Planning and Carrying Out Green Events

Planning and Carrying Out Green Events

Observing the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

Guidelines for Ecologically Responsible Events


Publicity about sustainability efforts; through planning, implementation, and beyond

• Use your website, event program, press releases, opening, signage and post-event publications to tell the story of the green event.

• Put together a brochure with actions taken by your organization to make the event green. Print a limited number for attendees and the public and make it available electronically. Include green actions that individuals can adopt at the event, in their congregations, and beyond. For example:

• Adjust the thermostat in the hotel rooms (and at home) when not there so the heat or air conditioning is not running unnecessarily. Take advantage of hotel policies for less frequent washing of linens.

• List other relevant information related to getting around in the location of the event.

• Set up an onsite sustainability booth to provide information about the event's greening initiatives. Items at this table could include: transit passes; transit information/maps; bike rental/bike trail information; tips included in the above brochure.

• Invite the local and national Lutheran creation care organizations to have booths and provide consultation to congregations regarding their greening goals.


Procurement of services and products

• Purchasing staff can keep in mind the environmental, social, and economic impacts of purchased goods or services—throughout its lifecycle. Favor goods and services that result in minimal environmental impacts and create good social and economic development. Use environmental criteria as well as quality and price.

• For example, if speaker platforms are created by staff, the wood could be sustainably grown and harvested. If rugs or fabrics are used to soften the areas, they could have minimal adhesives and be reusable or recyclable.

• Develop contract riders to hold suppliers accountable to sustainability commitments.

• For example, ask subcontractors and vendors to consider the lifecycle of the products they use and create.

• There is a precedent for event sponsors to calculate the energy used by the whole event—services, transportation, venues and so forth—and then purchase carbon offsets to cover their energy use. They can choose to ask participants to help bear the costs. There are several calculators to use for this. Consider, but browsing “carbon calculator” on the internet yields comparisons among several. For carbon offset groups, try .


Communications to participants prior to the event

• Provide opportunities for sending conference information electronically.

• Reduce the use of paper and the need to mail that paper by providing as much pre-event information electronically.

• Allow for and encourage electronic registration.

• Whenever paper is used:

• Decrease the margins around printing to one-half inch

• Copy on both sides of the paper

• Use 100% post-consumer recycled paper

• print using soy/vegetable ink.

• Avoid bright colored paper.


Travel to the Event

• Ask attendees to think about others living in nearby communities who will also attend the event and encourage them to consider renting a van or bus and traveling to the event together.

• Encourage each attendee/vendor/presenter/staff person flying or driving to the site of the event to consider purchasing carbon offsets to help mitigate the environmental impact of their travel.

• Visit or .

• Encourage people to bring their own water containers or mugs that they will rinse themselves. No Styrofoam or plastic bottles, please.

• Encourage delegates and others coming to the event to consider bringing their families and making the location of the event a vacation destination rather than taking a second trip and thereby emitting additional greenhouse gas emissions. Come early or stay later.

• Consider providing videoconferencing options to individuals who do not need to be physically present at the event.


Lodging for Attendees

• Inquire about the environmental practices of hotels, including their waste and resource management.

• Are bulk dispensers for shampoos and soaps used in hotel rooms?

• Are low-flow water-conserving fixtures used in sinks, toilets, and showers?

• Are paperless check-in and check-out available?

• Are post-consumer recycled paper products used?

• Negotiate room blocks with hotels that are within walking distance, are on the transit line, and/or have green policies.

• Ask guests to participate in linen re-use programs at their hotels. Ask them to shut off lights, TVs, and heat/ A/C when they leave their rooms.

• Ask that the hotel staff to put the thermostat up/down when the room is empty. This is already the standard practice in some hotels.


Transportation around the Event Site

• Discourage the use of single rider rental cars, and encourage carpooling.

• Encourage the use of local transit.

• Inform attendees that bike rental is an option for local transportation.

• Inform attendees that idling is prohibited in many areas, unless the car is in traffic. Avoid idling for more than three minutes.


Event Site Amenities

• Inquire about the environmental practices of the site where the event is being held, including their waste and resource management:

• Do they employ energy- and water-efficient equipment and practices?

• Do they minimize the use of harmful chemicals when cleaning?

• Is recycling available in all common areas?

• Are recycling receptacles readily available and clearly marked?

