UCSF Sustainability Stories

Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, February 2013

LivingGreen Events:  Certify Your Next Meeting or Event

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Get your next event LivingGreen Event (LGE) Certified!  With just a little bit of upfront planning, you can easily host a low or zero waste, green event and earn a seal of endorsement to help promote the event. 

The UCSF LivingGreen Program seeks to recognize events that have taken steps to implement green practices and reduce their environmental footprint. This effort—jointly implemented by the LivingGreen Team through the Office of Sustainability—identifies a set of conditions and actions (some optional and some required) that events encompass.  Certification is contingent on documenting all of the required prerequisite criteria and specified number of the total optional criteria.  Get certified early and we’ll provide a logo you can use to advertise that your event is endorsed by LivingGreen.

The new assessment aims to certify the sustainable practices of individual events and send a consistent message throughout the entire campus: UCSF implements green measures in all aspects of its services and programs. The LGE certification program awards events based on the steps they have taken to be eco-friendly.

If you have an upcoming event and would like to be officially recognized through the UCSF Office of Sustainability, please contact the LivingGreen Team at: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

What Makes a Meeting Green?

The ideal green meeting creates little or no waste and incorporates environmental considerations throughout planning and execution in order to minimize environment impacts.  It is easier than it sounds.  The certification program requires you to consider six key areas in planning your event:  carbon neutrality, sustainable food, zero waste, water conservation, culture shift and toxic reduction.

At a minimum, you must score with 70% of the items on the checklist to gain a Bronze ranking. 80% earns you a silver and 90% earns you the gold certification.  Below are five tips to get you on the right track to greening your next meeting.


Tip #1:  Request Recycling and Composting Bins for Your Venue or Meeting Room

When you reserve your venue or meeting room, let Facilities Services (CLS FS) know you will need both recycling and compost bins with clear signage in the meeting room and lunch/meal location. FM will provide the appropriate waste receptacles (blue, green, black) for catered events. This step will help you earn points in the carbon and zero waste categories of the checklist.

Tip #2:  Pick a Green Caterer

Pulling off a green event will be much easier if you select a caterer familiar with UCSF’s LivingGreen Catering Best Practices. When possible, give preference to Moffitt Catering at UCSF, which offers sustainable catering, or UCSF Restaurants, which are already implementing many green practices.  If you use an off-campus catering service, be sure to provide them with the LivingGreen Catering Best Practices.  If you must use an off-campus service, please use a caterer on the City of San Francisco Department of Environment’s list of caterers with a commitment to sustainability.

This will help you earn points in the sustainable food category of the checklist.

Tip #3:  Ban Plastic Water Bottles

Pitcher of waterEliminating plastic water bottles is a simple ways to green your event. Serve drinking water in pitchers or at water stations, reducing your carbon footprint and the amount of waste produced. Food and Water Watch offers a resource to help you plan a bottle-free event called Free Your Event from Bottled Water.

Tip #4: Use Reusable Dishes, Glasses and Linens

If your budget allows, another way to minimize waste is to ask your caterer to use reusable dishes, glasses and linens.

If reusable isn’t an option, follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid polystyrene foam:  The City and County of San Francisco prohibits any establishment that serves food prepared in San Francisco from using polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) containers.  Any caterers from outside San Francisco are expected to avoid polystyrene foam service ware.
  • Avoid plastic plates and bowls: Paper plates and bowls can be composted.
  • Use paper cups where appropriate:  Paper cups can be composted.  If clear plastic is necessary, use plastic cups and recycle them.
  • Avoid compostable clear plastic cups and flatware:  To avoid confusion, we currently do not encourage the use of compostable plastic cups and flatware (they often end up contaminating the recycling bins).  We recommend using plastic flatware and cups that can be recycled.
  • Use high post-consumer recycled content for paper napkins, towels and tablecloths:  Do not use plastic tablecloths.

See the LivingGreen Catering Best Practices for more guidelines on how to serve food.

Another easy way to reduce waste is to notify hungry students if there is leftover food, using http://twitter.com/#!/FreeFoodatMBay or http://groups.google.com/group/ucsf-free-food?lnk=srg.

Tip #5:  Reduce Use of Virgin Paper and Minimize Paper Waste

Where possible, communicate with participants electronically and print any necessary pre-meeting materials on high post-consumer recycled paper.  Be sure the meeting room has a clearly labeled recycling bin. Another simple step is to ask presenters to minimize paper hand-outs and to print necessary materials on high post-consumer recycled paper.  Post materials on the internet and encourage others to go to websites to find resources presented at the event.

Think twice before you offer a meeting giveaway. If you do, please provide durable, reusable items or consumables with compostable packaging.

To learn more:

Green Meeting Industry Council
Blue Green Meetings Ten Easy Tips