Theres no doubt that the convergence of digital, social and mobile technologies has triggered the rise of new event formats that are more interactive, personalized and measurable. Furthermore, sustainable events are becoming more important for event planners with the rise in environmental consciousness.
‘But how do we make our event more sustainable?’ you’re asking. The answer might be easier than you think. We wanted to put together an article that gives you some starting points for planning a sustainable event that will have a positive impact on both your attendees and the environment. You’ll learn about some simple ideas to implement that will reduce your event’s carbon footprint, as well as tips to make your event more eco-friendly. Let's dive in.
🌱 What is a sustainable event?
It seems there is no real difference between using the word ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ for your event. They are two terms that could be used interchangeably to describe an event that is delivered where the environmental impact has been thought about throughout planning and execution. Whilst the event itself may not be related to the environment, event organisers can go a long way in reducing the environmental impact of the event itself, as well as teach attendees about sustainable practices.
The level of environmental awareness and eco-friendliness of the event will vary depending on you as event organizers, although these types of events are becoming increasingly common.
Simple ways that quickly spring to mind as part of sustainable events often feature organic food, eco-friendly venues, carbon offsets, recycling, and other practices that reduce the negative impacts to the environment.
🤓 Why sustainable events?
The world is becoming more aware of its impact on the planet every day. With that in mind, businesses everywhere are striving to become more environmentally friendly and sustainable.
Corporate social responsibility has become essential to most businesses in order to ensure they remain credible and trustworthy with consumers. As employees demand more from their employers, implementing sustainable initiatives or events can be a great way for your company to show that you care about more than just profits.
From green event spaces and employee volunteer programs, to subsidized public transportation to your event and carbon neutral meetings, there are many simple ways you can integrate sustainability into your event - not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it has tangible benefits for everyone involved.
💡 How to make an event more sustainable?
Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to create a truly sustainable event.
Reduce Your Event’s Carbon Footprint
A green event should always begin by trying to lower its overall carbon footprint.
Simply put- A carbon footprint is the measure of how much CO2 has been released into the atmosphere.
Begin by making sure you know the carbon footprint of your venue and catering options. Choosing local suppliers is one of the easiest ways to reduce the event's carbon footprint. If you are outsourcing your catering, make sure they are also eco-friendly and think about some of the ‘back to basics’ ways the caterers might want to cook and serve food.
Another simple but easy way to dramatically reduce the event's carbon footprint is by making good location and travel decisions. If the event must be an in person event, ensure the venue is centrally located so the least amount of delegates as possible need to travel by car or aeroplane.
You should also make sure your event has easy access to public transport to help attendees arrive feeling refreshed and ready to go. Some event organizers have also gone as far as to organize subsidised public transport to and from the event or group transport options that slash the amount of attendees arriving by car. Ebike to the venue anyone?
At this point, if you are feeling overwhelmed, remember;
‘small change matters. Lead by example. As an event organizer, you have the power to influence an audience.’
Check out your venues credentials
When choosing an event venue, think about how eco friendly it is. This could mean digging a little deeper to find out if they hold any green credentials, such as being part of the LEED or Green global scheme. You could also try to find out more about if the venue has features such as capturing and reusing rainwater, low-flow toilets and LED lighting.
Build a Sustainable Event Culture
Once you’ve started implementing a few sustainability initiatives, you can start building a sustainable culture around your events and within the wider company. Start by providing eco-friendly amenities in the office like reusable water bottles, electric car charging stations, and reusable coffee mugs. You could provide eco-friendly incentive programs. These small day to day changes in the business environment begin to build a culture that is much more receptive when it comes to changes within larger scale company events.
As much as possible, reduce your paper usage. Make sure you use e-invitations and e-programs. Also, use an event app like Eventee that gives you the option to go completely paperless by being able to provide organizers and attendees with all the event information they need including before the event and in real time using live updates.
If you feel the event needs printed materials, make sure you use sustainable paper, although event management and engagement apps provide digital resources inside the app, as well as integration with survey tools such as survey monkey for after the event.
Taking advantage of other tech elements such as QR codes and file sharing guides allow users to learn about the ‘green’ elements of the event in a sustainable way.
