Striving for sustainability in events

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sustainability in events

By Daniella Bustamante

The concept of “sustainable” and “green” events is not new. Over the years, we have seen a shift towards making events more eco-friendly. This has been most noticeable with more hotels and convention centers coming up with detailed eco-friendly initiatives. With venues stepping up to the plate, planners and producers (myself included) need to do our part to prioritize sustainability.

Overhauling an event to make it “green” is not an easy nor appealing feat, but even through gradual and incremental change, we may come to a point where the line between “green” events and “regular” events has been erased.

Here are just a few basic things to keep in mind to reduce waste and make your event greener.

Be honest

First and foremost, we need to assess and acknowledge our contributions to event wastage. Ask yourself and be honest about the kind of waste your events generate, including paper, plastic, food and power. Once we are honest with ourselves and identify areas for improvement, we can come up with a plan of action.

Go digital

From signage to handouts, paper is one of the most commonly wasted items at events. By going digital you are not only reducing waste, but saving on print costs. Think about the information you want to communicate through print materials and ask yourself, “Could this same information be communicated digitally?” Apps, social media, monitors and screens are all great alternatives to print collateral. Downloadable digital e-book style programs are also worth considering in place of print programs.

sustainability in events

The venue

Finding a green venue that prioritizes sustainability is a definite step in the right direction. When sourcing, you want to identify things like:

  • Is the venue a LEED-certified facility?
  • Is there an abundance of natural light for daytime events?
  • Does the venue run on bullfrog power?
  • Are supplies and rentals held on site or is delivery needed?
  • Are recycling stations and bins available throughout the venue?
  • Do they have an energy or carbon management program?

These are just some questions to consider when assessing a sustainable event venue.

Catering

To avoid or minimize food wastage from the onset, ensure you are tracking historical figures from previous events (attendance numbers, order quantities, amount wasted). Educated decision-making when confirming food and beverage numbers is key to reducing waste.

When excess food does occur, see if the venue or caterer is able to donate to food rescue organizations like Second Harvest.

Menu selection is another area where you can make conscious choices. Go for seasonal and local whenever available and always ensure you have some vegetarian or even vegan options for delegates.

Think about how the food and drinks are being served. Avoid giving out plastic water bottles; instead encourage refill stations or provide jugs of water and glasses. Should disposables be unavoidable, see if they can be replaced with biodegradable or recyclable items.

Talk about your efforts

Finally, be transparent and highlight your efforts towards creating a greener event. Let attendees know what you are doing from the pre-event stage all the way through to on-site. Maybe it is a write-up on how they can help contribute by bringing refillable water bottles or by downloading an app instead of printing. More often than not, attendees will be on board and support your efforts. The more we talk about it, the more commonplace these changes and initiatives become.

About the author

Daniella BustamanteDaniella Bustamante is a senior event coordinator at Managing Matters, where she leads and produces a variety of events ranging from networking socials to large scale conferences. Daniella has worked in different facets of the events industry since 2012, from production and experiential marketing to design and planning.

Daniella is an alumni of Seneca College, where she studied Event and Media Production, along with pursuing post-graduate studies in Event and Exhibit Management. She has also studied Event Design at UK Arts Institution, Central Saint Martins.

Her passion for innovation and the creation of unique experiences is a driving force in all projects she works on.

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