Glass jars with event food next to a reusable sign, demonstrating how to reduce waste at an event
An example of zero-waste food at a campus event. | Photo: Campus Sustainability Office

Sustainable Event Program

Designed for events large and small, the Sustainable Event Program supports low-impact event planning at Cornell.  Improve your event sustainability with our guide to a sustainable event, local catering list, and certification program for completing steps in food, waste, purchasing, accessibility, and more. 

About this Program

Cornell University hosts over 1,000+ events annually - making events one of the easiest ways to invest in sustainability!  With simple changes to the way you or your team advertise, select food, set up rooms and signage, and re-think giveaways, together we can have a large collective impact on reducing waste, and demonstrate our culture of sustainability to visitors and our community.   Check out previously certified events to see who is making an impact at Cornell by hosting smarter, sustainable events!


Get Started Planning Your Event

Ready to host a sustainable event, but not sure where to start? We have you covered.  Check out these resources to improve waste, food, materials use, accessibility, and more at your campus event of any size

Planning checklist on table

Sustainable Event Guide

Get started with our step-by-step guide to options for hosting a sustainable event.  Browse the online guide here, or download a print version of the Sustainable Event Guide (PDF).

Checked off items on a to do list

Downloadable Event Checklist (PDF) 

Download a PDF checklist with suggested event actions
and resource links to help you plan your sustainable event.

Empty plate with food residue

Sustainable Catering & Vendor List

Browse a list of local sustainable food and catering providers, with details provided by vendors about organic, local, vegetarian food options, sustainable service ware, and more.

Consultation Button

30 Minute Event Consultation

Schedule a 30-minute consultation with the Campus Sustainability Office - we'll help you plan, and submit your event certification.



Sustainable Event Certification

Certification is easy.  Fill out a short form before or after your event and receive marketing materials to show off your sustainable efforts to event attendees and the Cornell campus community.  Single or recurring events of any size can be certified.
 

Event Certification Form
 

Two Levels of Certification Available

Complete five or more actions from the Sustainable Events Guide and receive a Sustainable Event Certification. 
Or, go above and beyond with ten or more actions to receive a Platinum Event Certification.

Sustainable Event
Sustainable Event Certification Badge

Event implements five or more actions from any category 

Platinum Event
Platinum Sustainable Event Badge

Event implements ten or more actions from any category

We are always looking to improve.  Submit your feedback on planning your event and our program.



Sustainable Event Guide

From planning to hosting and recycling, we have you covered with the top actions
to take to host your most sustainable event yet.  Choose from each topic area
to see suggested actions, and be sure to get certified once you host an event. 

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  • Natural Lighting

  • The event location has natural light. 


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  • Access & Use of Alternative Transportation

  • The event location allows attendees to easily use sustainable transportation options, by being close to a TCAT stop, encouraging attendees to use on-site bike parking, or ensuring walkability and/or wheelchair accessibility.  This credit can also be used if the event has organized alternative transportation for event attendees to and from hotel or multiple event sites, such as arranging for a bus from one location on campus to another or paying for a TCAT bus ticket


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  • Minimize Transportation Distance

  • Events requiring an overnight stay have provided or recommended local accommodations to reduce travel, or, have found other ways to reduce the use of fuel and transportation for event attendees, vendors, or supplies.


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  • Remote Participation

  • Attendees can attend the event virtually, or the event was made fully virtual to reduce resource use.


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  • Offset Event Transportation

  • Event organizers calculated the carbon footprint of event attendees to and from the location, and purchased carbon offsets from the Finger Lakes Climate Offset Fund or other carbon offset providers to fully offset the event.



     

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  • Sustainability Recognition 

  • Once certified, the event notifies event attendees of its status as a Sustainable Certified or Platinum Certified Event.


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  • Adhere to Printing Guidelines

  • The event marketing prints according to certain sustainable standards, including: designing reusable printed materials (i.e.,  papers do not have one-time dates and slogans), printed materials are not laminated to ensure that paper can be recycled, materials are printed double-sided, and the print size is reduced from full page to half/quarter sheets.


   


 

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  • Eliminates Unnecessary Event Purchases

  • The event does not supply unnecessary swag, "freebies", personalized merchandise, or giveaways. 


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  • Purchased Items Adhere to Sustainability Criteria 

  • Event organizers only purchase items that are long-lasting, reusable, useful to event attendees, and  produced with sustainable materials in a sustainable/ethical way.


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  • Sustainable Vendors are Prioritized

  • The event makes any necessary purchasing through vendors with reliable dedication to sustainable practices. Eco Promotions and ChicoBag are two potential sustainable vendors.


   

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  • Buffet or Bite-Size Serving

  • The event eliminates or minimizes the use of single-use packaging by serving the food buffet-style or offering bite-size and finger food. 

    • Serving tip: If served with napkins, bite-size and finger foods can easily be composted.


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  • Reusable Serving Materials

  • The event organizers ensure that the catering vendor will supply reusable plates and serving materials. If the caterer cannot offer this service, event organizers work with Dish Truck to set up arrangement between the catering service.


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  • Event Attendees Supply Reusable Tableware

  • Events attendees bring their own reusable tableware, including: plates, utensils, bottles, mugs, or cups.

    • To encourage event attendees to to bring reusable items, pre-event communication could say: "In an effort to reduce single-use waste at this event, we encourage everyone to consider bring their own [insert reusable item] to enjoy the food and beverages."


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  • Avoid Over-Ordering

  • Event organizers avoid food waste by paying careful attention to only purchasing the minimum amount of food, based on expected event attendance.


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  • Event Attendees Take Home Leftovers

  • Event organizers encourage event attendees to take any leftovers home at the end of the event.

    • To encourage this behavior, pre-event communication could say: "In an effort to reduce food waste at this event, we encourage everyone to bring empty tupperware so that any leftover food can be taken home at the end of the event.

  
  • Food Redistribution Plan

  • Event organizers contact the Friendship Donation Network (FDN) if the event has anticipated or unexpected leftover food. Individually box/wrapped foods and potentially buffet-style foods can be accepted. Alternately, the free food GroupMe allows for leftover food to be advertised to a network of Cornell-based individuals.

  
  • Bulk Drink

  • The event serves beverages in bulk containers and encourages the use of reusable cups/bottles/mugs.

    • To encourage event attendees to bring their own reusable cups/bottles/mugs, pre-event communication could say: "In an effort to reduce single-use waste at this event, we encourage everyone to consider brining their own reusable bottle, mug, or cup. Beverages will be served in bulk throughout the event."



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  • Coordinate Waste Disposal

  • Event organizers request proper waste bins through R5. Julie Parsons (Facilities Management on the Event Management Planning Team) can be contacted at jh252@cornell.edu or 607-255-3751.


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  • Composting

  • Large-scale events coordinate with Cornell Compost (compostcornell@gmail.com) to arrange compost bins and pickups. A minimum of three weeks advance notice is required. 


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  • Prevent Waste Contamination

  • Event organizers print and post well-labeled signs for any landfill, recycling, and compost bins at the event.


   

Certified Event Champions

Check back soon for a list of certified events!