Green Guide to Event Planning

Whether you are planning a luncheon for your office or a large catered event, you can enhance campus sustainability and reduce costs by using this guide. Please contact our office if there is anything we can do to assist you in greening your event.

Advertising & Printed Materials

Reduce paper use by posting event information, downloadable versions of programs, handouts, and itineraries on a web site for event participants. Limit the number of printed items and print them double-sided on recycled paper. For recurring or annual events, avoid printing dates and slogans on signs, posters, and banners so that they may be easily reused. Require participants to register or RSVP electronically.  Include information about the sustainable aspects of your event in the program or promotional materials. This could include placing small cards in front of the food indicating information such as organic, local, or fair trade.

Choosing a location & Caterer

Hosting events on campus reduces the environmental impact of transportation. Private dining areas are available in Café de Grasta, Legends, North and South Dining Hall, and LaFortune. If the event is not walking distance from campus, provide routes and schedules for public transportation options. Choose a local caterer and one that offers local and vegetarian menu options and reusable dishes, such as Catering…by Design. Offer virtual conferencing. Make your event available as a Webinar or video conference for attendees who are not local. Contact Jeff Miller at 631-6850 or for assistance.

Choosing Food

Vegetarian Options

The meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all the cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined. From a carbon perspective, chicken is 8 times better than beef and vegetarian dishes are 17 times better than chicken. Serving chicken instead of beef and offering more vegetarian and fewer meat dishes can significantly reduce environmental impact.

Sustainable Seafood

Some seafood choices are better than others: Marine Stewardship Council certification means that the fish species are not endangered and fishing practices do not damage habitats. The following MSC certified wild seafood selections are available from NDFS: Tilapia, Catfish, Wild Alaskan Salmon, Alaskan Halibut, and Dungeness Crab. Many types of farmed seafood are good choices as well: consult the Right Bite guide for details.

Local & Seasonal Products

Purchasing local foods in-season eliminates fuel used for long-distance shipping, plus you get fresher products. Purchasing locally grown products benefits local farmers and the broader local economy. Fresh fruit is a good choice in the summer and fall, while root vegetable trays are better choices in the winter. Notre Dame Food Services can provide many local options: over 40% of their annual purchases are produced in Indiana, neighboring states, or Wisconsin.


Choose Fair Trade, Shade Grown coffee. Fair Trade coffee ensures farmers receive a fair price for the coffee and ensures fair labor conditions. Shade grown coffee helps protect rainforests and bird habitat and requires fewer chemicals. NDFS & Catering by Design purchase Fair Trade coffee from a local company, Michigan-based Paramount Coffee, which reduces transportation impacts.

Waste Reduction

Choose reusable dishware for your event. Catering by Design charges approximately the same for china dishes and glasses as for paper and plastic. Use cloth tablecloths and napkins if possible. Avoid individually packaged items including condiments, creamer, plastic silverware, and boxed lunches. Use sustainable table centerpieces, such as potted plants, local/pesticide free flowers, cut tree branches, candles, or fruits that guests can take home and reuse. If you’re having a buffet, use smaller than dinner sized plates for the food. This practice discourages people from taking more than they can eat. Collect and reuse plastic name tag holders.


If you use any disposables at your event, ensure there are two recycling containers for each trash container. If working with Catering…by Design, they will provide recycling containers and dispose of the recycling in accordance with the University single stream program. If working with another caterer, request the appropriate number of recycling bins from Pat O’Hara ( / 631-6383) and ensure that catering staff know what can be recycled. Coordinate with a local food bank or soup kitchen to donate any left-over food.