Bennion Center Green Events: Going for Gold

The Bennion Center displays its Gold Certification on the buffet table to educate participants.

The Bennion Center displays its Gold Certification on the buffet table to educate participants.

By Erin Olschewski, Sustainability Resource Center

When the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center plans its events—and it plans many—one of the challenges it thinks about is how to create the greenest event possible. It considers its tableware, healthfulness of meals, and how its events teach others about sustainability.

Because of this thought process, the Bennion Center is the most consistent and most honored participant in the Sustainability Resource Center’s Green Event Certification program.

The Sustainability Resource Center offers a number of ways for students, staff, and faculty to get involved in improving the sustainability of the U campus, including the Green Event Certification program. Events can receive certificates for bronze, silver, and gold levels by completing the Green Event Certification checklist, which has points in the areas of food, transportation, marketing, and more. The program has been growing in popularity since its creation in 2012, with new departments and offices sending in checklists each year.

The Bennion Center is one of the campus groups most devoted to certifying events as green and is continually challenging itself to host even greener events. It was one of the first participants in the program, receiving a Bronze certification in September 2012. Since then, the Bennion Center has certified more than 15 green events, from its annual winter retreats to its monthly Issues & Action Luncheons.

Information on the table lets attendees know what items are in the menu, as well as other ways the Bennion Center made its event sustainable.

Information on the table lets attendees know what items are in the menu, as well as other ways the Bennion Center made its event sustainable.

In the past year, the Bennion Center has consistently earned gold status for its events. Event planners purchased reusable pie tins that are used to serve sandwiches, salads, pizza, and a number of other vegetarian meals at their events. This has made it much easier to have more sustainable events, as the investment in reusable silverware and plate ware has created new Bennion Center staples. Additionally, the center has a designated picture frame to display the event’s certificate to celebrate the achievement in sustainability as well as educate guests about the certification.

Gina Russo, assistant director and student-directed programs manager at the Bennion Center, says that it is important for the center to be an example to students, staff, and faculty and show them that there are actually a number of options and possibilities for sustainable events. She listed some of the most important reasons why the Bennion Center certifies its events as green:

  • Set an example to students, staff, community members and panelists. “We want others to know and see that it is possible and always an option to use non-disposable tableware at any event,” she says.
  • It looks nice and feels elegant, and lets guests know they are special through careful attention in meal planning, taking into consideration health, nutrition, presentation, purveyors and menus, taste, and carbon footprint.
  • Supporting the local community. “We enjoy riding our bikes or walking to a local business to buy thank you gifts,” says Russo. “We appreciate the collaborative spirit this luncheon gives us to work with University Dining and the Edible Campus Gardens, both of whom provide the raw materials (organic veggies) and value-added meals for our luncheons.”
  • Teach by example, support the Sustainability Resource Center and its initiatives, and be a change agent for the natural environment and non-renewable resources.

These are just a few of the reasons that the Bennion Center staff feel it is important to prioritize certifying events through the Sustainability Resource Center. Melea Smith, student programs coordinator, says the Green Event checklist acts reminder to consider sustainability. “This process has guided how I organize a project, which vendors I secure, and how I share these efforts with student and community volunteers,” she says.

Though it may seem challenging to achieve the Gold Certification, especially if an office hasn’t previously certified an event, it is a great opportunity to begin to integrate sustainable practices into the regular event planning agenda, Smith says. “I feel really good about the small and big ways I can help promote sustainability during Bennion Center projects and events.”

Visit the Sustainability Resource Center’s Green Certifications webpage for more information on certification participants and to download the checklist. Students and staff alike are welcome to email Erin Olschewski with any questions about the process to certify an event, or to submit a completed checklist.

Erin Olschewski is a sustainability ambassador with the Sustainability Resource Center.

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