Green to the last drop: Five easy strategies to reduce the water footprint of your next event

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You might be surprised to learn that my northern British Columbia community suffers from a water shortage almost every single year. Yes folks, it does happen in Canada. In fact, when many of you are enjoying the tender, emerging buds of spring, my friends and neighbours are facing notices outlining how the water restrictions can (and probably will) escalate from “stage one” through “stage four”. Stage four isn’t pretty.
Five easy strategies to reduce the water footprint of your next event
Water is always on our minds. We worry about it constantly, thinking “will we have enough?” and “what happens if we run out?” We try to balance the needs of industry with the needs of community, but oftentimes one or both get shortchanged. Who deserves it more?

Water conservation is the little black dress of the 21st century. Water is what the cool kids are conserving.

So, knowing how important water conservation has become, you may be asking yourself, “as an event professional, what can I do to conserve water during conferences and events?”

I am glad you asked!

Here are some easy strategies to reduce the water footprint of your next event and help you to become green to the last drop!

  1. Use your influence. Encourage attendees to take water conservation personally. During EventCamp Vancouver 2011 (ECV), we gave away four-minute shower timers to attendees and challenged them to use them. Doing so would earn them valuable points in the mobile app based sustainability game, Get Your Green On, created and developed for ECV by Shawna McKinley, Judy Kucharuk and the team at QuickMobile.
    The attendees were encouraged to form the “four-minute shower” habit, which benefits the community where the conference or event is held, as well as the community that the attendee resides. It is a gift that keeps on giving! (The shower timer is a fabulous giveaway idea for an event or conference, and it can be branded with sponsor information.)
  2. Pick up your towel! The game, Get Your Green On, also encouraged and rewarded other water saving behaviour. Reusing your towel and requesting that your linens not be changed during your hotel stay garnered additional points.
  3. Ask before you pour: Discontinue the habit of pre-pouring water glasses before meals. Yes, we still see caterers doing this.
  4. Coffee-talk: Did you know that in order to brew 3.8 litres of coffee, it requires 3,331 litres of water (growing, manufacturing, and packaging)? Breaking it down further, it takes 140 litres of water to equal one cup of coffee. These facts and more are available on the National Geographic The Hidden Water We Use page. Knowing these staggering statistics, how can we incorporate alternative, and less water-logged, beverages for our attendees?
    Drop the decaf and substitute with instant. Conserve water and money by not providing large carafes of pre-made decaffeinated coffee at coffee stations. Much of it is discarded because attendees simply do not consume large quantities of decaffeinated coffee. Alternatively, provide a great quality “instant” decaf option allowing the hot water for tea to serve double-duty. Of course, knowing your audience is key to these strategies being successful. Keep accurate measurements of what is discarded – this information will become invaluable when planning the event next year.
  5. Beware flavoured water stations! You know the ones I speak of? They contain cucumber slices, mint or fruit and they look beautiful and taste great. But, they can be costly and wasteful. Think about your audience, the time of year and location (inside or outside) before going overboard with flavoured water stations. Once again, keep accurate measurements of what is discarded.

These are just a sample of ideas to assist you in conserving water at your next event. Give it a shot! You might be surprised at just how easy and rewarding it can be.

Remember: water is what the cool kids are conserving!

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