Guidelines sustainable events

Want to organize an event sustainably? These tips can get you started. Some will be more applicable to larger events, such as multi-day conferences. Other suggestions are aimed primarily at organizers of smaller events. Show your guests that you consider sustainability important!


The location is the first important step towards a sustainable event!

  • Choose a location that is accessible by public transport.
  • Choose a location with an appropriate size for your event. A location that is too large often requires more energy for lighting and heating.
  • Warn guests to bring appropriate clothing to avoid unnecessary heating or cooling.
  • If many international guests will be attending, consider the geographic distribution of participants when choosing a host city.
  • Reflect on the possibility of having (parts of) the event take place virtually so that participants do not have to travel. Provide a hybrid format.
  • Try to organize multiple events together or connecting meetings to minimize the impact and cost of mobility.
  • If your guests need to stay overnight for your event, refer them to a hotel or hostel with a sustainability label such as the Green Key label.


Transportation is often responsible for a large part of the environmental impact of an event. Certainly airplane travel is very damaging to the environment, so try to limit the need for participants to fly in the first place.

  • Let the sustainable travel policy of UGent apply as much as possible. Let your guests know what UGent is committed to:
    • Avoid as much as possible the need to travel. Reflect on the possibility of having (parts of) the event take place virtually so that participants do not have to travel.
    • If you can get to your destination by train or bus within the 8h, we will do this. Inform the guests about the possibilities.
    • CO2 emissions from air travel are compensated at a minimum of 50 EUR per ton through a certified compensation project.
  • Take the lead in international research partnerships by making agreements in advance about travel behavior. Here is an example of a charter.
  • Inform the guests on how to reach the location. Make sure the most sustainable option is also the easiest option. Include a map with the nearest train stations, bus stops, bicycle parking, charging stations for electric bikes and cars, ... If you expect that a large proportion of the guests will come by car, facilitate the formation of carpooling groups.
  • Choose local suppliers and caterers who do not have to travel far for their services and who offer their services with a sustainable transport method such as Cargovelo.

Food and Drink

Check out your caterer's products as well. Plant-based dishes and meat substitutes reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are healthier too. Take the opportunity to let people taste (for the first time) a tasty and sustainable alternative.

  • At least follow the policy on sustainable catering: at least 50% varied veggie offerings, only fish with a label and with a plant-based diet and no meat from ruminants. But it would be great if you could go a step further and opt for 100% vegetarian or even 100% vegan catering...
  • When you ask for the dietary preferences of your guests in advance, use vegetarian or, even better, vegan as your default choice. Explain why you are doing this. That way you'll get the majority of people, who don't mind eating vegetarian but "don't want to be difficult," to go along.
  • Choose fair trade coffee and tea. Purchase this through the framework contract, or make this a requirement of your caterer. Ask for a bottle of milk and a pot of sugar instead of small milks, sugars, cookies, etc. to avoid waste.
  • Offer tap water instead of bottled water.
  • Think in advance about what will happen to any food leftovers (food savers?) or make arrangements with the caterer.
  • Remind the guests that it is better to come and get a second portion than to take a too large first portion. This way you avoid non-reusable food surpluses.


A thoughtful waste plan will ensure less plastic in the oceans, less fossil fuels, less material in the incinerator, and less litter in our environment. By also thinking consciously about the materials that are used and their possible reuse, you, as the organizer of a low-waste event, also contribute to the transition to a disposable-free society.

