This year, Gonzaga University’s Office of Sustainability will launch a new initiative to help university-sponsored events become more environmentally friendly. The program, dubbed the Green Event Certification Scheme, creates a checklist for GU-sponsored events to reduce waste and carbon emissions.
According to Jim Simon, Director of Sustainability, the initiative was conceived by GU students as part of the Student Sustainability Leadership Program (SSLP), a program established in 2018 that provides students with opportunities to learn and grow in sustainable development efforts. He said he hopes the plan will put GU on track to become an environmentally neutral campus by 2050.
In the spring of 2022, SSLP students wanted to create a program that would help reduce waste at GU-sponsored events and clubs, so they worked to develop the Green Event Certification Plan.
“The goal of the Green Events Certification Program is to reduce the environmental footprint of Gonzaga events and raise awareness of the contribution that local shopping, transportation alternatives and waste reduction efforts can have on our events on campus,” Simon said.
Megan Hawley, manager of Gonzaga University’s event service team (GUEST), said when the Office of Sustainability approached GUEST with the green certification plan, it seemed like an incredible opportunity for the team to working with event planners on sustainability measures.
“I anticipate that the GUEST team will work with event planners to accurately plan their events to ensure food orders are sized correctly, supplies are used wisely and additional resources are shared. when possible,” Hawley said via email.
Hawley said she appreciated being able to rely on the Office of Sustainability as experts while using the new green certification tool.
“The GUEST team, GU Clubs and other departments can be confident that we all meet the highest standards when we work together and use the same information to guide us,” Hawley said.
Simon is currently helping to facilitate the certification program. He said the Green Events Certification Scheme operates like a game in which events earn points based on their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint in the categories of food and catering, waste, transportation and coordination and planning.
To earn points in the food and catering category, an event must have food sourced from local areas, vegan food options, food purchased based on an RSVP list, excess food donations, no bottles of plastic water and should only use reusable utensils.
The second category – waste prevention – allows zero waste events to earn points, while further points are earned by holding a recycling bin, compost bin and posting clear signage describing how to sort collected waste .
The third category – transportation – is crucial to reducing GU’s carbon footprint, according to Simon. An event can earn points by offering a virtual option to attend the event and encouraging guests to walk or carpool.
The final category – coordination and planning – focuses on how events chose green alternatives, awarding points to events deemed most effective. Have an RSVP list, virtual advertising instead of flyers, print flyers on clean paper on one side or paper with recycled content, recycle or reuse unused materials, refrain from putting dates on flyers if the event is recurring, reusing decorations and many other options are ways to make events more sustainable, according to Simon.
According to Hawley, she hopes the GUEST team’s new approach to planning events in a conscious and purposeful way will hopefully have a big impact while simultaneously reflecting GU’s commitment to caring for a common home.
“The GUEST team is ready to help guide conversations around event planning,” said Hawley. “We hope to see this new program being embraced by students, faculty and staff at all of their events, from weekly meetings to galas.”
Hawley said sustainability is a cornerstone of GU’s culture.
“As a Jesuit institution, it is important that our values live in our daily actions. Hawley said the process of creating positive outcomes is in how we work together to make decisions and how we hold each other accountable.”
Kaelyn New is editor-in-chief. Follow her on Twitter: @kaelyn_new
Brooke Bowen is an editor.