The world is going green, and so are we! Sustainability is becoming a key pillar of event planning, and the earlier you join the trend, the bigger your impact will be. Not only will you help the environment, but you’ll also discover new ways to save money and expand your network.
We get it, change can be scary. But don’t worry. We’re here with everything you need to know about sustainable event planning, from benefits to best practices. By the end, you’ll feel like a hardened eco-warrior ready to plan some A+ events!
Benefits of sustainability.
First, let’s get our minds right. When thinking about the changes you’ll have to make, it’s understandable to feel intimidated. You’ve got your routines, your special tricks, and now you’ve got to find new ones? However, if you think about the benefits instead of the challenges, you’ll see that sustainable event planning is the key to leveling up.
Firstly, by going green, you’ll create instant buzz for your event. You’ll attract attendees who value sustainability and seek to support anyone who is working to achieve it, not to mention how viral sustainability is on social media. #trending!
Alongside promotional benefits, sustainability can lead to an expanded network of attendees, vendors, exhibitors, and sponsors. Think of it like the doorway to a whole new world of exciting and creative people that will join your event-planning journey. Use your event’s sustainability to secure dream sponsors that share environmental values.
When you hear “sustainability,” do you immediately look at your wallet? You’ll be happy to hear that going green will save some green, too. By conserving waste, energy, and limiting your resources to only those that you actually need, you’ll cut down on the cost of all these items. As it turns out, what’s best for the environment is also best for your business!
Now that you see the benefits, let’s talk about how to do it right.
It’s a whole new world—but not really. Green events start just like the others, with a defined strategy complete with goals and initiatives to achieve them. By making sustainability a core part of your early brainstorming, you’ll seamlessly integrate these practices into your workflow; making the adaptation easier and less frightening.
Once you’ve set your sustainability goals—such as percentage of waste reduction—you can address the core areas that will be affected. We’ll break these down into waste reduction, energy consumption, water usage, and transportation.
First, we need to take out the trash. Waste reduction is one of the most impactful aspects of sustainability. Use a color-coded bin system to make recycling easy for attendees and staff. Invest in eco-friendly cups, plates, etc. made from recycled materials to further the cycle of reusability. Estimate as specifically as you can the amount of materials needed for your event. This ensures you only purchase materials that you will actually use, reducing unnecessary waste from excess resources. This extra step will also reduce the overall cost of your event!
Lastly, by going paperless by including tickets, information, and more on a digital app. Not only will this eliminate waste, but it’ll increase efficiency by consolidating all information in one, easy-to-access place. For more details on waste management, check out the City of Folsom’s comprehensive blueprint.
Immediately cut down on energy usage by choosing a venue that already has energy-efficient measures in place. Focus on LEED certified buildings, as these have already been approved for exceptional eco-friendly design. If you own the venue where you’re hosting the event, consider implementing low-energy LED luminaires, low-consumption heating, ventilation, and HVAC equipment. You’ll cut back on energy during your event while setting yourself up for sustainability in the future.
Our bodies may be 75% water, but there’s no reason our event’s should consume more than they need. Again, the first step to cutting back on water waste is choosing a venue that is optimized for water efficiency. When planning, consider the season that your event will take place and carefully estimate the water needed to avoid excess resources. If your event requires hiring portable bathrooms, choose a water-efficient provider who uses correct wastewater disposal methods. This is your chance to get out there and make some new friends who share your eco-friendly values!
Brief staff members on water-usage principles to ensure that no one unintentionally wastes water throughout your event. Encourage everyone, including exhibitors, speakers, and attendees, to bring reusable water bottles. Sustainable event planning is a team effort! The City of Adelaide put together an exceptional report on their water management in events.
This is a tricky one. When it comes to transportation, you’ve got two options: reduce the need for it, or encourage alternative forms that will cut back on the usage of greenhouse gasses. Choosing a venue near public transportation will go a long way to encouraging the use of alternative transportation. Are you seeing a pattern here?
Other alternatives include carpooling, which is a great way to foster those all-important relationships among attendees and staff, too. Ride sharing is another great option for reducing the number of cars on the road and the amount of gas in the air.
It may be tricky to hit 0% with transportation, but you can off-set your footprint with initiatives throughout the event or by giving back via donations, tree planting, or other environmentally positive actions. Remember, it’s not about being perfect right away, but adopting a new way of planning. After a few events, you’re sure to hit that coveted 0%!
Iconic success stories.
If you’re still feeling intimidated, we’ve got some inspiration for you in the form of two impressive green events. Not only did they set the precedent, but they’re about as big as events can get. If they can do it, so can you!
Oktoberfest draws roughly 6 million beer-loving, clog-wearing attendees a year. This monumental festival is also one of the pioneers of sustainable event planning, having won an Environmental Oscar award as early as 1997. Talk about trendsetters!
Following in the footsteps of Munich, Oktoberfest removed the usage of disposable materials, uses ONLY green energy to power the festival, and sources all food and drinks from organic suppliers. It may be one of the biggest festivals in the world, but it leaves one of the smallest carbon footprints, and has done so for nearly three decades.
London Olympics 2012:
It’s the most iconic sports event in history, and in 2012, London made it one of the most eco-friendly ones. Their efforts created the blueprint for sustainability, resulting in the now internationally recognized ISO 20121 standard. No matter the scale of your event, you can use this blueprint to create a fully-sustainable event.
Reaching for the same gold standard as its athletes, London achieved sustainability by only building new venues when necessary, hiring instead of buying equipment, recycling almost 99% of waste, and by instituting several other measures that transformed the potential for sustainability in event planning into an impressive reality.
Planning a better future.
Sustainability is not only beneficial to you, your brand, and the planet, but it is also necessary. The event industry leaves a large carbon footprint wherever it goes, but it doesn’t have to. New technology, planning strategies, and precedents set by green events have proven that another path exists.
It’s up to all of us to step boldly into this new paradigm. By getting ahead of the trend, you’ll position yourself as a leader in the industry, inspiring others and giving your brand a level of prestige. It’s the ultimate win-win!
We encourage you to implement these practices into your planning, even if it’s only a single initiative; remember, a reduced carbon footprint starts with a single step. If it ever seems difficult or overwhelming, we’re here to provide the information and inspiration you need. When it comes to sustainability, we’re in it together!
Kickstart your journey towards becoming an eco-warrior event planner with our upcoming webinar, Eco-Event Essentials: Sustainable Strategies on Thursday, June 1st at 11:00 AM CT. Now, let’s get plan–ting!