Creating an event that is awesome and green is not mutually exclusive. It shouldn’t be one or the other as it is possible to combine both. True, going green requires extra work at the beginning, but once there are processes in place, they can be gratifying. To aid your transition to sustainable meetings and events, we’re sharing ways to create green policies with ease. The tips will help you maintain low overheads while also creating a great experience.
Sustainable event management explained
ISO 20121 defines sustainable event management as the process of integrating environmental and social responsibility issues into event planning. It necessitates that you give ample consideration to the needs and values of all stakeholders affected by the event.
Give equal importance to two aspects when you plan events like this. One, create measures that will lessen the event’s negative impact. Two, search for options that will allow events to leave positive outcomes that benefit communities, including philanthropic and volunteer projects.
Why go green?
Consider the enumerated reasons why you should consider going the sustainable route when it comes to your events. Let’s view them from two different perspectives: from your attendees and yours as an event planner.
Benefits to your attendees
From an attendee point of view, a sustainable approach can provide:
Take into consideration what your attendee needs to go through to attend your event. Providing them with a more straightforward alternative such as online ticketing would increase your reach and provide excellent service.
Strengthened connection with the local community
Share possible opportunities that will keep your attendees involved in the local scene. Perhaps provide them with locally sourced produce or have them volunteer in local projects.
Aligned attendee values
People nowadays give significant points to social consciousness. They would most likely support events that meet their expectations and share their values.
Sustainability benefits for event managers
Meanwhile, as an event organiser, here are the benefits you gain from going green.
Enhances your brand in the market
Ignoring the environmental aspect of an event may invite negative commentaries and needless questions or, worse, incurring financial penalties or loss.
You cannot only lessen the waste left behind but also find ways to reuse existing products for your subsequent events.
Attract more people
People flock to unique events, and what better way to set yourself apart from your competitor than focusing on your environmental impacts. New attendees and staff alike will come to you, especially if they believe in your approach.
Boost income opportunities
You can increase your investment chances by proving to new clients that you can meet their CSR objectives or procurement criteria. Going green can end up soliciting new sponsors and producing unique sponsor activations.
Enhances long-term success and profitability
By being less dependent on natural resources, you advance the sustainability of your business and the world. It will address the rising costs due to climate change and propel you to long-term success and lucrativeness.
Causes of waste in events
Events produce a lot of waste. About 41% of the waste produced by a mid-sized corporate trade show, with around 5000 attendees, will go to landfills.
How to address food wastage at events
- Decide on a location, venue and suppliers who are have recycling and composting programs.
- Designate areas for waste segregation and sortation that guests can easily find.
- Maximise and improve donation programs, particularly for food and exhibitor materials.
Additionally, a significant contributor to the event carbon footprint is travel, specifically air travel and accommodation, which is why it’s critical to choose a central location to minimalise this.
How to address travel and carbon footprint
- Offer alternatives such as remote, virtual and hybrid attending options.
- Choose a central location that will balance the travel and are close to the majority of the participants.
- Search for green venues and hotels that are already implementing sustainable initiatives.
- Encourage carpooling for attendees.
- Utilise walkable event neighbourhoods to avoid in-event travel.
By now, you might be wondering where you can start. Here is essential information you can analyse so that you can slowly incorporate those changes into your events. Remember: going green is a cultural change where you need agreement from your staff, vendors and sponsors.
Let’s look at the following significant areas and determine the most considerable drain
- Energy usage
- Food and beverage
- Printed materials
- Travel (consider everyone from staff, attendees, speakers, vendors and sponsors)
From this list, determine which is your most prominent area of concern. Knowing it will help you decide the trade-offs acceptable to you. For instance, opting to go paperless would require you to replace it with an app or software that will provide the attendees with the same information.
Please remember that it’s almost impossible to reach zero environmental impact. You may have removed paper production, but you will still need to use electricity for the event. However, energy sources like wind, water, and solar are readily available, while it will take years to grow trees.
It is essential to integrate this into your culture. Speak to everyone involved so that the people involved can understand and address the impacts on their end.
