Some green event practices are challenging, but these 10 short-cuts help you hack your way to less waste, easier logistics, and may even save a little money!
1. Holder-free badges. I’d love to host a hack-your-badge-athon to design an eco-friendly, effective, efficient and exciting name badge. (If you’re with me leave a comment, we’ll talk!) Until then I’ll settle for one improvement: going holderless. Name badge holders typically contain a lot of undesirable plastic we can do with less of. So evaluate if you can go without, and go for it! Consider one like this via @brita30 @michaelluehrs.
2. Three-compartment boxed lunches. What’s up with the-package-in-a-box-in-a-box-and-maybe-even-a-bag design of disposable lunch boxes at conferences? If a disposable box is necessary, it helps to use a single, multi-compartment box, like the one below. Sturdy, stackable, and no added packaging for salads and cutlery inside! And note the green sticker: 100 per cent compostable!
3. Lunchbox donations. For planners of large events, boxed lunches are a reality. So while excessive packaging destined for landfill is discouraged through hacks like the one above, another alternative might be to put out donation bowls for left-over lunch items. This empowers attendees to give back safe items they might not eat, like whole fruit and packaged snacks.
4. To go? You go! I’ve written about this simple way to reduce coffee break waste before: ask for to-go cups to be removed from your break stations. Some may be nervous about taking away the choice for to-go cups from attendees, but unless your program is over, do you really want attendees to be encouraged “to go”? In most cases, no one will notice the difference, and you may save a little on consumption by using slightly smaller ceramic cups.
5. Cardboard kiosk panels. The hard-walls used in event kiosks are typically made of PVC. While durable and reusable, the manufacture of PVC comes with significant health concerns, so reducing how much you use – especially for one-time-use applications – is ideal. One way to do this is by using cardboard for kiosk panels with graphics. This requires flat-faced designs, is best used indoors, and produces high quality, durable designs. Who would have known the sign below is actually a cardboard box!
6. Light bulb lanyard moment. Earlier this year I participated in a waste audit of an exhibit hall. Going through the trash on opening night I found something unexpected: lanyards, and a LOT of them! We projected 500 lanyards were discarded by exhibitors who likely replaced their show-provided lanyard with one that was being used by staff at their booth. Light bulb lanyard moment! Reducing waste and saving money can be as simple as asking exhibitors at check-in if they need a lanyard, or plan to use their own.
7. Badge draw. Many planners try to collect and reuse their badges. But how successful are you? In my experience many attendees forget to remove their badge, and often bins can’t be placed at every exit to prompt people to recycle their badge. Attaching a draw or donation to your badge recycling program can be a great way to encourage people to participate. IMEX’s badge back program (where attendees can drop their badge to vote for a donation to their favoured CSR program) is a great example!
8. Trash-bin free booths. You know those little trash cans that come with your exhibit booth? If you took a few minutes to recycle or compost the material tossed in these bins, you could help recover 70 per cent of what is typically landfilled each day at a trade show. In-booth trash bins are a matter of convenience for busy exhibitors, and are sometimes necessary. But many times they’re not, and using them without pausing to consider if you need them can increase the amount of landfill from your event. Consider if you can get away with eliminating in-booth bins and providing conveniently located recycling for your exhibitors to use.
9. The last straw! If you’ve ever participated in an event waste audit, you’ll find a large amount of small plastic items get thrown away, such as lids, bags and straws. Last year we experimented with eliminating lids and straws at paid concessions at a mid-sized conference, only providing them on request. While any reduction in landfill was hard to directly correlate to the lack of these items, we did notice a reduction in volunteer time to sort trash as about three fewer person hours were spent removing small plastic items contaminating compost. Many times you receive a straw you don’t really need it, so why not try making it and other small plastic items only available on request? Or use paper ones? For more inspiration check out this video by Straw Wars and the inspiring efforts of Milo Cress’ Be Straw Free Campaign.
10. Dessert decor. Who doesn’t like a good old-fashioned two-in-one deal? If you’re paying for dessert or an appetizer why not ask if the chef can create something that also serves as a centrepiece? Now that’s a sweet ending: Yum!
What’s your favourite green event hack?