Concerns about sustainability and the environment have surged over recent years. As a result, audiences care more about the event’s environmental impact than ever before!
If you’re an event planner or manager, this is something you need to have at the forefront of your mind.
Are you aware of what event sustainability is?
Do you know what you can do to reduce your environmental impact?
Before we get into the solution, let’s look at event sustainability—what it is and why you should be on top of it. We’ll also evaluate how you can benefit from it.
What is event sustainability?
ISO 20121 states that sustainable event management integrates environmental issues and social responsibility into event planning.
The idea here is to consider all of the stakeholders who your event will impact, the winners and the losers.
Event sustainability is indeed a balancing act. You must reduce negative aspects while embracing opportunities to leave a positive legacy for the future. Out with excessive waste and a high carbon footprint, hello to greener events!
The legacy is a whole other topic which we’ll go into another time.
Right now, our focus is on reducing the environmental impact of your event(s).
How would being more sustainable help me?
In a time of conscious consumerism, having an environmentally responsible event is a great way to enhance your brand.
By taking a sustainable approach, you’re showing attendees that you care about the future and the impact you make. In turn, this strategy also attracts new/different event sponsors.
Leading the way in creating environmentally-friendly events puts you in a role of authority with other companies looking to you for inspiration.
The upshot of this could result in free PR opportunities from features and articles written about your business and its sustainable approach. Publicity like this could give you more reach and a larger event audience.
Let’s dig deeper into what negatively impacts event sustainability.
What are some examples of carbon footprints?
Is it possible to create an engaging attendee experience while managing the event’s environmental impact?
It may prove to be an enormous challenge, but it’s possible.
Your event’s carbon footprint is impacted by so many things outside your control. It’s not only attendee travel and accommodation but also how environmentally friendly the venue and your external suppliers are.
One thing event managers can overlook is what their guest vendors are doing.
Here’s an example: you’ve gone out of your way to remove as much plastic from your event as possible. Then you discover one of your vendors is providing single-use plastic straws with one of their items.
Everyone needs to be on the same page, at all times, or it’ll never work.
What is one of the single biggest contributors to event unsustainability?
Carbon emissions. In particular, air travel. Your guests flying in/out of your events greatly increases your carbon footprint.
Did you know that a single flight from San Francisco to London emits more emissions than a family car produces in a whole year?
With all of these in mind, what are your options?
What are some ways I can reduce my event footprint?
We’ll park air travel for now, but revisit it shortly.
If you must hold an in-person event, here are some of the ways to reduce your footprint:
Here are some scary statistics. Did you know that the average attendee generates 1.89 kg of waste per day? Think about a bag containing 15 apples, and that’s the size and weight we’re talking about. Multiply that by 1,000 delegates, and you’ll agree, that’s huge.
Another sad part of this statistic is that almost all of that—1.61 kg—ends up in landfills.
So what can you do?
Label your trash bins
Sure, this topic has been done to death, but it still bears mentioning.
Recycling initiatives are great, but do you know what the single biggest complaint by event attendees is about this?
Poor signage! It’s true. Bin types—and their location—need to be more clearly marked.
Don’t confuse the issue either, by providing six different trash types; you’re going to frustrate your attendees in no time. Stick with the big three—recyclables, compostables, and other waste.
Donate left-over food
First up, check your local by-laws to ensure this is an option. If so, find a food bank or shelter that would welcome your donation.
What does left-over food usually tell you? That you’ve over catered or perhaps chosen less than favorable options. Learn from this for next time.
Pro tip: under cater by 10-20%. You’d be surprised at actually how little food is consumed at events. If you have enough engaging activities, eating is one of the last things on their minds. Rather opt for light snacks instead of full meals.
No single-use plastics
Ready for more statistics? Over 380 million tonnes of plastic are produced each year, and 50% of that is for single-use. Sadly, only 9% of plastic is recycled.
Plastic bags, drinking straws, coffee cups, bottles of water, throw-away utensils are all part of this figure. And guess what, they’re all seen at events.
What can you do? Install water stations, and don’t even offer straws. As for plastic bags, if your supermarket doesn’t supply them, why should an event?
Swap paper for digital
Remember those days of going to an event, visiting each vendor stall, and walking away with yet another show bag?
What did you do when you got home and went through them all? Yep, you threw away most of it.
Nobody wants to be weighed down with loads of papers and pamphlets these days anyway.
QR is king! How easy would it be for your guests if all they had to do was scan a QR code at each stall? Everything they would have lugged around all day is now on their phone, ready to be perused at their leisure.
You’re saving money AND paper! Win-win!
Reduce energy consumption
Is your event a day or night one? If it’s at night, think about the placement of lights. Do you need that many grouped together? Could you use alternatives like energy-efficient bulbs?
Choosing the right venue is a significant help here. Certified “green” venues have done most of the work already.
Here’s a fun way to generate electricity if your event is outdoors. Encourage pedal power! You heard it right. Set up an area with stationary bicycles. Invite your guests to pedal as much as possible, generating power. Offer gifts, drinks, and prizes as an incentive to get more people involved.
Why not make energy consumption fun?
Carbon offset fee
Transport companies do it, so why not consider it too? Charge your attendees a small carbon offset fee. You could include it in the ticket price or offer it as an option.
Revenue raised from carbon offset fees is put to great use. Be sure to partner with trustworthy initiatives where the funds are used to plant trees or desalinate water.
Of course, you can’t charge this fee if you’re not showing that you’re reducing your footprint, like those detailed above. This is an additional idea, not the main solution.
So now you know how you can increase your event sustainability at a real-time event. We’re here to tell you that there is a better way.
The smarter solution
Let’s go back to the issue of carbon emissions on traveling to events, especially by air.
You can almost predict what we’re going to say next, but bear with us; it’s really important.
One sure-fire way to reduce event emissions is to make your next event virtual or use a hybrid model.
It’s not rocket science to realise that emissions relating to travel are cut down considerably with a virtual event.
With fewer people flying in and less travel between venues, your event’s impact on the environment will be reduced.
Imagine how many times a year people were flying to events, expos, and conferences before the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of these flights and travel emissions quickly adds up.
What about the energy needed to produce them? The amount of sound and light pollution is significantly lower than the alternative. Aside from reducing costs, this also makes your events more sustainable.
Other benefits of moving your event online
Another of the many benefits of having a virtual or hybrid event is that you can increase your attendee list. Clients who may have found it difficult to attend your functions before now have the opportunity if there is an online option.
Imagine increasing the number of people getting access to you and your vendors’ products, all while reducing your carbon footprint!
You can achieve that with either a hybrid or totally virtual event.
Sure, hybrid and virtual events aren’t perfect solutions. The electricity and data used to run them still create considerable emissions. However, it’s still a lower amount than those emitted in the production of live events.
The good news is that the industry as a whole has been working hard to make virtual meeting technology more sustainable. And there are new green innovations coming out regularly.
You’ve got to go virtual!
A sure-fire way to win over your stakeholders is to produce better event sustainability. In-person events are proven to be disastrous for your carbon footprint.
Holding your events as purely virtual serves two purposes. It increases your event sustainability and also opens the door to inviting a considerably higher number of attendees.
If an in-person event is unavoidable, consider running a hybrid event, part online/part real-time. That way, your attendees have the choice. Many people embrace virtual events as they’re more comfortable staying at home. This, in turn, greatly reduces your carbon footprint.
The world has changed forever thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. Love it or hate it, the “new normal” is the future. If you’re not moving your business online, including events, you’re going to get left behind.
Go virtual now, and your event sustainability will soar. Get in touch with us today, and we’ll show you just how to achieve success in the online event world.