Great American Beer Festival Post-Event Sustainability Overview

A sustainability program uses several indicators to evaluate a program’s year-to-year growth. These indicators include the diversion rate (or the percent of material diverted from the landfill), the total material kept out of the landfill in weight, partner relationships, volunteers, and much more. Since 2016, the GABF has been recognized with Certifiably Green Denver (CGD) certification. More evaluation and explanation of the numbers are below.

Through the evaluation process between the GABF sustainability team and the Colorado Convention Center, we discovered avenues to build a stronger sustainability program. Most notably, we implemented new procedures to better prepare ourselves for this expanding program.

Waste Diversion by the Numbers

2023 2022 2019 2018
Diversion Rate 24% 50% 69% 70%
Total Waste Diverted 62,3740 lbs 67,840 lbs 86,300 lbs 110,180 lbs
Landfill 46,940 lbs 33,900 lbs 26,720 lbs 33,540 lbs
Recycling 13,900 lbs 33,940 lbs 23,520 lbs 27,140 lbs
Compost 1,500 lbs Contaminated 24,940 lbs 26,020 lbs
Glass Not separated Not separated 10,560 lbs 23,40 lbs
Soft Plastics Not separated Not separated 560 lbs *Landfilled due to metal clip
*In 2019, ice bags were captured with the help of volunteers who cut off the metal clip, allowing them to be recycled.

  • Switch to glass tasting cups from plastic in the past, more attendees viewed the cups as a souvenir and took them home rather than throwing in the trash.
  • All bins at PAIRED were either composted or recycled to allow for the maximization of the compostable products captured.

How Low (Impact) Can We Go?

Each year the GABF makes every attempt to lessen its impact through innovative sustainability programs. 2019 marked the 12th year of sustainability initiatives. We continue to realize strategies that lower the environmental impact though waste reduction, resource recovery, energy use and education. Partnerships with ZeroHero, Freeman Exhibit Services, Colorado Convention Center, Centerplate Catering, and the Colorado Carbon Fund help us realize our yearly goals.

Program components include:


Our relationships with key vendors ensure the program runs smoothly on-site.

  • Reuse of materials whenever possible through Freeman Exhibit Services, including signage, carpeting, column wraps and pallets.
  • Centerplate Catering, the exclusive caterer of the Convention Center, uses only compostable/recyclable items, including plates, bowls, cups, utensils, etc.
  • ZeroHero coordinates landfill diversion efforts during set up and tear down, as well as manages recovery on the docks to various waste management centers.
  • GABF will be part of the Green Meetings Industry Council’s goal to divert one million tons of trash from the landfill.


Sponsors and Exhibitors

In addition to the 800 breweries pouring in the hall, Featured Breweries and other sponsors with larger displays bring in a significant amount of material to the event.

  • Education and a Call for Participation to green the festival was sent to all companies.

Landfill Diversion

A comprehensive pre- and post-festival recycling program, including:

  • The use of Styrofoam at food outlets in the event has been banned.
  • All disposable items at GABF are recyclable or compostable. We use compostable water cups, plates and utensils. As always, the beer glass is reusable, and we hope attendees will use it for many years to come.
  • All glass and plastic bottles, cans, paper and cardboard are recycled.
  • Glass recycling included bottles being separated from single-stream recycling and taken directly to a packaging facility for reuse, foregoing multiple travel trips, sorting at various facilities and shipping to the end-user.
  • Bulk condiments are used at concession area instead of single packets.
  • All compost is processed by Alpine Waste and Recycling. This is a permitted commercial composting facility. Within 90 days, this compost will become a rich soil amendment.


  • YOU, the attendee, can help green the GABF. Please help us by putting ‘waste in its place’ and visiting the ZeroHero tents located throughout the festival to recycle or compost your waste. A friendly volunteer will greet you to help determine what goes where.
  • In order to reduce waste, we encourage you to reuse your GABF beer glass in between tastings at one of the many water stations located throughout the festival. If you have to use one of the cups provided at the water station, make sure it ends up in the compost when you are finished.

Reduced Carbon Footprint

  • Offset your carbon to and from the festival by calculating your footprint with the Denver Event CO2e Emissions Calculation Tool and offsetting your carbon through the Colorado Carbon Fund.
  • GABF has offset our carbon footprint through the Colorado Carbon Fund. Donations help fund carbon mitigation and community benefit projects right here in Colorado.
  • Hybrid taxis will be available after each session as part of the GABF move toward sustainability.
  • House lights are kept at 50% during the show.

The GABF sustainability program is one of the leading programs in the country.  We’re excited by the prospect of another year of growth, learning and waste diversion. Thank you for continued your support!