Julia Rutherford Silvers, CSEP

Certified Special Events Professional

Event Management Authority

Like angels and elephants dancing on the head of a pin, our dreams and responsibilities may have no limits, but must be balanced according to the music of the moment.









The “Re” of Sustainability

10 April 2011


Recycling symbol.svg 


Wikimedia Commons

Recycling has become almost an imperative for events. Event organizers, and their clients and attendees, are integrating waste management and other strategies that support “green” initiatives and sustainability programs that promote the protection of the earth’s natural resources. These begin with the familiar tri-part strategy of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

Reduce – minimizing waste by selecting products and procedures that require less energy or material.

Reuse – selecting products or materials that can be used more than one time.

Recycle – separating and collecting waste that can be recycled such as paper, plastics, aluminum cans, etc. so that they can be reprocessed into new material for creating new products.

Another set of “Re” strategies gaining recognition include those pertaining to sustainability practices that may require more thought and effort than the standard waste disposal hierarchy above, as well as an understanding of the “cradle-to-grave” impact of products.


Redirect – changing the destination of waste to a more environmentally-friendly disposal outlet, such as food waste used for composting or as feed for farm animals.

Repurpose – finding ways for waste to serve a different purpose or meet a different need, such as donating unused conference bags and décor or other materials to schools or charitable agencies (e.g. http://www.greenervegas.org/).

Rethink – exploring ways for doing things differently that lessen or eliminate waste and pollution, such as electronic instead of paper-based brochures or bulk water stations instead of individual bottled water.

Refuse – establishing procurement policies and operating procedures that prohibit certain materials and practices that generate waste or pollution, such as mandating local sourcing or prohibiting plastic bags.

Below are some more “Re” ideas for meetings and events, and event organizations. If you have examples or suggestions to add, please email them to me for inclusion in this list (with attribution of course).


Reallocate – modify budget, site plan, or staffing plan to allocate money, space, and human resources to accommodate recycling and other “green” activities.

Rebate – consider offering a small rebate or deposit redemption program for attendees returning reusable items, such as name tag holders at a conference.

Recommend – suggest ways in which attendees or vendors can reduce, reuse, or recycle event-related materials, and promote environmentally-responsible vendors to others.

Recover – salvage useful or reusable components of décor or equipment before disposal, such as lumber, fittings, fabric, etc.

Recruit – seek out strategic alliances (sponsors, endorsements, etc.) with environmentally responsible companies and highlight their alignment with your event goals.

Re-evaluate – analyze the product life cycle of the goods and services you procure so you can devise strategies to reduce environmental impact, such as locally grown food stuffs, renting instead of purchasing equipment, or products made of post-consumer recycled content.

Refer – provide event goers with resources where they can find more information about your “green” initiatives and other ideas.

Refurbish – update and spruce up décor items or furnishings rather than dispose of them.

Regulate – establish rules for event participants or vendors that have penalties or negative consequences for those who generate or leave too much waste (e.g. leaving unused boxes of printed materials in an exhibit booth) or dispose of it improperly (e.g. dumping waste water on the ground).

Relocate – move your event to a new location if the land or venue use has the potential to cause or has begun to cause harm to a habitat or community.

Remind – use visual and audible reminders about recycling programs, locations, and instructions during an event.

Remove – eliminate physical and psychological obstacles to participation in your “green” initiatives, such as hard-to-find recycling bins or poorly maintained water stations.

Renew – use renewable resources for products, such as bamboo, sustainable seafood, soy products, etc.

Replace – find energy-efficient alternatives for standard products, such as low-energy lighting fixtures, EnergyStar office equipment, etc.

Replenish – consider smaller buffet or self-service displays instead of putting all the food or beverages out at once so there is less waste and cost (if consumption based).

Replicate – look at what other events are doing and incorporate their successful ideas into your event plan.

Report – measure and communicate quantifiable success to your stakeholders and event publics.

Request – establish feedback systems that ask your stakeholders and attendees for ideas to reduce waste.

Resell – donate gently-used items to charity-based resale outlets.

Resist – don’t be tempted to try the “latest thing” without first evaluating its possible environmental, social, and economic impact.

Resolve – make a commitment to incorporate social responsibility into your event activities.

Respect – be sensitive to issues regarding the cultural acceptability of “green” practices before you implement them.

Restrict – establish limits on what and how much may be brought into, used, and left at an event site.

Return – make certain that land or facilities used for an event are in as good or better condition than they were before the event.

Review – take a good strong look at your business plan so you can address any economic challenges to your ability to stay in business.

Reward – consider incentives for employees or suppliers who come up with useful sustainability ideas.

©2001-2016, Julia Rutherford Silvers, CSEP. Albuquerque, NM, USA. All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use & Disclaimer