Being aware and responsible aren’t enough anymore. To align yourself with the new social and environmental norms, you must plan sustainable events.
However, when you take all the multiple aspects of running a green event into account, the entire endeavor can be confusing and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Let’s start by understanding what a sustainable event actually means.
According to McGill University, “Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In addition to natural resources, we also need social and economic resources. Sustainability is not just environmentalism. Embedded in most de definitions of sustainability we also find concerns for social equity and economic development.”
Running sustainable events involves improving distribution of resources, significantly cutting costs, showing social responsibility, responding to a greater mission, and creating a positive event image.
Whether it’s about the environmental, economical, or societal aspect (or all of those), planning a sustainable event will help you explore new, more efficient alternatives and have a greater impact.
Knowing that, you can become a sustainable planner. If you decide to go for it, here’s a list of questions you must consider to be sure your event is truly sustainable:
Q1. What are the resources you put into planning your event?
To answer this question, you’ll have to audit the logistics. First, focus on the resources you’re using to organize your team’s work.
From paper waste to office energy, include all the amenities at your disposal. Then, focus on the resources that go into planning and running the event.
How many documents and programs will you need to print? What is the estimated fuel usage? What type of decorations will you choose for the event? Will you have light decoration or will you decide to go with something more sustainable?
These and more questions will help you understand the amplitude of your resources and find ways to reduce their usage or replace them with something truly sustainable.
Q2. Is your event increasing the plastic pollution?
Think about it: plastic sandwich bags, laminated badges, plastic goodie bags, ... Is your event contributing to the plastic pollution?
If you want to avoid that, limit the use of plastic at your event (or try to eliminate it completely). If you really want to make your event truly sustainable, you should declare war on plastic.
Luckily, plastic can easily be swapped for smarter, more environmentally friendly solutions. For example, instead of plastic goodie bags, you could hire a local company to make cotton bags for the event. For the badges, you could forgo the plastic cover and print the attendees’ names on reusable cardboard.
Q3. How do you manage the venue amenities?
From energy to water waste, how you use the venue will have an impact on the environment. For example, to avoid energy waste, you could rent a venue with big windows. During the day, your attendees will enjoy the natural light, and you’ll only need to use the lights for a few hours in the evening.
Or you could choose an entirely sustainable venue, such as one that’s powered up by solar panels or secondhand batteries from used electric vehicles.
Q4. Are you coordinating the catering waste?
Before choosing a catering company for your next event, make sure it has a sustainability policy. Where does the company get its products from? Does it use locally grown products? What is the company’s take on how to manage food waste? How about the dinnerware: Is it reusable or recyclable?
Ask potential catering providers these questions so you know if you’re dealing with a responsible company or if you should search for another option.
Q5. Are you going international or local?
It’s very difficult to keep your events entirely local. At least a few of the speakers and many of the attendees will have to travel to the event.
However, this shouldn’t stop you from trying to make your event truly sustainable.
For example, you could track CO2 emissions. You could also ask your international guests to opt for urban transpiration that’s based on alternative energy resources.
Call to action
Although you event can’t be 100% sustainable, don’t worry: Even the little things can make a difference.
Stay aware and try to decrease the use of resources where you can, while opting for what’s reusable, recyclable, and healthy.
It’ll keep you one step ahead of many other planners, not to mention it leaves a positive impression with your attendees. Keep up the good job and don’t stop making this world a better place!