Over the past couple of years, the world has witnessed a steady rise in the popularity of the sustainable event industry. More so, sustainability is becoming one of the fastest-growing trends in the event industry, and that too for a good reason.
Despite the fact that the event industry is important in contributing to overall learning, upskilling, entertainment, and networking for attendees, the significant amount of waste produced and the carbon footprint are undeniable. The event attendees are more conscious about the climate nowadays and expect their hosts to do everything in their power to limit the environmental impact of workshops, meetings, conferences, and events organized.
In this post, we explore a variety of sustainable event ideas and take you through various ways that can help create sustainable event practices that will reduce the effect on the environment. Prior to that, let us understand what is a sustainable event.
What is a sustainable event?
A sustainable event goes by many names – event greening, eco-friendly event, green event, and so on. The green and sustainable events are the ones that focus on counteracting and/ or minimizing the environmental impact they have on the planet.
But how can an event be sustainable? Sustainable events are planned in a deliberate way that helps in reducing the number of resources deployed, and the amount of energy, waste, and carbon emissions that a similar event would normally produce. Sustainable event planning is an effort to proactively and consciously plan events so that they have no or almost negligible negative impact on the planet. How sustainable event planning is put in place largely depends upon the event planners and the kind of event they are organizing. Having said that here is a general list of sustainable event ideas:
- Being aware of carbon emissions or going carbon neutral
- Having a less waste and/ or zero waste policy
- Providing the attendees with fair trade or organic food
- Making use of sustainable energy to run the event in all possible ways
- Providing local produce and/ or food in the event
- Reusing different materials for your next events
If an event practices only the sustainable event ideas we have mentioned in this short list, the organizers can save a lot on the financial front, resources yet make a lasting impact on the attendees while ensuring the event also meets the sustainability targets. It goes without saying that these measures can immensely build faith in your company.
Sustainable event ideas
Pulling a sustainable event together can be quite a challenge for event professionals at times. Being able to make a lasting impression on the attendee while making sure that the event meets sustainability targets and making sure that nothing falls apart can be a really tough balance to strike. As the carbon footprint is attracted by most of the significant aspects of an event – including traveling from event venue to hotel (and vice versa), food, and beverage, and attendee accommodation, what are the different practices that can be implemented to create a business-centric sustainable event?
We compiled a list of 10 sustainable event ideas for you to work around so that you can organize your next sustainable event without any hassle.
- Go Virtual
One of the best ways to minimize the carbon footprint, virtual events are ideal for organizers who wish to maximize event attendance. As per the research on the climatic impact that an international virtual conference published for the International Journal of Environmental Studies in 2021, “if the conference had been held in person, flights alone would have generated 66 times the emissions as the entire virtual conference.”
By running a virtual event, the event organizers can expect a significant cut in the carbon emissions emitted due to ground transportation, accommodation, hotel energy, food production, and the energy consumed at the event venue.
While the in-person event is responsible for the carbon footprint and leaving a negative impact on the environment, it is worth noting that the virtual platform too, is not perfect and it contributes to emissions. At the same conference cited in the study, “64% of emissions came from network data transfer, 19% from the pre-conference planning meetings, and 11% from computer use during the conference.” Having said that, sustainability is not about perfection. Sustainable events are all about making conscious choices that help in making a positive change and running a virtual event can be one of them.
Once you decide to host your event virtually, make sure to let our attendees know how this change can help in making a positive impact by drawing a comparison of each event’s sustainability achievements year on year. This is a brilliant way to celebrate and highlight the low environmental impact your event has created.
- Choose an eco-friendly venue
One of the most effective ways to organize a sustainable event is by choosing a venue that is eco-friendly. Here is what you should consider while looking for an environment-friendly venue –
- Energy efficiency: Apart from green certification, event planners must also consider the energy efficiency of the venue. The places that deploy energy-minimizing measures such as solar panels or natural lighting for energy-efficient lighting and for the usage of appliances should be selected.
- Green Certification: A green certification indicates whether or not the event venue meets specific sustainability standards, and is in tune with environmental performance or not. Usually, the venues that are eco-friendly have a LEED or Green Seal certification.
