Staying sustainable is always in style with ‘zero waste’ events

Keith Soster
Release Date: 

Imagine hosting a business conference, reception, or organizational meeting and being able to say to your participants “This event created zero waste.

Now you can. 

MCatering and MDining zero waste events are coordinated and administered so that every item that would normally go into the waste stream is diverted into compost or recycled.  Students at convocation picnic which is zero waste event on campus

What does this mean? Just on U-M’s campus -- which has a goal to reduce waste delivered to landfills by 40 percent --  the impact is significant. U-M currently recycles one third of the waste collected on campus and is working to increase those numbers.

An example of a recent zero waste event is the freshmen convocation picnic. Each year, MDining hosts a picnic on the lawn of Angel Hall. The picnic serves the entire freshmen class, now totaling around 6000, and is usually the first impression students have of our dining program. The menu includes local and sustainable food grown within 250 miles from campus. The benefit is students get our message right from the beginning: sustainability is important and there is an expectation to behave sustainably during their time here on campus.

But zero waste wasn’t MDining’s idea: The concept came about through students who brought their concern for the environment to campus with them. Since then we’ve worked on numerous zero-waste projects and are increasing awareness about the ability to host an event that leaves a tiny carbon footprint. We currently compost in 100 percent of dining halls and campus cafes.

There is still much work to be done encouraging others to participate in environmentally sound practices. Installing the bins and signs and conveying information to the staff is the relatively easy part. The challenge is to educate the community, and encourage a call to action that makes composting and recycling a natural habit for all of us.

Our reward will be reducing the amount of waste going into landfills, reducing chemical use in soil, helping control disease, and reducing erosion and methane gas.

It’s the right thing to do.

So, next time you’re planning an event, think zero waste.  Find out more by submitting an inquiry.

Keith Soster is the Director of Student Engagement for MDining. At the core of Keith’s work is outreach, putting him in constant contact with  students, suppliers and campus stakeholders with a focus on advancing initiatives for a greener, healthier campus. He is responsible for student and community connections both on and off campus, and serves as the sustainability lead for Student Life.