly 600 miles.

Accommodations that are close to campus cut down on transport time and encourage guests to engage in the community and learn more about the local area. 
EDUCATION: For our event, we agree to....

Announcing event features makes guests more observant of sustainable actions and behaviors, and explaining recycling and composting gives guests clarity and allows them to act efficiently both during the event and in the future.

Sharing experiences is critical for marketing new behaviors and purchases; online peer recommendations are a leading influence for 70% of consumer decisions, while 59% are from an online article.

Having educated station attendants shows your commitment to sustainability and provides guests with an understanding of recycling and composting that they can apply throughout campus in the future. If you need assistance training event volunteers, please email emorysustainability@emory.edu. 

Event planners often have the most innovative ideas about how to make events more sustainable. We want to hear about these and share them!
Thank you!