Learn how to make your events and programs more sustainable. 

Download Cornell's handy guide to help you green your events and programs or follow steps below.

students managing recycling and compost bins at a campus event

Basic Checklist 

  • Establish specific sustainability goals for the event. Here are some to get started: waste minimization; easy accessibility for participants. 

  • Advertise online for the event and make sure to communicate relevant sustainability efforts. 

  • Make food sustainable (local, healthy, fresh and plant based). 

  • Eliminate single-use products. Put condiments in small serving bowls.  

  • Make recycling easy and obvious. 

  • Ask the caterer to supply composting; otherwise, contact R5.

First Steps 

  • Develop partnerships with relevant campus departments, including Buildings and Grounds Maintenance, the Sustainability Office, Cornell Dining / Cornell Catering and R5 Operations/Cornell Recycling early on in the planning process.  

  • Create a plan – Develop a planning timeline and use this checklist to consider outreach and communication, location of the event, energy use, giveaways, transportation, food, waste, and clean-up in the initial phase of planning.  

  • Submit a “Use of University Property” form as needed for event locations on Cornell’s campus. Be sure to include sustainability goals. 

  • Designate a green coordinator – All members of the planning committee will need to be involved in the efforts to create a sustainable event but establishing a point person to coordinate recycling and composting efforts will ensure successful implementation of the plan.  

  • Confirm vendors – After developing the green plan, the coordinator can select approved vendors and event supplies that fit sustainability goals.


  • Create a website for the event and consider using online registration to limit paper use.  

  • Use online advertising and social media to promote event, instead of printed materials.  

  • E-mail fliers over listservs.  

  • Reuse banners. 

  • When printing is unavoidable, use responsible printing techniques:  

  • Use double-sided printing for promotional materials and handouts. 

  • Use recycled paper and soy-based inks. 

  • Avoid laminating and keep your signs and posters recyclable. 

  • Provide reusable name badges. 

  • Communicate the sustainability efforts – Inform attendees, exhibitors, and speakers of sustainable event standards.  

  • Promote waste reduction efforts with well-labeled signs located by compost, trash, and recycling bins. Find downloadable signs and posters here.

Where & When 

  • When choosing a time and place for the event, try to use rooms that are energy efficient and let in natural light.  

  • Cornell has many LEED-certified buildings, including Weill Hall, Alice Cook House, Martha van Rensselaer, the Physical Sciences Building, Cornell Plantations Visitor Center, and Milstein Hall.  

  • If the event involves multiple locations, ensure they are within a walkable distance of each other to limit car travel.  

  • If participants need accommodations, recommend hotels that offer recycling and re-use programs.