Green Room: Zero Waste Events

School is back in session and the holidays will be here before we know it. Whether you’re looking to throw a birthday party with friends and family, or you’re a business that wants to host a banquet for employees, we encourage you to incorporate Zero Waste principles into your next event. Not only does it show your commitment to helping your community, in some cases reducing your event waste is a requirement. For example, SB 1383 aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a variety of measures including waste diversion (meaning trash that would have gone to a landfill is recycled or composted instead). So, it’s important to consider how much and what kind of waste may be generated, and to have a plan to minimize and sort it properly. 

If you’re planning for an event, no matter the size, check out our tips and resources below so you can help keep Goleta healthy and beautiful.

If you are a resident that is planning a party or event:

  • Let your guests know ahead of time that your party is inspired by Zero Waste principles. You can even start by using online invitations instead of paper ones or sticking to a text/phone call.
  • If possible, rent or borrow tables and chairs instead of purchasing ones that may not be used again. If you do want to buy furniture, check out your local Nextdoor neighborhood, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or local thrift store first to see if you can find any good deals.
  • If you need table centerpieces, use things that can be taken home by guests at the end of the event, such as potted plants (this works well for large events, too!).
  • Find ways to cut down on single-use plastics:
    • If guests will be bringing presents, encourage them to use newspaper, cloth, or reused gift bags instead of wrapping paper. You can even have a competition to see who can come up with the most creative Zero Waste wrapping!
    • You can drastically reduce your waste by opting for reusable cups, plates, silverware, and napkins.
    • Avoid using balloons – they are one of the most found pieces of trash during beach cleanups, and they are harmful to marine wildlife. Check out these recommendations for balloon alternatives.
  • Keep your recycling, food scraps, and waste bins next to each other, clearly labeled, and easy for your guests to get to.
  • Have a plan for your leftovers. Beeswax wrap and compostable bags makes a great alternative to single-use plastic bags. If you or a friend has a compost pile, you can also leave your food scraps there. If you can’t find a composting option, it’s ok! Our local ReSource Center automatically sorts through all of waste to pull out organics for composting. 

If you are a commercial business that is planning a larger event:

  • In the early planning stages of your event, make sure all event coordinators are aware that Zero Waste principles should be considered when deciding on venues/vendors.
  • Although vendors should already have waste reduction practices built into their service agreements, it’s good practice to double check for any oversights. Read Plan a Zero Waste Event from for suggestions of appropriate vendor language.
  • Educating your guests before and during the event is crucial:
    • Be sure to include Zero Waste language in your event invitations (online invites are preferred to paper). Also include Zero Waste reminders on your website and accompanying social media posts.
    • Have clear signs for your recycling, compost, and waste bins. Appropriate signage helps ensure that waste gets sorted correctly – it’s also a chance to promote your business/event as being environmentally conscious.
    • Announce your waste diversion efforts during the event. For example, “[Event Name] is helping to reduce our impact on the environment by diverting at least (50% or 75%) of our waste from the landfill. Help us reduce waste by using the Resource Recovery Stations around this event to compost and recycle. Thank you for contributing to a greener [Community Name]” (from the Zero Waste Planning Event Guide)
  • If your event includes handing out gifts, aim for giving reusable and durable items, like tumblers or canvas tote bags.

We encourage all residents and businesses to get creative with how they reduce and eliminate trash from their events. With a little extra planning, events of any size can follow Zero Waste practices and help keep Goleta beautiful.

Want a refresher on Zero Waste? Check out Zero Waste 101, or get a head start on your Zero Waste Spring Cleaning!