Is your event truly sustainable? Are you measuring the impact your event has on the environment and your local community? Do you want to reduce the negative footprint your conference or trade show has? If you’re even a little concerned about sustainability, then this article is for you.
Totes bag instead of plastic bags, programs printed on recycled paper, reusable cutlery … what else comes to mind when you hear the words “sustainable events?”
Considering the alarming news about climate change and the increasing quantities of waste we’re producing, more and more people and brands are becoming more mindful of their impact on the environment and the consumerist tendencies we’ve developed in the West.
The events industry is no exception.
According to the 2019 Skift report “The Sustainable Future of Meetings and Events,” “When it comes to sustainability, the meetings and events sector is doing much more than simply going green.”
For example, venues are working on reducing their environmental footprint as well as creating new business models.
Meanwhile, stakeholders are searching for new ways to engage attendees, while host organizations are focusing on creating a lasting community impact.
The same report highlights, “All of these changes are representative of a sector-wide effort underway to both reduce the climate impact of events and grow the already massive business of in-person meetings well into the future.”
But what about us, event professionals and corporate departments who plan and run conferences, trade fairs, and seminars?
What can we personally do to decrease the negative impact of our events and make sure they’re as sustainable as possible?
Are tote bags and recycled paper enough to call an event “sustainable?”
Is there anything else you can do?
To help you answer this question, we’ve put together a series of steps you’ll want to take to plan and run sustainable events.
Tip #1. Make it local
Like it or not, travel is one of the biggest industries in terms of environmental impact. That’s why planning international events or inviting international guests to your event is not sustainable at all.
Think about their air travel carbon footprint, especially if the distances aren’t too long.
Why is a long flight better than a short one, you might be asking?
According to an article published by The New York Times, “The longer the distance, the more efficient flying becomes, because cruising requires less fuel than other stages of flight.”
Now, if it’s possible and you can choose, go for a local event, with local attendees and speakers.
Obviously, this is not a very easy task to accomplish; however, you’ll diminish your event’s negative impact on the environment.
Tip #2. Involve local suppliers
Sustainability is not just about the environment, but also about social responsibility and helping local communities grow and flourish.
So whether you’re planning a national or international event, be sure to involve local providers. Whether it’s the design office, the catering company, or the audiovisual team, think about using local services instead of outsourcing to international companies that happen to have their headquarters in the city where you’ll be holding the event.
Tip #3. Choose natural light
Searching for a nice venue is extremely important. After all, there’s no shortage of data showing how space can influence the way people feel.
However, when deciding which venue to rent, there’s one thing to have in mind: Go for one that offers plenty of natural light.
We’re all quite familiar with claustrophobic venues with no windows and artificial light.
To make sure your event is sustainable, you’ll want to avoid that.
Natural light will not only improve your attendees’ mood and make them feel more energized and engaged, but also helps you save money and reduce your event’s carbon footprint.
Tip #4. Have an event waste plan
Like it or not, every single event generates plenty of waste.
From biodegradable cups to paper programs, there are plenty of things you’ll be throwing away (some of them not being eco-friendly at all).
According to the Event Manager Blog, “On average, a single guest discards 1.89kg of waste per day, of which 1.16kg is landfill materials. To put this into perspective, that’s the equivalent of 2.6 (or 3480 kg) weight of compact cars for a 3-day 1000 person event going to landfill each time.”
So when you’re planning the event, figure out how to manage waste, which means putting a recycling process into place.
The goal is to help your attendees recycle and maintain the venue easily.
Determine how many recycling bins to have throughout the venue and how to encourage your guests to be aware of the waste they’re producing.
Apart from that, you may want to decide how to handle any catering leftovers, such as donating them to a local shelter.
Be aware when planning your event
Designing a sustainable event is difficult not because of all the endless little details, but because of our lack of practice. So don’t judge yourself harshly if you can’t or aren’t able to plan a 100% sustainable event just yet. This takes time and plenty of things to consider, and sometimes, it’s just not possible.
But keep at it, and with each event you’ll become more and more aware of the impact of your actions. Let’s keep the environment clean and be more mindful of our actions. Ultimately, this is what will make us truly professionals.