Reuse as much as you can
When choosing for your elements, select those that provide longevity and reusability. Recycle plastics when you can. Collect all the plastic bags left at the event and reuse them. Reuse non-personal items such as lanyards, badge holders and other materials like ribbons again for your next event.
Have we mentioned DIY? Create your food stations from old pieces of furniture. With a fresh layer of paint, no one will know that the materials used are old.
Use generic and reusable signage
By removing personalisation in your signs, you get to use them over and over again. Would you please use chalkboards, as they will allow you to create art and change the message without discarding the actual sign?
Choose the “easy way”
Bear in mind that if you wish people to be more agreeable with the change, choose the easy way. More often than not, people would embrace the idea of going sustainable, more so if it requires minimal effort from them.
Start with having compost containers on every floor, which uses chutes to transfer the recyclable materials to compactors on the ground floor. Making it convenient for them will encourage them to do it. Install labels that will guide them on how to do it. Avoid assuming that they know what to do. Incentivising is an excellent way to encourage everyone to participate. For instance, offer freebies or digital swag if they bring their recyclables and sort them accordingly.
Alignment with partners in the supply chain
For this to work, there should be consistency from all stakeholders involved. Search for partners with qualifications and certifications on sustainability standards. You can ask for proof so you can avoid greenwashing. Establish a green policy to guarantee that everyone involved adheres to the standards and functions as a collective.
Educate and apply phased implementation
Your sustainability initiative will only be successful if everyone works for the common goal. Educate everyone and apply the changes in phases to avoid overwhelming them.
We cannot switch everything overnight, so you must share your strategy with a clear explanation of how it will roll out.
Equip your staff with the knowledge to handle the situation, and be aware of what protocols to follow. Start small so that they will come to grips with bite-sized information. Better to do it slow and steady instead of going full-scale but with miserable execution.
Amplify your impact by sharing your success
Let everyone know that your initiatives were successful. Inform them what changes you’ve implemented and how they made the difference. Remember that people want to be involved with something unique, and by showing them what you’ve achieved, you can influence them to do the same.
Spread the word via social media. Doing so will raise awareness for the cause and market your brand at the same time.
Include green symbols in your promo materials for easier recognition.
Let’s address sustainability practices you can apply to specific event areas
Do not forget small details such as floral arrangements. To avoid throwing them away, use fake flowers. Choose colours that match your branding so that you can keep reusing them, especially for corporate events.
If using live ones, find another use for the floral arrangements. Gift them as a prize or favours at the end of the event.
Dealing with food waste requires extra planning, but it’s worth it. One way to address this is to partner with homeless shelters. After the event, donate leftover food to these partner shelters.
You can also manage the amount of food brought in by pre-ordering. You may request your attendees to pre-order from a set menu ahead of time.
Events, whether big or small, require that you serve food at one point. As such, opt to use menus that promote your sustainability efforts. Carefully calculate the amount of food per person to avoid over-ordering or opt to have your guests pre-order food. Include organic meal options as this promotes better health and reduces carbon footprints down the process chain.
For events to happen, you would need a viable source of power. A popular option is the use of solar panels. You can scout for venues that are already using solar panels.
Avoid if unnecessary! However, if essential, go for biodegradable options and refrain from using single-use packaging.
Conference swag bag
Opt for digital swag instead. You can offer downloadable freebies or discount codes that do not need printing. Intangible products are also good. Options include an offer to donate in the winner’s name to a charity of their choice or maybe a free massage voucher at the local spa.
Mode of transport may most likely be the most significant contributor to your carbon dioxide emissions, mainly if your attendees come from various locations. Consider sustainable transport, such as offering a shuttle service. You may also encourage your attendees to carpool, which cuts emissions and saves on parking space.
Location and setting get the most considerable portion of the budget, so you have to consider several factors. Look at hotels with the best environmental practices. If they don’t have one in place, are they willing to negotiate sustainability into the contracts? Choose a centralised location where the majority of the guests are coming from to avoid excessive emissions from transportation.
Are you planning your next event?
No two events are the same. However, what sets one apart is the effort the organiser puts into it. Sustainable events elevate how you do things. Difficult as it may be, running greener and events can offer lots of benefits and cost savings. Plus, you get to ensure minimal impact on the world.