Globally, July 2021 was the hottest month on record, according to the NOAA. We are experiencing the effect of climate change now.

We should all do everything we can do be more sustainable—including in the events industry.

At the height of COVID-19, the industry was faced with a choice: go virtual, or cancel. We chose the former.

We found virtual events to have their pros and cons. Here’s one of the biggest pros: a reduction in environmental impact.

Today, we’ll explore the rise of virtual events and their implication on sustainability.

A Bit About Fossil Fuels

What’s the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States? We’ll give you a hint. It isn’t agriculture. And it isn’t electricity, either.

It’s transportation. The EPA found that 29% of greenhouse gases emitted in 2019 stemmed from the burning of fossil fuels by cars, trains, ships, and planes. That’s the biggest contributor by a wide margin.

Fossil fuels aren’t everything when it comes to fighting climate change. But reducing our dependence on them is the biggest obstacle to overcome in the quest for a greener planet.

Fueling the Events Industry

What does this have to do with events? If it’s been a while since you’ve attended one in-person, you might have forgotten all the travel involved.

Flying across the country to attend a two-day event is not uncommon. Even when air travel isn’t necessary, let’s not forget that ordinary passenger vehicles have a substantial carbon footprint, too—especially when hundreds of them are driven together.

But there’s good news. Fossils don’t have to fuel the events industry.

Lockdown’s Silver Lining

Early into last year’s lockdown, you might recall a viral video purporting to show dolphins returning to Venice’s canals. The world took this as a sign that the reduction in emissions resulted in a healthier planet.

Of course, the video was a hoax. But then—1 year later—it actually happened. A pair of dolphins made their way through the Grand Canal while the city was in the middle of their 3rd lockdown.

This story is anecdotal. But it does suggest that a year of intermittent lockdowns and increased emphasis on remote work has benefitted the environment.

Experts agree that COVID-19 has caused marked improvements in air quality, GHG emissions, and pollution. But the world must go on, and things shouldn’t stay this way forever. Events must be held.

Going Virtual is Going Green

As we alluded to earlier, the events industry by and large opted to go virtual in response to COVID-19.

Virtual events mean no travel whatsoever. This makes attendance more convenient for everyone.

People on the other side of the country—or even the planet—can experience an event without hopping on a plane. Even local attendees find tuning into a livestream simpler than driving to the convention center.

When attendance is easier, more people will attend. It’s as simpler as that. This is why countless organizations shattered their previous attendance records when they made the switch to virtual.

But it’s not just organizations that benefitted from the virtual renaissance. The planet did, too. Could virtual events be the key to a sustainable future for the events industry?

The Need for In-Person Events

Still, in-person events should return. Although event technology has evolved to make virtual attendance remarkably immersive and engaging, you shouldn’t overlook the advantages of place-based experiences.

It’s difficult to replicate the organic, person-to-person interactions that occur onsite. Casual chats in between sessions and during happy hour are more important than you might think. They’re a substantial part of what draws people to events in the first place.

Additionally, a few organizations have struggled to monetize their virtual events as well as they do in-person ones. Often, this results from an expectation that virtual attendance should be free. We believe that events should be priced based on the value they provide—not the method of attendance. And you should too.

Our clients have learned to maximize the ROI of in-person events through decades of experience. With the right tools, they can do the same with virtual events.  Still, some may want to stick to the in-person model they’re more familiar with.

Hybrid Events and the Promise of Sustainability

Livestreams and webinars work best as a complement to place-based experiences, not a substitute for them. This idea drives the shift toward Hybrid Events.

You don’t want to say goodbye to the perks of in-person events, or virtual events either. Fortunately, you don’t have to. Hybrid Events roll all the perks of both approaches into one incredible package.

Hybrid Events present a more profitable event model for you, and a more accessible one for your attendees. More pertinently, they mean a reduced environmental impact.

Some of your audience will choose to attend in-person. Others will prefer the virtual experience. What results is a significantly reduced carbon footprint, as a portion of your audience chooses to experience your event from home.

Looking Ahead

The rise of virtual events has a huge implication for sustainability in the industry. We learned that events could have a negligible carbon footprint. But we also gained a newfound respect for the inherent value only an in-person experience can provide.

In Hybrid Events, we’ve found the happy medium between sustainability and engagement

We believe that every little bit we can do to lessen our environmental impact counts. And going hybrid is more than just a little bit; it’s a big step toward a sustainable future for us and our clients.

Produce Sustainable Events with CommPartners

Looking to reduce the environmental impact of your events? We can help.

Hybrid Events are nothing new to us. With over 13 years of experience merging in-person and virtual experiences, we’ve learned to maximize their impact and profitability. We’re ready to help you do the same.

If you’d rather reduce your footprint with virtual events, we can help with that too. Whatever format you choose, integration with our award-winning Elevate LMS raises the bar for reach, revenue, and retention.

Ready to go green with your events? Get in touch with Meghan Gowen at Keep up with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.