With some pretty stark warnings in the media recently, we’re all trying to lead greener lives. Sometimes it’s hard to see how a small action by one person can have an impact on the wider world, but every effort does help.
For event organisers, creating sustainable, environmentally friendly events may seem daunting, but there are easy steps you can take. And we can work together to make all types of events more environmentally friendly, from intimate team building sessions to large conferences.
What does it mean to go green?
When we hold an event, we want to leave the site without a trace, as if nothing took place there. Take Glastonbury for example, one of the UK’s most famous events. Glastonbury is held on a working farm, so really does need putting back to its natural state, for practical as well as environmental reasons!
Festivals can sometimes get a bad name for being damaging to the local environment, but Glastonbury uses renewable energy in the form of bio-diesel generators, provides reusable water bottles for visitors to fill up at water stations and encourages volunteers to pick up rubbish and anything that can be recycled.
Ways your event can go green
Working closely with your venue, local council and contractors will help to ensure your event is as green as possible. Here are some areas to consider.
Type of event: You can choose to base the theme or activities included in your event on a green approach. For example, if you’re holding a team building event, why not go outdoors and power free? Think of an afternoon canoeing on the river followed by discussions around the fire pit!
Venue: Your choice of venue will have a big impact on how sustainable your event is. Does the destination support sustainability initiatives and does the venue take its green responsibilities seriously in terms of infrastructure, accessibility and energy sources?
Transport /Access: Choose a venue that the majority of your delegates will be able to walk or cycle to, or that has good public transport links, in order to cut their carbon footprint. If your heart is set on somewhere a little more remote, then you could encourage car sharing.
Also consider walkability; how much of your event is within walking distance? If you have timetabled sessions at a different site, how will people get there? Are there clear walking routes in place?
Waste: Make sure you place recycling bins around your event site and be clear with your waste contractor on how they will dispose of your event waste; will they recycle it, or will it end up in landfill despite your best efforts?
Catering: Hiring a caterer who will use locally sourced, in-season produce is a big step in the right direction. Waste and packaging are two big areas to get right when it comes to food, so discuss with your caterer about recycling food waste for composting, as well as how the food will be served. Paper straws and wooden cutlery are a start, and you can also ensure you cut down on plastic bottles by having jugs and glasses out on tables.
Decor and signage: If you’re decorating a venue, then think about buying second-hand items that can be reused or sold on again afterwards, rather than buying new. A vintage prop will look ten times better than a cheap imitation anyway. As for signage, think about what you are printing on; recyclable board is a much greener option to plastic, which will just go in landfill after the event.
Communication: E-communication is key! Send all your event communication via email, not post, and keep the whole registration process online. If you do decide to print any communications, then QR codes are a great way of keeping them short and leading people back online for more information.
Any handouts you have to print should be printed double sided to reduce paper waste and if you intend to give any merchandise away, then think green! Perhaps a handy cotton bag that can be reused.
Tell people about it
So, you’ve put lots of green actions in place, now tell people about it!
1. Your visitors before the event
Give them the best chance of getting on board with your efforts by sending an email before the event on how you’re going green. You could remind them to bring a water bottle to refill at the water stations or inform them that they can get discounted coffee if they bring their own reusable mug. Oh, and point out that they’ll be recycling bins around the venue (hint, hint)!
2. Your contractors
It’s a good idea to include your environmental aims in your tenders. That way, potential contractors can include what actions they’ll take to meet your aims in their proposals.
3. Everyone after the event
You’ve done all the hard work so now’s the time to shout about it! Tell people how green your event was and spread the sustainability love. You never know who it might inspire next!
Eco-friendly venues for inspiration
● The Crystal, London
● 15 Hatfields, London
● H2 Hotel, California
● The Laguna Resort & Spa, Bali
● The Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, Australia
● Amsterdam RAI Exhibition & Convention Centre, The Netherlands
If you need any help with your event planning, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!