Zero Waste Community Event Toolkit


Volunteer Recruitment & Training


A zero waste initiative for your event may be a hard sell or a “no brainer.” If an event is struggling to maintain a volunteer base or recruit volunteers for the vast number of volunteer positions available, it may be a tough sell to add people to a “green team” when the event Board of Directors is three people short of a quorum. You get the picture. On the other hand, event greening is gaining popularity. Making your event zero waste may infuse new energy to the planning committee and attract youth to assist with your event. But in order for your volunteers to help you achieve your zero waste vision, they need training.

Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in. -- Marjorie Moore, Minds Eye Information Service, Belleville, IL, USA

Your volunteers can play a variety of roles depending on your event. These roles can include the following:

  • Working with vendors and exhibitors during set-up and take-down to recycle properly.
  • Communicating recycling information during the event.
  • Monitoring recycling stations to ensure proper separation of materials.
  • Sorting materials that have been collected in the wrong bins.
  • Transporting recyclables from bins to collection points.
  • Preparing recyclables back-of-house for collection (e.g., flattening cardboard, rinsing containers, removing contaminants).
  • Surveying patrons or collecting data.

To make the most of your volunteers and to help make their experience rewarding as well, it is important to plan ahead to decide what their roles will be and how you will train them. Managing your team of volunteers will be made easier if one person is assigned to lead the team of volunteers. This volunteer coordinator may be a volunteer themselves or a paid staff person assigned to the job. The volunteer coordinator can take on a number of key roles including:

  • Recruiting, training and delegating jobs to volunteers
  • Directing signage production and/or placement
  • Tracking waste diversion rates
  • Monitoring collection sites for problems
  • Directing or responding to media requests during the event

Global Best Practice

At any event, you will have two broad areas where all of the action takes place. Behind the scenes areas are usually referred to as “back of house.” This is where vendors and exhibitors unload their goods, where food production happens, and where waste gets stored until it is taken away by your waste diversion service provider. The “front of house” is the area that event patrons see, use and enjoy. It includes the publicly-accessible waste collection sites located through your event.


Volunteers are trained and co-ordinated by Green Mary, a local contractor, to monitor bins and ensure that waste streams are kept separate. A zero waste co-ordinator or substitute was on site at all times and available by radio or cell phone in the event of issues arising that site monitors could not handle.

Learn More About This Event >>


In 2008, the Ottawa Bluesfest instituted a comprehensive recycling program to minimize waste created by the event. To better manage these programs, Bluesfest recruited volunteers for its ‘Green Team’ to inform patrons how to best participate in the festival’s green initiatives.

Zero Waste Policies