- Efforts toward water conservation: Yet another important factor while finalizing the event venue, water conservation is a crucial step to planning a sustainable event. Look for venues that have water-saving features, such as minimum flow toilets, waterless urinals, or reclaimed or recycled water.
- Initiatives for waste reduction: A deciding factor for creating a sustainable event, waste reduction plays a major role in how you can take your sustainable event strategy to new heights. Opt for venues that take steps towards recycling and composting the waste and procure reusable or biodegradable products.
- Partner with sustainable vendors
To make your next event sustainable in a better way, partnering with local and sustainable vendors can come in handy. You may work with vendors who use green manufacturing processes to provide recycled paper for print collaterals. While these actions may not seem big, they definitely show your attendees that you understand the importance of sustainability and are willing to make small but significant steps that leave a positive impact on the planet.
- Offer sustainable transportation
A significant contributor in adding to the total carbon footprint of an event, event planners must give transportation a lot of importance while planning a sustainable event. To cut down on the environmental impact of your event, you may want to consider providing sustainable transportation options such as carpooling, shuttle services, or even public transportation.
Carpooling is a sustainable means of transportation as it lets the attendees share rides and reduce the number of vehicles on the road. You can provide guests with a list of nearby attendees so that they can reach out to people going to the event around their location for them to connect and carpool.
If you are hosting your event in a big city or in an area that has limited parking, shuttle services can be a convenient and sustainable option. When you provide shuttle services to the attendees for commute, you indirectly help in reducing traffic and congestion caused by parking along with the environmental impact of your event.
Yet another sustainable option is public transportation, it allows your attendees to travel to your event by using mass transit instead of travelling all by themselves. In case your event venue is near a public transportation hub, remember to provide information and proper resources to enable attendees to make the most of this option.
- Use eco-friendly marketing
Most of the marketing materials such as flyers, brochures, swags, and banners end up creating a lot of waste at events. Consider using sustainable marketing materials such as biodegradable materials, recycled paper, digital platforms, and downloads – whatever suits your event that makes use of less natural resources and generates less waste than traditional paper.
Plastic made using cornstarch, and cotton lanyards are all biodegradable materials and are all sustainable options that could be amazing alternatives to normal plastic – helping reduce the landfills. Each of these sustainable materials can be easily broken down through natural processes resulting in minimizing waste and reducing environmental impact.
It does not matter what kind of collateral and swag bag you intend to give away at your event, you can work with vendors who do not just use eco-friendly materials but make a conscious effort to reduce their carbon footprint including things like plantable pencils, recycled plastic reusable bottles, digital gift cards, etc. Organizations like these tend to put green initiatives through their manufacturing and production processes, and/ or by purchasing carbon offsets. Remember that you can let go of swags to market your event, instead donate to animal conservation or environmental causes for giveaways and prizes.
- Order food for individuals, not a crowd
As per reports published by the United Nations, the food wastage by rich countries every year is 222 million tonnes which is almost equal to the total net food produced in sub-Saharan Africa which is 230 million tonnes. Food wastage is not just a massive humanitarian concern but also a threat to the ecosystem. The enormous amounts of wasted food go to landfills which release greenhouse gases such as methane, which is a direct cause of global warming. While organizing a sustainable event, here is what you can do to avoid wastage of food –
- Plan the food menu as per the number of attendees estimated to attend the event. This is quite easy and convenient for hosted events.
- Look for local food vendors who are known for their sustainable practices. If you think you may have underestimated the amount of food needed, you can go back to the vendor and get an emergency arrangement done.
- Smart buffet systems can be put up at the venue. These shall ensure increasing attendee satisfaction while limiting the wastage of food.
- For the leftover food, you can partner with food donation programs or explore alternative options such as giving it away for livestock feeding, utilizing the food waste for industrial energy, and creating compost to increase soil fertility, etc.
- Minimise paper
Be it travel tickets and schedules, program schedules, or floorplans of the venue – everything can be transformed into a digital medium nowadays. You can use your phone for networking with a digital business card or access event information or even take part in activities right from your phone with mobile event apps such as GEVME, going paperless is a brilliant option.
Now, why just stop using paper for flyers and all? You can also get rid of the huge banners and event marketing collaterals that are printed on paper and laminated with plastic and are rarely recyclable at the best of times. You can incorporate LED screens and boards as a part of stage design and reuse them for all your events.