Eat Locally Produced Food
Another important, but easy to implement way to be eco-friendly is to use local, sustainable foods at your event. Not only is this a great way to make the event more sustainable using local and even traditional ingredients, but this tip is a real crowd pleaser, because, we all know the real reason we go to these events-the food.
Gone are the days of flimsy paper plates. There are a whole host of brilliant recyclable cutlery, straws and bowls. However, the most sustainable option will almost always be using ceramic crockery hired from the venue or caterers.
You can also think about reducing your food waste by using apps such as ‘2 good to go’ to where unused food can be sold or donated to local groups and charities.
Utilize Public Transportation
As we mentioned, if you are hosting an event in a large city, you should arrange for public transportation for your attendees. This will not only help them save money, but will also help reduce your carbon footprint. If you are hosting an event in a smaller city, try hiring a shuttle service to ferry your attendees around.
One of the biggest costs is flying in a speaker. Maybe you could reduce carbon footprint (and cost) by allowing your speaker to speak at the event virtually. Apps like Eventee can help run this type of programme with ease.
Use recyclable Materials
We covered using tech instead of reams of paper at your event, so let's also talk about recyclable materials.
If you must use printed materials at your event, make sure you use materials that are recyclable. Try to avoid plastic at all costs. There are plenty of biodegradable materials like bamboo, cork and hemp that can be used in place of the usual plastic. We’ve all been to events where swag is piled high on tables but never used.
Merchandise, swag bags, other freebies can be made of recycled material or by eco-friendly, local producers. This is one area that can come out a little more pricey than using mass produced products, so you might want to ditch this aspect all together in the name of sustainability and *ahem* budget.
Easy to use recycling bins placed out at venues that are easy for guests to use will greatly increase the amount of waste that is recycled and not sent to landfill.
If you want to really get on board and go as sustainable as possible, you could consider going virtual or hybrid with your event. Eventee provides virtual/hybrid event support in almost any capacity, allowing all its usual cool features like playback of speakers and free event website. If you are interested about how a virtual or hybrid could work for you check out this Eventee article.
You could also look for sponsors for the event who share the same sustainable vision for the event. It doesn't make sense to create an event that's aiming to be carbon neutral but be sponsored by a gas guzzling airline. These kinds of ‘green’ connections can be made virtually before the event and can help by letting you in on their sustainability practices and sponsorship methods.
Event organizers could also incorporate some exciting charitable initiatives into the event in the form of charitable donations to an eco charity. Instead of swag, a tree could be planted in the attendees name or even gamification of parts of the event with an eco focus. Before the event city cleans could go ahead. All these types of initiatives also go a long way to improve company brand image, as well as being simple and effective element to report on.
💰 Sustainability and budget
Whilst you might think that creating a sustainable event may cost more, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised. Much of running an event with a green focus is about stripping back the usual overindulgences such as plastic swag, imported food and drink and lavish travel which can easily keep costs down. Being sustainable is about being a little more mindful with the choices that we, as event organisers make.
🙏 A note on greenwashing
Avoid greenwashing at all costs! Greenwashing is when a company claims to be environmentally friendly and sustainable, but the practices don’t actually match up to those claims. For example, a company may claim that their products are 100% biodegradable, when in reality that figure is only 10%. As an environmentally conscious event organizer, be sure to avoid making claims that are misleading.
It’s important to do your research and to be cautious as you select suppliers. Greenwashing is becoming more common, even in the events industry. Be sure to start with small positive changes and lead by example rather than with a complete overhaul of every element, this is when you can land yourself in hot water.
As Peter Drucker said:
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
✍️ Wrapping things up
Despite aspects of sustainable event planning perhaps feeling challenging, within 10 years it is likely these practices will become the industry norm. So it's best to adapt now, taking into account new approaches such as harnessing the power of applications like Eventee rather than becoming one of those office dinosaurs when it comes to new event technologies and best practices.
An event can be a great way to bring people together and inspire them to take action. Sustainable events are more than just a good idea. They are a great way to raise awareness on the topic of sustainability. By reducing your event’s carbon footprint and incorporating eco-friendly initiatives, you will create a more sustainable event that will benefit both your attendees, the business and the environment.