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Admin Assistants Resource Guide: Event Planning

Planning A (Sustainable) Event

Local Caterers:

  • Sebastian's Cambridge - (888) 563-8334
  • Cosi Cambridge - (617) 868-5810
    • PLEASE NOTE: Cosi is now offering 10% off the total of your MIT catering order if the order is $200 or more.  Just make sure the order is properly labeled as being for MIT.
  • 100 Main - (617) 253-0168
    • PLEASE NOTE: This vendor only does drop off catering to buildings E40, E51, E52, E53, E60, and E62. Pickup is available regardless of event location.

Sustainable Caterers: These caterers use biodegradable or reusable flatware, serving dishes, plates, tablecloths, and have composting services. They work with local food banks for distribution of leftover food and have cooking oil re-use programs. Each may have all or some of these attributes; please inquire with the vendor. (Requests for biodegradable goods may incur an upcharge.)

How to host a sustainable event:

  • Start out on MIT’s Office of Sustainability website. Get your event certified and display the badge with pride! The process will guide you through all the actions you can take: http://sustainability.mit.edu/sustainable events
  • Order smart: ask your guests to RSVP (include a deadline) and base the food order on the number of guests you expect.
  • Consider your compost, trash and recycling needs. Make it easy for your guests to sort their disposables by clearly labeling bins and making a friendly announcement at the start of the event about which items can be composted, recycled or thrown in the trash.
  • To request extra composting, recycling and trash bins, submit a work request through Atlas. Place the composting bin, recycling bin and the trash can next to each other and use signs to identify which items should go in which bins.
  • If possible, avoid "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 and beverages with pitchers of water or dispensing water stations. Prior to the event send guests a message encouraging them to bring their own reusable beverage bottles.
  • Request condiments, and other items be provided in bulk instead of individually packaged.
  • Reuse clean napkins utensils, plates, cups and table cloths from previous events.
  • Buy compostable cutlery and paper products in bulk through Staples or Amazon (NOTE: compostable foodware cannot to tossed into composting bins, they must be free of food residue and tossed into the trash)
  • Avoid "Styrofoam" plates: they cannot be recycled.
  • 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.
  • Some caterers offer biodegradable plates, utensils, and cups. These should all go in the trash after your event, not the recycling or composting bin. Basil Tree is one company that offers biodegradable products.
  • Request that your caterer take back their platters and lids or save and reuse them for future events.
  • Instead of using disposables, rent or borrow infrequently used items like table cloths, punch bowls or large platters. Rent dishes and silverware. Dishes do not have to be returned clean, just scraped free of food.
    • Try: Peterson Party Center: 781-729-4000, Email: sales@ppcinc.com or Be Our Guest Party Rentals: 617-427-2700.
  • Encourage guests to take home leftovers or bring leftovers back to the closest library for staff and student workers. If left for staff, please ask them whether they’ll dispose of the leftovers later or whether you should stop back for clean-up at a later time.
  • Post leftovers to free-food@mit.edu, giving the location, the quantity, and the type of leftovers

Event checklist

  • Place hold on guest calendars/send out event invitation
  • Room rental - Contact the appropriate scheduling office for availability and application process
  • Determine equipment needs:
    • A/V Equipment: MIT AV
      • Microphones
      • Podiums
      • Projector
    • Chairs and Tables
    • Lighting
    • Staging and Risers
    • Flipcharts/Chalkboards
    • Trash/Recycling
    • Misc materials - markers, pens, note pads, etc.
  • Determine headcount
  • Contact caterer
  • Gather materials and event supplies