We know that you must be thinking that investing in an LED screen will be too expensive and such an investment. We see it as an opportunity to raise more sponsorship money. Which of the two will be more appealing – old-fashioned paper signboards or glowing and animated LED screens? We all know which one will be more engaging. This will not just optimize things for you to achieve a sustainable event but it will make the overall experience visually enhancing too.
For instance, GEVME can help you achieve your event goals from branding to marketing, ticketing, networking, analytics and everything else, all without a shred of paper!
- Have a proper waste management program in place
Wastage reduction plays an integral role in creating a sustainable event. There are many initiatives such as proper waste management programs you can put to use to minimize waste and make your event’s environmental impact better.
Without having an organized waste management program in place, your idea of a sustainable event that recycles and composts the waste after the event will not be as successful as you wish it would have been. Ensure that the event venue has labelled waste bins that are readily available all over your venue and include signage that is clear and easy to understand.
Try placing the waste management signs at an eye level instead of placing them at the bottom of the bin for easy visibility. Additionally, restrict the aperture of your bins so that what is supposed to be thrown in them is properly aligned – such as bottles, circular openings of beverage cans, small bits of paper, etc. When you put different covers on your waste management bins, it will get people thinking twice before they throw something in them.
There is nothing more heartbreaking than making an effort towards pulling together a sustainable event and doing your bit in helping the environment when the waste management contractor you have hired is not in tune with your goals. Make sure to talk about what happens to the waste generated after the event with the contractor or any other people responsible. This will also keep the contractors honest because when they know that you are keen on sustainability and shall be following up about their pledge and obligation to recycle and compost the waste properly.
- Gift the decorations
While putting together a sustainable event, you would not want to overlook the floral arrangements for your events. While enhancing the overall look of the venue, flower arrangements are not very sustainable as most of them are simply thrown away. Here is how you can include them and ensure that they are not wasted –
- Using fake flowers: Besides being reusable, fake flowers look just as good as the real ones. You can coordinate the colors of the flowers as per your banding, event theme, or neutral colors that can be used over and over again, especially for large corporate events.
- Living decor: Over the recent years, the event industry has witnessed an increased trend in living decor that gets the best of both worlds – allowing a green and floral arrangement while being sustainable and long-lasting. Living decor can be something as simple as using bushes in pots, and real plants in pots near the main entrance that can be hung using trailing baskets for aerial decor.
- Give them away: At the end of your event, you can offer the floral arrangements used to beautify the venue as a favour, as a part of prizes, or as gifts to the attendees. Most people end up paying for professional floral arrangements so you can incorporate that as an incentive as well as a way to get more worth of the money invested.
- Choose reusable or biodegradable cutlery
Steer clear from using anything plastic – no plastic plates, no plastic spoons, no plastic utensils. All the plastic waste that is generated from events – or anywhere for that matter goes up in landfills which is unmanageable, disturbs the ecosystem by affecting the soil quality, increases water pollution and if burnt, degrades the air quality. For catering your attendees, you can use metal utensils that can be washed and reused or event china tableware. Waste generation is a huge problem for events and can be tackled easily with a few sustainable practices in place. Apart from this, you must also –
- Make sure that any packaging the food is delivered in is recyclable.
- Spread awareness about the pollution caused by plastic bottles and cups. Encourage attendees to refill their water bottles from drinking water stations.
- If you are providing takeaway options for food, provide reusable crockery and compostable items.
- Another pain to manage is the waste generated by using single sachets of salt, sugar, tea, and coffee. Avoid using any of these products. Instead, you can provide tea and coffee prepared for everyone in reusable cups and sugar and salt in sprinklers.
Now, it is all up to you!While planning a sustainable event, being detailed about your initiatives and goals is the key. Starting early and making an active commitment to organizing sustainable events by making more environmentally conscious decisions, you can be the change you want to see. Creating a sustainable event is not just limited to these 10 points that we mentioned in this blog. These are just some sustainable event ideas you can use to organize a successful and sustainable event. Plan your event with these considerations in mind and create an event that is sustainable and memorable at the same time.