The University of Central Florida is going green and we are here to help! As part of a senior project for our Environmental Studies Capstone course, we teamed up with UCF Sustainability Initiatives to promote sustainable practices within campus events. The goal is to engage the student community in conserving as much of our resources as possible so that future students attending our campus can enjoy them as well. If you want to host an event on campus, join us in our efforts to reduce food waste, energy use, and improve recycling through green event planning!
Imagine a whole college stadium worth of food being wasted every single day.1 The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates more than 130 billion pounds of food are wasted every year in the United States; that’s over 30% of our food supply!2 Not only does this put our food security, resources and environment at risk, but this costly concern – 160 billion dollars loss3 – encourages us to step up to the plate!
How can we at The Office of Sustainability Initiatives help reduce as much of our food waste or waste in general on campus? By helping future planners integrate sustainable practices during their events.
To integrate food sustainably into your event and mitigate waste:
Prevention is key to waste management. To integrate sustainable food practices within the initial stages of your event:
Choosing sustainable products can sometimes be tricky. To ensure your food choices are in fact sustainable look out for these packaging seals:
Single use plastics are becoming a major environmental concern as they pollute our waterways, threaten wildlife and even our health. By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans!10 To prevent excess waste from single-use plastics used for dining:
A lot of time, effort and resources go into food production; yet food remains the single largest waste – over 20% – in municipal landfills.11 When we waste food we are wasting precious resources such as water, nutrients and energy. As food decomposes, it releases methane, which adds to our greenhouse gas emissions, further polluting our planet.12 Not just this, but around 1 in 8 Americans face food insecurity in the United States.13 If you have meals or food left over from your event:
Below are points of contact and resources that will help you implement sustainable food practices in your event planning:
UCF has an approved list of catering vendors15 you can use for your catering needs. Ask your caterer about their sustainability efforts. Sometimes vendors already implement sustainable practices, such as Aramark’s Green Thread16 commitment to reducing their environmental impact by sourcing responsibly, minimizing waste, operating efficiently and managing transportation.
Have any leftover canned foods or non-perishable items? Donate them to The Knights Pantry18. A study done across several campuses in the U.S. showed that 1 in 5 college students face food insecurity.19
Local Food Banks
If you have food you would like to donate to an organization or charity outside of UCF please visit the EPA’s Sustainable Food Management20 website for further details.
According to the EPA, in 2015, the United States generated about 262.4 million tons of trash, and almost half of it ended up in the landfills!21 But here at UCF we believe that small changes can lead to bigger impacts. For instance, did you know that recycling 1 aluminum can saves enough energy to power a television for 3 hours?22 Or that all the recyclable materials currently in the United States waste stream could generate about $7 billion in revenue?23
Here at UCF, we are doing our part by providing you with the right tools so “Reduce Reuse Recycle” becomes your driving mantra while planning an event. It saves money, reduces your carbon footprint, and conserves natural resources. Below are some tips on how to reduce, reuse, and recycle at your green event!
Easiest way to cut down your waste is to not make it in the first place. Reducing your use of new materials makes a huge impact on the planet.
Here are tips on how to reduce and reuse at your green event:
Donating the leftover materials from your event is a great way to give back to your local community, as well as reduce waste and cut down on pollution. Tax benefits may also be available for charitable contributions.
To donate items after your event, contact your local:
Recycling is incredibly important to the sustainability movement:
Here are some tips on how to recycle at your event to make it green!
Once you are ready to Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, reach out to any of the contacts below for assistance:
Energy is one of the biggest areas of waste at events, so when managing a green event, controlling energy use is key. While it’s necessary to utilize energy for events, there are many easy ways to reduce energy use.
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. A LEED certified building typically uses 30% less energy and 40% less water than a non certified building.33 UCF’s commitment to constructing energy efficient buildings has resulted in 24 LEED certified campus buildings.34 While planning an event, utilizing one of these buildings is an excellent way to reduce energy costs. There are several buildings such as Global UCF, UCF RWC, and the Fairwinds Alumni Center, that may be better suited for events. The most appropriate building will depend on the event.
It pays to be energy efficient! Since 2007 alone, UCF has saved $31 million in energy use as a result of their Climate Action Plan.35 Being energy conscious can greatly reduce the overall cost of an event. Organizing a green event is a great way to contribute to UCF’s goal of being as sustainable as possible. In addition, event attendees may connect more with a company or organization that shows it cares about the environment and is taking conscious steps to be eco-friendly. In addition, this is a great way to create a positive image for your company/organization. Actions such as carpooling can also greatly reduce CO2 use associated with the event. Since the United States accounts for a significant portion of global carbon dioxide emissions (about 15%), taking steps, however small, to reduce this percentage is important.36
We have made a digital copy of our Green Events Planning Toolkit brochure available here.
At the Office of Sustainability Initiatives, we know that planning can get a little hectic. To make your planning easier, we have already made a checklist you could use as a guide when greening your event.
Aside from becoming a steward of our earth, your efforts in reducing waste and using resources more sustainably not only ensures we can all enjoy these for years to come, but will save you money that could be used for future event planning.
Also, let your audience know about your green event planning efforts so they understand and support your sustainable practices.