Zero waste events – a work in progress

What materials can we do away with?

  • Invitations/Communications (most) can go as an email with explicit instructions not to print as far as possible.
  • Participants travelling by train should travel without printing their tickets as Indian Railways allows and recommends it.
  • Directions to the Event venues need not be printed by participants
  • In-case volunteers are posted at Railway Stations and Airports, for their means of identification printed cards for each person is not needed but just a standard poster with maybe the Event written will suffice. Even better would be that the volunteers are identified by specific clothes like t-shirts etc. This could then be communicated to the participants.
  • Vehicles for the Event need not have the Event printed and posted or an alternative could be used like recycled paper or discarded packaging material (like cardboard/inside of a tetra-pack)
  • The welcome pack of the Event should have as minimal printouts as possible.  We believe with the extensive use of technology today, digital copies will be fine with people as long as they are communicated about the rationale in advance.
  • The bag (that might be given) could be locally woven using natural fibres or recycled materials and explicitly mentioned for its sustainability and equity.
  • It would be great if the participants brought their own pens or pens made out of recycled material can be sourced.  The same holds true for writing pads and plastic folder too. We are getting more and more used to getting a welcome pack of paper pen and folder which we could easily do away with if everyone came with their own.
  • For name tags, discarded materials like inside of a tetra pack works great and looks pretty cool.
  • A conscious effort is made not to use Flexs. Banners promote local livelihoods too, banners can be made of recycled cloth like old bedsheets, table covers etc.
  • Group work could use green board or look at means of limiting the use of paper for group work presentation. In any case more and more people work on power points for their group work presentation which should be promoted.
  • All materials emerging from the THE EVENT could be circulated online or circulated amongst participants through pen drives/drop box instead of printing or using CDs.
  • Conference releases/gifts etc should be wrapped in recycled paper or paper and not plastic wrappers


  • Food should be sourced as far as possible locally which reduces its carbon foot print and supports local economy. Looking at it from the slow food perspective would be great.
  • Use of locally produced biscuits or other snacks instead of packaged snacks could be used.
  • No throw away plastic or paper products are used to serve food and beverages
  •  Food waste could be linked well in advance with people who rear cattle/pigs as feed
  • Peels could be composted and maybe a local organisation could initiate it and highlight it as a means of addressing bio-degradable waste. A good media campaign could be initiated so that the larger community could take home composting forward if in-case the local community does not have a strong composting culture.
  • At the conference instead of sweets in wrapping paper local hard boiled sweets could be used removing the notion of wrapping paper waste.


  • Instead of bottled water, boiled and filtered water kept at strategic places would totally reduce the use of PET bottles which are definitely a fall out of summits and workshops. Along with this, provisions of glass or steel tumblers instead of plastic/paper cups. Amazing would be if all the participants would come with their own drinking bottles. This non-use of bottled water should extend to hotels and field visits too.
  • Rain water and grey water use should be promoted. If provisions are not there at the venue, possibilities of temporary structures could be looked into which then can be a take away for the venue on the long run. This could be applicable to homestays/hotels/guest houses


  • Use of electricity should be optimised in terms of technology and the simplest of it being switching it off when not in use
  • Car pools would be great from pick-ups to drops to make best use of cars plying. This does require some co-ordination but nothing impossible. This should include pick up and drops from airports and train stations.

About beautifuldarjeelinghills

a development worker journeying in the Beautiful Darjeeling Hills with special interest in environment and equity
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