Preventing waste

  • Take into account the number of participants. Calculate how much of a certain product you need, think about the duration of the event and ask yourself if the materials you want to request are useful and necessary. This will often prevent a lot of unwanted surplus and you will also save a lot of costs.
  • With every purchase, check whether it is possible to borrow the product somewhere. This is not only good for the environment, but also saves a lot of money. On the DICT website you can already borrow microphones, cameras, etc.
  • Avoid handing out gadgets and goodie bags at the event. Often these items just end up in the trash or are barely used (even the cloth bag!). If you do decide to hand out a small gift, think about sustainable alternatives and let people choose them themselves (dopper bottle, coffee cup, local product, ...).
  • Avoid balloons and try not to use helium balloons. Helium is a scarce gas and lost balloons cause long-term damage to animals and the environment.
  • Avoid the use of excess paper at your event by carefully and consciously handling post-its, bundles, advertising flyers, ...
  • Use whiteboards and (non-toxic) markers, or digital alternatives, instead of paper. If you do use paper, reuse e.g. the back of old posters.
  • When using banners and other decorations, clothing... When using banners, and other decorations, clothing, etc., make sure that they do not contain dates or other specific information, so that the materials can still be used for later editions.
  • Set up a system, e.g. at the faculty level, whereby name tag holders can be reused after the event. For example, put boxes at the end of the event where participants can leave their badges so they can be reused later.

Reusable cups, dishes, etc.

When food and drinks are served at the event, this often involves a lot of waste. If you are using a caterer, make sure to make proper arrangements to avoid excess waste. Also take the following into account:

  • Use water carafes instead of bottled water. Bottled water is not only much more expensive than tap water, but it is also much better for the environment. In addition, tap water in Belgium is 100% potable.
  • Use large bottles, or better still post-mix systems (syrups based on tap water).
  • Encourage the guests to bring their own drinking bottle, coffee bag, etc. to bring along. This also avoids confusion about whose cup it was.
  • Choose reusable mugs, cups, cutlery, plates, etc. Only provide straws for drinks when explicitly requested. Make it a condition of your caterer or rent it from e.g. Re-Uz, LeviPartyRental, ...
  • When snacks are provided, choose snacks without packaging such as fresh fruit, cookies from a box, etc.
  • Choose linen, FSC-labeled and/or recycled napkins.
  • Ban plastic wrap and replace with reusable trays, baskets, jars or boxes.


  • Sort PMD, paper, VGF and residual waste immediately at the event itself. Insist on this from the caterer as well.
  • Make sure it is clearly indicated which waste fraction goes in which bin. Also bear in mind that international guests may not be aware of our sorting guidelines, so provide sufficient information.

Promotion and communication

An event involves a great deal of communication, and here too, smart planning and creative thinking can have a great impact on the environment. Apart from the promotion and information about the event itself, it is also important to communicate about the sustainability aspect. This ensures that the participants know in what way they can actively contribute, but also that after the event itself they are able to integrate sustainability into their own events or daily lives.

Communication about the event.

  • Try to minimize the number of posters, flyers, etc. and consider electronic alternatives.
  • Have invitations and registrations done digitally.
  • Provide digital alternatives to overly elaborate information brochures and documentation folders.
  • If you do print, choose recycled, FSC-labelled, chlorine-free paper and print recto verso with environmentally friendly printing ink, in an appropriate format.
  • Try to avoid disposable promotional materials. If you do hand out promotional material, preferably choose useful and sustainable products.

Sustainability communication and awareness

  • Immediately include the organization's sustainability efforts in your promotion.
  • Provide information about certain 'sustainable choices' during the event. This ensures more understanding for certain measures, for example when you explain why no gadgets are handed out. It also gives insight into the impact of certain decisions, such as when you provide information about which caterer was chosen and why, etc.
  • Where possible, measure and evaluate the impact of certain measures (for example: number of disposable cups saved, flights avoided,...) and communicate this to the participants after the event.


Sustainability is about more than just environmental impact. To ensure that the event is enjoyable for all participants, attention to inclusiveness and to the diverse backgrounds of participants and speakers is very important.

  • When putting together the program, consider diversity in speakers and topics covered.
  • Consider the accessibility of the event and provide clear information to participants.
  • Actively ask at registration if there are certain needs for support (interpreters, wheelchair assistance, ...) and follow these up during the event.
  • Take into account the various religious and philosophical backgrounds of participants. Consider, for example, adapted diets or awareness around certain fasting periods or holidays.
  • Provide scholarships or financial support for individuals or groups who need it.
  • Where possible, organize (parts of) the event in a hybrid format, so that interested parties without time or means to travel can also participate.