Nearly everything we do impacts the environment. Bicycling to work has a smaller carbon footprint than driving. It’s better to purchase locally grown produce than vegetables shipped across the country. The same goes for switching to renewable energy.
For every environmentally damaging action, there is a more sustainable alternative. Events are no exception.
Events. Meetings. Conferences. All of these can have a substantial environmental impact. How can we make them greener?
Sustainability exists on a sliding scale. You may not be able to make your event 100% green. But every little thing you do to reduce its footprint is worth it in the end.
Here’s our guide to planning greener events and meetings as the industry emerges from COVID-19.
1. Pick a Green Venue
Event sustainability begins with a sustainable venue.
In your search for a green spot to hold your conference, learn what they’re doing to conserve the environment. Most venues that take environmental concerns seriously will broadcast this information on their website.
Here are some marks of a green venue to look for:
- Renewable energy
- Water fountains (not bottled water!)
- Locally sourced food
- Green certification
Finally, keep in mind the location of a venue. The fewer people have to fly, the greener your conference will be. Easy accessibility via public transit is a big bonus, too.
2. Recycling and Compost
Recycling something is always better than throwing it away. The more stuff you keep out of the landfill, the more sustainable your event will be.
Make sure that your venue can accommodate recycling (note: this is a legal requirement in some localities). That part is easy. The challenge comes in getting your attendees to recycle, and to recycle properly.
Many people don’t know what’s recyclable and what isn’t. Making matters more difficult is the fact that recyclables can vary from place to place. Clearly post what can and cannot be recycled above the cans.
Food waste and some types of paper (paper towels, used napkins) can’t be recycled. Instead, you can compost them.
Composting isn’t as common at venues. But if you set compostables aside, you can hire a pickup service to take them to the right place.
3. Sustainable Food and Drink
What and how attendees eat accounts for a big chunk of an event’s ecological impact.
For one thing, there’s the problem we already touched on: waste. There is a crisis of food waste on this country. The FDA estimates that as much as 40% of food and drink in the United ends up in the landfill.
Then there’s the matter of what we eat. It’s easy not to think about where your food comes from. But your meal had a long journey from farm to plate.
One study recently found that a steak and shrimp, “surf and turf” dinner has an environmental impact comparable to a cross-country road trip in a small car.
So how can your food and beverage choices contribute to your event’s sustainability? Here are some pointers:
- Survey attendees for food they’d like to eat
- Use compostable utensils and plates
- Choose a caterer that locally sources produce
- Don’t order more food than you need
4. Go Paperless
Using a ton of paper is all good, as long as you recycle it, right? Not exactly.
Recycling paper is certainly better than sending it to the landfill. But, in an ideal world, you wouldn’t be using paper at all.
Eliminating every last bit of paper from your event may look daunting. But event technology has made it possible to go completely paperless.
Mobile event apps have eliminated the need for physical floor plans, business cards, abstracts, and even posters. We’re only scratching the surface.
A perfectly paperless conference is more achievable than you think. Partner with us, and we’ll make it happen.
5. Green Gift Bags
Gift bags have been a staple and in-person events for decades. They’re a great way to distribute branded material, and give your attendees something tangible to show for their time.
But, too often, gift bags end up as waste themselves. Attendees carry them around for a few days, then forget about them when they return home. Too often, they end up in the trash.
You need to put together gift bags that people actually want.
While we’re on the subject of sustainability, why not include some gifts that help eventgoers go green? Take the bag itself. If it’s tastefully branded and charmingly designed, they can use it to replace single-use plastic bags at the grocery store. Reusable water bottles are another great, green choice.
Another option is to take your gift bag digital. Offer free downloadable tickets, e-books, or courses in your LMS.
6. Go Hybrid
Which has a more significant ecological impact: a virtual event, or an in-person one?
Overwhelmingly, livestreams and webinars tend to be greener. But there’s no denying the benefits of place-based, face-to-face events.
Hybrid Events offer the networking potential of in-person events with the exposure and sustainability of a virtual approach.
Even if only 25% of your audience chooses to join virtually, that’s still a considerable reduction in emissions. But, given the convenience of online attendance, you will likely attract more remote attendees than you expect.
Here are some other perks of Hybrid Events, apart from sustainability:
- Higher overall attendance
- More sponsorship opportunities
- Improved accessibility
- New, digital ways to engage
The world needs to make big changes to preserve the planet. Going hybrid can be one of those changes.
Go Green with Hybrid Meetings and Events from CommPartners
We’ve leveraged a hybrid format for more than 13 years. In all that time, we’ve learned how to maximize its potential for longevity and revenue.
Count on our experience as you make the push for events that are more impactful, sustainable, and profitable.