Lessons from SustainPHL 2019 : How to Plan a Zero Waste Event
We at Green Philly recognize that we can’t just “talk the talk” when it comes to sustainability; We need to “walk the walk” at our workplace and especially at our events.
SustainPHL is our biggest annual event, and it’s important to us that we reduce, and when possible eliminate, any waste produced by the event, as well as showcase the ways that any event can be made more sustainable.
This is particularly important when it comes to plastic. Every year, humans produce 300 million tons of plastics, and 8 million tons of that enters our oceans annually, where it joins the 150 million tons of plastic that is already floating around. These numbers alone convinced us that we needed to do all we can to hold a plastic-free event and show by example that everyone can hold a large celebration without plastics.
We wanted SustainPHL 2019 to meet these conditions:
- Source as much of the event’s offerings (food, drink, tableware, etc) from local and sustainable vendors and businesses
- Eliminate and reduce, as well as properly dispose of, waste
- Keep plastic out of the equation
- Meet a small budget
- Ensure our guests have an enjoyable and memorable evening
Here’s how we at Green Philly did our best to ensure a zero waste and sustainable event:
Choosing to hold SustainPHL at WHYY in Philly’s Center City means that our event is accessible by public transit such as buses or trains, biking using a personal bike or ride-share bike, and Uber or Lyft.
Fight food waste: 30-40% of food in the US is wasted (source). To combat this, Green Philly was excited to offer appetizers from Hungry Harvest, a company that finds homes for misshapen or surplus vegetables and fruits with a produce delivery box.
Include tasty, satisfying vegetarian and vegan options: The majority of meat, dairy, and other animal products are not produced sustainably: Livestock emissions make up at least 15-18% of our total greenhouse gas release every year (source), not to mention the strain that industrial animal agriculture places on our water, land, and other natural resources. Although Green Philly encourages everyone to examine their food choices and take personal action, attendees were offered some meat options at Thursday’s event. But we made sure to feature delicious vegan food from LUHV Vegan Deli and other plant-based options.
Ditch plastic cups for metal tumblers: United By Blue provided us with these beautiful, 16oz, durable, and 100% stainless steel tumblers for the event’s drinks. They replaced disposable plastic cups and brought us another vital step closer to zero waste.
Provide drinks in glass bottles and metal cans: SustainPHL 2019 featured a variety of local beers, wines, liquors, and other beverages, all of which came in recyclable containers. These included:
- Beer from Flying Fish Brewing Co
- Apple Shrubs from Quaker City Mercantile
- Rum from Single Prop Rum
- Spirits from Dad’s Hat Rye and Philadelphia Distilling
Refuse and replace plastic straws: When possible, we encourage everyone to consider the damage of unnecessary single-use disposables like straws, especially plastic straws, and choose to go straw-free. But we recognize that some groups of people need straws, so we provided biodegradable, plastic packaging-free paper straws from Single Prop Rum.
Compost: No food scraps ended up in a landfill at SustainPHL 2019! Circle Compost turns organic materials into life-giving compost used by their urban farm partners to grow food.
Find alternatives: Instead of plastic plates and utensils, guests enjoyed their treats with compostable bamboo plates and utensils. Bamboo 1, Plastic 0.
Recycle: WHYY provided onsite-recycling for this event. Thanks, guys, for making our lives a little easier!
Use handcrafted, up-cycled wood awards: These unique awards were painstakingly crafted by dusting off Barbara Hancher’s woodworking business, using reclaimed wood.
Switch to electronic tickets: We decided to use Philadelphia-based online ticket sales and event marketing company TicketLeap because of its handy app and emailed tickets. This meant a paperless check-in for our guests!
Feature a digital program: We made sure everyone had a chance to learn about SustainPHL 2019’s 29 nominees by covering their profiles on Green Philly. Additionally, instead of giving out small paper programs to each of our guests, we had two slideshows up and running at the venue: one to highlight all of our amazing nominees, and another during the ceremony to announce the award recipients.
Replace signs with TV screens: WHYY has adjustable television screens around the venue, which we used to display information and nominee profiles during the event.
Showcasing Sustainable Organizations
Learn from others: Green Philly was excited to include a “Munch and Learn” portion in our event, which consisted of sustainable companies and groups tabling to educate attendees on different environmental issues and opportunities. These included:
- Neighborhood Gardens Trust
- Mural Arts PHL Trash Academy
- Proud Pennsylvanians
- Hemp Black
- and Green Philly!