AASHE Student Diary Series: Greening Campus Events
Susie Choi, co-program coordinator for the Green Events Consulting team at Stanford University (CA), is featured in this installment of the AASHE Bulletin Sustainability Student Diary series. She shares why and how the team began working to green campus events, with a peek at their efforts to green the Stanford Association for International Development annual conference. AASHE welcomes questions and invites feedback on each Sustainability Student Diary entry. Submit diary entries of your own for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Green Events Consulting (GEC) is a student initiative that was established in fall of 2010 under the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU), Stanford University’s student government. GEC’s goal is to promote sustainability on campus by helping student groups make their events as “green” as possible, focusing on the four major event-planning areas: advertising, food, purchasing and waste disposal.
We carry out our mission by assigning consultants, students we have recruited and trained for this position, to student groups participating in our program; these consultants take student groups step-by-step through the event-planning process so that they will make sustainable decisions and purchases. By advising these groups, we hope not only that their specific events will become cleaner, but also that the students themselves will learn about and understand the importance of sustainability.
GEC came about because we realized that although students are interested in hosting green events, they are unaware of the resources present on campus, the thought of implementing a more sustainable event is daunting, and they do not know where or how to start. We created our program to help students overcome these problems that we identified. GEC wants to serve the Stanford community and help students implement their ideal event, and we offer ourselves as an educational resource.
Student groups that are participating in our program include: Dance Marathon, Stanford Association for International Development, Alternative Spring Break, Relay for Life, Sigma Gamma Rho, Stanford Alpine Project, and Stanford Educational Studies Program.
We recently worked with the Stanford Association for International Development (SAID) to green its annual conference, which was on the topic of innovation in bottom-up development. There were approximately 300 attendees, and the conference was a half-day event. As mentioned earlier, we focus mainly on making the advertising, food, purchasing and waste disposal aspects of an event as sustainable as possible; in order to do so, we worked with SAID’s leadership team for the month and a half leading up to the event date.
Our work mostly involved gathering details about the event, learning what decisions if any had already been made by the team, and then pinpointing areas that could be improved. Some areas of focus included: purchasing compostable rather than disposable utensils, implementing composting at the event and purchasing organic food from local caterers. We also encouraged e-fliering and use of media outlets (e.g. Facebook and the student group’s website) as alternatives to paper fliering.
In order to come up with specific recommendations based on these general ideas, the consultants working on the SAID project conducted research and then found various options of compostable materials and caterers, as well as their prices and the cost differences between the sustainable and non-sustainable alternatives. With this data, the consultants then went back and forth with SAID’s leadership team to determine what options would be best for the event and to settle on the amount of food or the number of plates, for example, that SAID would purchase.
The bulk of GEC’s role involved pinpointing areas of the event to improve, conducting research to find sustainable alternatives, communicating with the student group regarding those alternatives and their implications, and then finalizing recommendations for the event based on what was agreed upon between SAID and GEC. The consultants also attended the event to ensure that all recommendations were implemented, to monitor waste stations and educate event attendees about the conference’s green status. The consultants also made note of any changes that could be made to next year’s event.
This account of GEC’s experience with SAID offers a glimpse into the program’s consulting process and how it assists student groups. We look forward to continuing to make a positive impact on our campus by helping other student groups on their path towards sustainability.
AASHE Note: For a comprehensive look at the team's green approaches to event planning, check out its 2011 Executive Summary Handbook of sustainable event recommendations for student groups. This guide brings additional student perspectives to Stanford’s official green event guidelines published by the Office of Sustainability in early 2010, Greening Events at Stanford: A Practice Guide for Sustainable Campus Events.
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