How to Kick Some Sustainability Goals At Your Next Event

Sustainability within the world of events is about reducing negative impacts on the environment and increasing positive impacts for guests, stakeholders and the wider community. It’s a wonderful goal, and one that we’re sure we would all like to routinely meet… However, events by their nature, do not often use sustainable practices and resources. For this reason, creating events with sustainability outcomes cannot be an afterthought and must be a core objective from the start of the planning process.

It’s time that we all get with the program and start making sustainable events a clear benchmark for the industry. To reach your goals and make your events as friendly to the environment as possible, it pays to start early and look at each aspect of your event and how its impact on the environment could be reduced. Areas such as electricity consumption, fuel use, water, transport, marketing materials, catering, decorations, waste and recycling can all be reviewed.

We’ve picked four areas to focus on and give you some ideas of ways that you can reduce the footprint of your event and make it more sustainable.


CATERING

  • Reduce your food wastage and look at composting and / or making sure left over food is donated. Check out OzHarvest who will rescue left over food and distribute it to people in need.
  • Say “no” to bottled water and provide water refill stations instead.  Look at options for water refilling such as MeetPAT who do refill stations for public events.
  • Also check out Globelet, who are doing a great job of helping events and festivals produce #zerowaste. We got a cup of theirs at TEDxSydney 2018 and it gets used every single day in our house!
  • Make sure the coffee is sustainable. Encourage delegates to bring their own cups or use crockery instead of disposable cup, and make sure the coffee beans are organic, Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance Certified.
  • Use reusable utensils, plates, bowls and cups where possible or get people to bring their own, or if you need to use disposables choose 100% biodegradable catering supplies made from renewable materials. Check out the range at Biopak
  • Restaurant and Catering Australia offer Green Table accreditation. This program recognises restaurants, café and caterers who reduce their impact on the environment. Keep an eye out caterers or venues with this accreditation when planning your next event. 
  • Be sure to use local, seasonal produce - not only does it taste much better, but it will drastically reduce your carbon footprint and support your local producers.


EVENT WASTE

  • Use digital signage or chalk boards rather than printed signage. These could be hired or choose to purchase equipment that can be reused time and time again.
  • Use mobile check-in apps or digital check in rather than paper tickets or a program. Check out Sprintr from AV1
  • Email event information and registration details rather than printing them out and posting it to delegates.
  • Offer digital options instead of a goody bag on the day – downloadable freebies, discount codes and e-tickets are great options.
  • Create an app for your event with all the information relevant [exhibition floor plan, session times, etc]. Aim for zero paper at the event.
  • Use reusable name badges and request they are returned. If you are using lanyards think about using unbranded lanyards that can be reused for your next event.
  • For exhibitions, provide guidelines for exhibitors about sustainable practices and ask them to think about the marketing materials they give out. Again, using mobile apps to capture visitor information and send out details to prospects is far better for the environment and much more streamlined for your sales team too – and the delegates will be delighted not to carry around a heavy exhibitor pack!
  • Ensure there is proper waste management at your event. There will always be rubbish, but part of reducing it is making sure that recycling options are available. Have different bins and make sure your signage is clear. Check with your venue where it is going too!


SUPPLIER CHAIN

  • Partner with like-minded and local suppliers who want to keep things as sustainable as possible. Make this one of the questions you ask all prospective suppliers and look out for suppliers and venues that already advertise their credentials.
  • Think about your theming. Ditch the balloons and disposable decorations, and go with living decorations. If you are using cut flowers ensure they are reused in the best ways possible – donating them via Forward Flowers is a great idea.
  • Make sure you know where your supplies are coming from. It’s false economy to give away reusable tote bags if they aren’t fairly made. Is the coffee that you’re serving Fair Trade or Rain Forrest Alliance Certified?


TRANSPORT

  • Transport can be one of things that make your event footprint skyrocket. Think about transport and how guests will get to your event. Encourage public transport where possible and give clear options to delegates.
  • Check if your speakers and attendees can use technology to reduce costs. Many events are now giving hybrid options for attendance with elements of the conference online rather than face to face.
  • Incentivise carpooling and reward guests for green practices. Did they cycle? Did they arrive by public transport? Ask delegates to snap their journey and put it on Instagram with the event hashtag, offer a reward or incentive for delegates doing this or other sustainable practices (give out a free snack to each person who brought their own water bottle for example).


FINAL NOTE…

Reducing the environmental impact of your event can be easier than you think, but it is important to start early so you can get your suppliers and delegates on board. And, even if you think it’s not possible to make every element of your event sustainable, improving even a few elements at each event will add up to make a difference.

Our suggestions above are only the tip of what’s possible in reducing the impact your event has on the environment. Do you have any other tips for making events more sustainable? Leave your ideas in the comments below.