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Green your catering

Catered events can generate a substantial amount of  waste, such as platters, disposable plates and utensils, cans and bottles, most of which can be avoided. Consider the following tips to reduce waste from your next catered event.


  • Order smart:  ask your guests to RSVP (and include a deadline) and base the food order on the number of guests you expect.  
  • Consider your trash and recycling needs. Make it easy for your guests to recycle by placing the recycling bin and the trash can next to each other and identifying them with signs. For additional recycling bins, submit a request using Atlas. Or, use an empty container or tray lids to collect recyclables then transfer them to an appropriate bin afterwards.
  • Avoid wasteful "box lunches" that many caterers offer. These individual servings create piles of wasteful packaging. Instead, opt for large platters of sandwiches, “finger foods” and salads and provide clearly marked recycling bins at your events.  For more upscale events, use washable plates, flatware and glasses.
  • Replace bottled water with pitchers of water or dispensing water stations.  
  • Request that beverages, condiments, and other items be provided in bulk instead of individually packaged.
  • Use cloth napkins and table cloths or buy paper products made with recycled content. Ask your caterer to do the same.
  • Avoid "Styrofoam" plates: they cannot be recycled. If you can't use paper plates or reusable ones, use numbered plastic plates and recycle them in any MIT "cans and bottles" recycling bin.
  • Some caterers offer biodegradable plates, utensils, and cups. These should all go in the trash after your event, not the recycling bin. Basil Tree is one company that offers biodegradables.
  • Go organic! If organic is not available, the next best choice is local produce. You will be supporting local farmers and less energy and fossil fuels will be expended in transportation.


  • Request that your caterer take back their platters and lids and reuse them. Or, save these platters and lids for your own office coffee breaks and brownbag/potluck events.
  • Request that your caterer green their operations by recycling as much as possible, composting food scraps, reducing wasteful disposables, and donating leftovers to food pantries.
  • Instead of using disposables, rent or borrow infrequently used items like punchbowls or large platters. Rent dishes and silverware. Dishes do not have to be returned clean, just scraped free of food. Try Peterson Partycenter: 781-729-4000, Email: or Be Our Guest Party Rentals: 617-427-2700.
  • Post leftovers to, giving the location, the quantity, and the type of leftovers.


  • Recycle ALL plastics in your local "cans and bottles" bin, including catering platters and lids, plastic plates, and plastic utensils. These items do not have to be perfectly clean, just wiped or scraped free of food.
  • Refuse plastic bags for food pickup/takeout, but if you do have them, recycle plastic bags. Do not include cling wrap, food packaging, or bio-based/compostable bags.
  • Make a friendly announcement at the beginning of the event, instructing attendees which items are recyclable, which are trash, and what bin each item should go in.

Green your promotion

  • Rather than sending paper invitations, send email and/or set up a website. If you must use paper invitations, print them on recycled content paper with soy- or bio-based inks.
  • For handouts and agendas use recycled content paper with post consumer content (we recommend Office Depot Item # 940650) and identify the recycled content percentage on the handouts. Print and copy double sided.

Green your transportation

  • Encourage attendees to take public transportation to the MIT campus.
  • Encourage attendees to use PlanetTran, a taxi service that uses the hybrid electric/gas Toyota Prius exclusively. Round trips from MIT to Logan Airport are around $64 including tips and tolls. For other destinations, the MIT Community receives a 15% discount and MIT students receive a 25% discount. Payment options include cash, credit card, or monthly billing. For MIT-specific quotes or reservations, call 877-ECO-TAXI (326-8294) or visit
  • Purchase carbon offsets for attendees traveling to/from a conference or event.