Cornell launches sustainable event certification

Campus Sustainability Office, Student Intern March 30, 2022
Welcome sign in front of jars of food
Events like the Green Team Summit on campus use sustainable practices, such as eliminating single-use serviceware through food arrangements like the one displayed above. Other events are taking steps to reduce waste and packaging. | Photo: Campus Sustainability Office

Zero-waste food options. Reducing printed materials. Encouraging attendees to carpool or use alternative transportation to get to and from campus.  These are just some of the ways event organizers at Cornell can receive recognition for hosting a sustainable event using the new Sustainable Events Certification program launched this spring on campus.  

The program is a redesign of an existing 'green events guide' which was designed to provide a roadmap for organizers to improve the sustainability of their event design and materials.  The new program includes a guide, and a certification process with two levels to recognize events that meet basic sustainability criteria.

Cornell Certified Sustainable Event Badge
Events can be certified at two levels.  Basic certification requires at least five actions to be completed from the sustainable events checklist.  A platinum certification requires at least ten actions from any category. 

Five or more actions qualify events for a Green Event Certification, while more experienced organizers can receive a Platinum Event Certification with ten or more actions completed.  

Event organizers can be certified by completing a short survey on which sustainability actions were taken in targeted areas like food, waste, transportation, and more. For instance, eliminating printed materials or printing less material is one option for reducing event waste, while in the food category organizers can choose to provide composting, vegetarian or plant-forward food options, or encourage attendees to bring their own service ware.

With thousands of events occurring on campus each year, improving event sustainability can make a big impact on Cornell University's carbon footprint, waste, and resource use.  The program team created a guide to sustainable local catering options, for instance, to improve food sustainability and support for local small businesses.

The Campus Sustainability Office will also work with teams via 30-minute consultations to plan and execute a sustainable event.  

"This is a great option for those just getting started with event sustainability," said Kim Anderson, Sustainability Engagement Coordinator in the Campus Sustainability Office."

Organizers are encouraged to complete the certification before an event, in order to use the badge in event advertising.  However, certification after the event is also encouraged as it will help the Campus Sustainability Office and organizers track the number of sustainable events hosted on campus or in their club, office, or department each year.

As more sustainable events are planned, the sustainable event certification logo will become a visual symbol for how Cornell’s culture is transforming to prioritize sustainability, said Alora Cisneroz, student sustainability coordinator in the Campus Sustainability Office.

She emphasized that, regardless of event size, budget, or planning capacity, the guide and optional consultation process make sustainability more accessible.

Visit the Sustainable Events page for more information on the program:

The Campus Sustainability Office is looking for volunteers to pilot the program during Spring 2022. Contact the program team to become an early adopter of the certification, or to share your sustainable event practices for the "best practice guide"in development.