6 tips to help your unit host sustainable events on campus

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Want that office event you’re planning to have a big personality while leaving a small environmental footprint? Follow these recommendations from UAB Recycling and UAB Sustainability to learn what adjustments you can make to ensure your events are as green as possible and make your unit an example of UAB’s shared value of stewardship. Download the Green Events Guide checklist to make the process even simpler.

Promote sans-paper.

Work with your unit’s Campus Communicator to coordinate digital or face-to-face communications in favor of flyers and email presentations, agendas or handouts prior to the event to avoid paper waste.

“If you have to use paper flyers,” says Tim Sullivan, manager of Facilities Support Services, which oversees UAB Recycling, “only place them in the highest-visibility and most strategic locations to encourage attendance.”

Avoid plastic and plastic foam.

Bottled water might be convenient, but it represents a serious environmental impact, says Sullivan. Try using buffet-style food and a beverage dispenser instead and ask attendees to bring their own bottles or coffee mugs and reusable storage containers for any leftover food. Also, ask the caterer if they offer recyclable to-go containers.

If your unit hosts many events, consider investing in reusable plates, cups and utensils. If you must use disposable items, buy paper products or only No. 1 plastics, which can be recycled in any UAB recycling bin. If the event space doesn’t have a readily accessible bin, call 934-WORK to request one.

Know who’s attending.

Using an RSVP system such as the UAB Campus Calendar or Facebook Events can prevent food waste and unnecessary cost, and asking people to bring their ONE Card or purchasing reusable nametags can cut down on paper waste from disposable nametags. If many attendees need to commute to the event, encourage them to bike, carpool or take public transportation and/or consider offering a telecommute option such as HIPAA-compliant video conferencing system Zoom, which can be downloaded on smartphones, tablets or computers through the App Store or Google Play

Prioritize eco-friendly swag and merch.

Choose practical items that both convey your program’s message and offer long-term practical uses and consider whether the items are made from recyclable or recycled materials. Always check UAB’s approved vendor list to see options for green products.

“Items such as reusable drink bottles and cloth grocery totes are both sustainable and practical,” Sullivan recommended.

Recycling handout 2019 1 insideClick to enlargeBe intentional during the event.

Announce to attendees any sustainable waste-disposal procedures at the start of the meeting and note what can be recycled. Point out both recycling and waste bins. If the event space has natural light, considering forgoing electric lights to save on energy costs.

“Being open about hosting a sustainable event also encourages attendees to take those practices back to their own unit, creating a positive ripple effect,” Sullivan said.

Get familiar with what UAB recycles.

Drop off the following items in the bins located around campus or at the UAB Recycling Center, open 7-9 a.m. and 4-5:30 p.m. Monday and Thursday:

  • No. 1 plastic, which includes water and soft drink bottles
  • Office paper of any color
  • Newspapers
  • Non-food-contaminated flattened cardboard boxes
  • Magazines
  • Non-food-contaminated paper items such as paper bags, mail, envelopes and folders
  • Aluminum cans

Take these items to the UAB Recycling Center only:

  • Rinsed steel food cans
  • Used cooking oil and grease
“When nonrecyclable items are thrown into UAB’s recycling bins, it dirties up what we refer to as ‘the stream,’” Sullivan explained. “It keeps waste from being sorted and recycled properly, which can lead to perfectly recyclable materials inadvertently being sent to landfills or to be burnt. That means more wasted plastic on land and in our oceans.”