• Is staff trained to ensure that recycling and garbage are not co-mingled?

• Are food-rescue, food-to-animals, or food composting practices followed?

• Ask if they could schedule heat/ A/C resources around meeting requirements. Can the temperature be changed a little, keeping the halls comfortable but conserving energy?

• Encourage the event site to purchase wind energy during the period of the event. If not, consider purchasing carbon offsets for the event itself.

• Do not distribute plastic water bottles. Instead each table should have a pitcher of water and glasses.

• If you choose to use disposable products such as cups, and cutlery, consider purchasing compostable products made from cornstarch or similar materials. If this option is chosen, then provide for composting services and education to attendees to ensure success.

• Be sure not to put compostable waste inside large non-compostable plastic bags for disposal.

• Encourage attendees to bring their laptop computers and then provide wireless internet service to them. Make all printed materials available electronically so participants can choose to read the materials from their laptops rather than receiving handouts. Individuals may also choose to take notes on their computers rather than on paper.  



• Recycle as mentioned elsewhere.

• Compost food waste.

• Request that food providers use organic, locally produced food and beverages (contract with the site to use local food as much as possible). If it is not possible for all meals to be from local sources, have one or two meals designated as locally grown and publicize them that way.

• Provide only Fair Trade organic coffee and tea throughout the event.

• Direct event staff NOT to pre-fill water glasses at meals. Allow guests to fill their own glasses with pitchers at the tables.

• Do not use disposable water bottles. Provide for glasses and pitchers of water.

• Eliminate disposable items, including containers, plates, bowls, cups, cutlery, napkins, and tablecloths. Earth-Centric has cups that are compostable:  

• Arrange to donate leftover food to local charities. Local charity organizations may be able to assist with this effort. Individuals or groups can volunteer to assist.

• Ensure that any seafood served is harvested responsibly.

• Provide vegetarian and vegan meals or options.

• Choose reusable centerpieces and decorations.



• Make on-line registration an option and encourage attendees to use it.

• Encourage attendees to bring their own name-tags if they have them. Encourage them to be reusable.

• Provide lanyards that are made from recycled materials. Ask participants to return them after the event to be used again later, and provide an incentive for them to do so. For example, if there is a drawing at the end of the event, let people know that their name will be entered only upon the return of the lanyard.

• Give everyone a reusable event bag. The bag can be made of organically grown cotton or canvas, or recycled plastic. Put a logo on it that people will be happy to reuse. This reduces waste and is good advertising.

• Consider the environment when determining giveaways. Provide giveaways that are useful and sustainable, like a bicycle (LED) flasher, keychain with light on end, 3” x 3” recycled leather paper pad.



• Encourage vendors and exhibitors to consider the environment when making choices about giveaways, banners, displays, paper, post-conference waste, etc.

• Encourage them to provide giveaways that are made from recycled materials, or will biodegrade, or are reusable, or are consumable (e.g. note pads made from recycled paper, coffee mugs, Fair Trade chocolate).

• Request/require exhibitors to use recycled and recyclable paper.

• Invite people/companies to exhibit who can sell potentially green things to congregations (eco-friendly Good Friday palms branches, organic communion wine, etc.).

• Encourage exhibitors to reduce waste (and cost) by reusing or recycling displays and other materials, rather than disposing of them after the event.

• Request that exhibitors use sustainable design and construction of their exhibit booths, if possible.


Plenary Events

• Attempt to hire “green” display/decoration/production companies for décor (banners, cutouts, platform decorations, posters). Can you reduce? Do you really need everything you think you need? Using less is good for the environment and good for the budget. What are displays and decorations made of? Do they emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's)? Can they be reused?

• Use organic communion wine and locally produced communion bread made from organic ingredients, at large group meetings. Practice intinction to avoid plastic communion cups or washing glass ones.


Breakout Sessions/Presenters

• Encourage presenters to provide their presentations in advance on discs or on the Assembly web site. Remind attendees that materials will be available on a designated website after the event.


Prepared by Pilgrims Caring for Creation Pilgrim Lutheran Church, St. Paul, MN in response to a request from Mary Beth Nowak, ELCA Churchwide Assembly Coordinator, January 22, 2009. Adapted for events in observance of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation by David Rhoads, Director Lutherans Restoring Creation: