Events management is complicated, it takes a lot of coordination, planning and organising. Quite some effort goes into ensuring a great experience for the participants.
It also takes quite some amount of resources and generates a significant environmental impact. A typical conference waste attendee produces 1.89KG of waste per day, 1.16KG of that will go directly to a landfill. When you calculate that number for 1000 attendees over 3 days you get 5670KG of waste, the equivalent of 4 compact cars or amount of waste produced by 5 UK households in a year! And this is just the waste impacts…
There are ways to reduce the impacts of events and make more responsible choices as more and more options are becoming available.
it is not all doom and gloom, there are ways to reduce the impacts of events and make more responsible choices as more and more options are becoming available. Here are some ideas to consider:
Carbon footprint of the internet is pretty significant – about 2% of global CO2 emissions come from internet usage. Use of digital devices can contribute to emissions in a number of ways including energy for usage of internet, networks and website hosting and server energy sources.
- Is your energy use supporting online presence or virtual experience optimised and efficient
- Have you considered switching to green hosting and cloud service provider that use renewable energy?
- Check your website carbon performance - here is a handy tool https://www.websitecarbon.com/
- Consider the design of the event digital interface including app, screens, websites in terms of energy consumption for the user as well as energy intensity
Choice of venue to the event is an important one as not only the venue itself may be an opportunity to reduce your environmental impact, but considerations around access to the venue for the attendees and participants is a decision to consider - a significant proportion of many events, especially large-scale ones comes from attendees transportation choices.
- Does the venue have an environmental policy? Does it cover the key aspects and considerations that are relevant to environmental performance of your event?
- Are renewable energy sources available?
- Is the lighting energy efficient? LED lighting is the most energy efficient, cleanest and most eco-friendly way of illumination at the moment.
- Is there easy public transport access to the location for attendees including bicycles? Could people walk to and from the event – favour those that make these options easy.
- Publish the options for sustainable transport on the event website and promo materials including bike/ scooter secure storage access
- Collect information about modes of transport and distances by attendees to get an idea of the choices made and what you can do to improve next time
Events and experiences may be perceived as intangible, but the amount of resources and materials that go into creating these may be surprising. As they often have to be custom-made and brand-specific, the amount of waste that is generated is often significant. A week-long public experiential event with minimal promo materials can generate as much as an African elephant’s worth of waste!
Eliminate the need for materials:
- Eliminate unnecessary handouts and attendee packs
- Go paperless and use digital solutions - here are some ideas for the best mobile apps for events and how to use QR codes for engaging audience and collecting feedback
- Exclude use of disposable cups / glasses / crockery and utensils or any other single use items. #singleuseisnotcool
- Rent anything you can – staff uniforms? High-viz jackets? Equipment?
If you have to utilise materials, use less:
- reduce amount of packaging
- limit use of printed materials and handouts and if you must print, use double-sided setting
- use vegetable or soy-based inks for printing and encourage main suppliers and partners to do the same
For anything that is used, your mantra is:
- made of non-virgin materials: recycled and made out of waste
- reusable - can those signage and displays be reused for different events? What design tweaks might be needed to ensure that is possible?
- “greener” alternatives e.g. business cards made out of recycled cotton T-shirts, hemp or bamboo, environmental credentials including FSC certification
- zero-landfill waste: go for Reusable, Recyclable, Repairable, Compostable
- Avoid mixed materials that cannot be disassembled e.g. laminates with paper and plastic, wristbands with plastic and glue in them. These can rarely be recycled - even though individually those materials are recyclable.
Make it easy for your attendees to dispose of waste - located recycling bins in convenient and prominent locations with clear signage
For many of the experiential and public events, hauling the equipment and the crew to, from and between locations may be the biggest contributor to environmental impact.
- Switch to electric vehicles
- Speak to the suppliers to understand what fuels they use and how fuel efficient their transport options are. Can they offer alternative fuels or options?
- Optimise the routes and driving style to drive energy efficiency and minimise emissions
- Work with those suppliers who are able to offer certified offset options for the emissions that cannot be reduced.
Food and drinks, leftovers, containers and packaging – catering choices are a significant contributor not just to the environmental footprint, but an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to doing better.
- Purchase locally sourced and seasonal food where possible
- Provide “healthy” options and increase proportion of vegetarian and vegan options
- Choose fair-trade tea, coffee, juice and fruit
- The food is organic where appropriate
- Reduce use of bottled water/ drinks – provide water jugs/ fountains/ stations where possible
- Work with our suppliers to plan food and drink menus to minimise waste
- If you have leftovers, consider donating them - to the staff, foodbanks, local homeless charities etc.
- Provide food waste composting options, avoid putting food waste in landfill
You can of course go further and depending on the nature and scale of your event, make an even greater impact. Here are 5 “green” events examples for inspiration.
You have come to the place for thought leadership.