11 Tips For Sustainable Events
Sustainability has been the buzzword for a couple of years, and with good reason. Not only does it impact the environment, but it also can bring positive effects to other areas, like your company’s bottom line and employee satisfaction.
From choosing eco-friendly food and beverages to attending the event to reduce your carbon footprint, sustainable events are an easy way to care for the environment while bringing people together to celebrate something they love.
Here are 11 tips for developing a sustainable event that keeps your attendees happy and leaves you feeling good about your business role in society.
1. Don’t use carpet
Carpet is one of the most difficult materials to recycle, and it’s estimated that only about 5% of carpet is recycled yearly. That means that 95% of carpet ends up in landfills, which can take hundreds of years to break down.
If you’re planning an event, avoid using carpet altogether. There are plenty of other more sustainable flooring options. They may cost a little more upfront, but they will last much longer than carpet and are easily recyclable or biodegradable.
Another option is a linoleum surface; this material was invented over 150 years ago and remains just as popular today. Linoleum is often considered one of the best renewable resources on earth. It’s made from natural materials like wood chips, cork dust, cottonseed oil and limestone – all of which can be found in abundance.
Furthermore, its production process doesn’t use hazardous chemicals like formaldehyde or benzene (both toxic substances). As a result, linoleum has no emissions: no VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and minimal CO2 emissions.
2. Buy or hire a reusable modular system
Reusable modular systems are a great way to make your event more sustainable. They can be used repeatedly, reducing waste, and they’re often made from recycled materials.
Plus, you can easily set this up, and you’ll save time and energy. There are plenty of options for those in the planning stages of their event. And the best part is that these systems typically come with instructions for assembly and breakdown.
If your intentions are to hold your event outdoors, consider adding a reusable tent system to your venue. This will reduce waste from building materials and reduce your need for paper goods such as disposable plates and cups.
Even if you’re having an indoor event with no outdoor space, buying or renting a modular system is still worth considering.
Germany and the European Union Europe historically led in environmental innovation 40 or 50 years ago, with the advent of reusable modular systems. These predetermined lengths of beams lock together to form various forms and sizes – typically characterized by marketers as a box of Lego.
There is no carpet in the aisles there, and even 30 years ago, if you erected an exhibition stand in Scandinavia and wrapped your walls with PVC, you had to transport the plastic back to the U.K. but leave the rest there.
3. Use eco-friendly graphics
Using eco-friendly graphics is one of the best ways to make your event more sustainable. By using less paper and ink, you’ll save money and resources.
Plus, eco-friendly graphics are often more creative and unique, which will set your event apart from the rest. Consider hiring a graphic designer or artist specializing in these graphics for your next event.
This way, you can create eco-friendly invitations. For example, you can print invitations on recycled paper or choose a recycled envelope for mailing them out. Be sure to include an RSVP card with directions for attendees so they know how much postage they need to mail back their response card.
4. Use recycled or reusable decorations
There are many ways to make your event more sustainable, and one way is to use recycled or reusable decorations. This can be as simple as fabric banners instead of paper or potted plants instead of cut flowers. Using recycled or reusable decorations is good for the environment and can save you money in the long run.
Use the resources you have on hand whenever possible. For example, if a store-bought decoration doesn’t fit your theme, don’t buy a new one just because it’s available. Instead, pull the strings and get creative with what you already have on hand.
Most states have a system that will take care of recycling everything from an event, like cups, napkins, and plates. In some cases, you may even get tax credits for hiring companies specializing in recycling or composting services.
Paper tablecloths and plates can be used instead of plastic ones, while compostable cutlery and cups made from plants can replace plastic products. If you need extra accessories such as vases, try to source these locally. Once again, be sure not to use anything that can’t be recycled!
5. Encourage exhibitors to be green
Your event’s volunteers are its lifeblood. Training them properly to handle the numerous sustainability measures can help you reach your goals. One successful method of educating your volunteers is to use tools like InitLive, which allows you to broadcast messages to your team and update them on the go as needed.
Aside from your event’s carbon impact and waste, think about how you can conserve and perhaps create your energy. If your event will feature exhibitors, ask them to consider how much energy their exhibit would consume.
They’ll want the exhibit to appear wonderful and appealing, but it doesn’t mean they have to expend excessive energy. People, for example, may be employed to power everything from movie projectors to margarita stations to dancing floors.
So not only will individuals feel more involved, but it will also reinvigorate them while saving power. If you want to build extra lighting (in addition to the current lighting at the venue), utilize LED lights, which may lower your carbon footprint by over 70%.
6. Support local caterers
Supporting local caterers is a perfect way to make your event more sustainable. Working with businesses in your community can reduce your carbon footprint and support the local economy. Plus, local caterers are likely to be more familiar with the area and be able to source ingredients from nearby farms.
Don’t be afraid to request a green option from your caterer. If you let them know that sustainable practices are important to you, they may be able to work up a special vegetarian or vegan menu for your event. You can also ask how their ingredients are sourced and if they compost at their location.
A plus side of hiring a local caterer is that they’ll often use less energy because they cook on-site and are closer to their suppliers. You might not find this perk with larger catering companies because they typically bring food from afar or ship it ahead of time.
7. Book an Eco-friendly Venue
When choosing a venue for your sustainable event, there are a few key things to remember. First, consider the carbon footprint of the venue. How far away is it? Is public transportation available? The closer and more accessible the venue is, the better.
Secondly, take a look at the venue itself. Is it made from sustainable materials? Does it have energy-efficient lighting? All of these to consider when choosing a sustainable event space.
Next, ask your venue if they offer any recycling services. If they do, make sure to use them. Recycling is incredibly important because it keeps old paper products out of landfills and turns them into new reusable products.
8. Find a Greener way of communication
A perfect way to make your event more sustainable is to communicate with your attendees in a more environmentally-friendly way. For example, you can send digital invitations and promote your event via social media and other online channels.
It will help reduce paper waste and save trees. Plus, it’s a more cost-effective way to reach a larger audience.
You can also make your event eco-friendly by providing electronic name tags to your attendees. It will help them avoid printing a physical nametag, and it’s more eco-friendly than using traditional name badges with plastic attachments.
9. Think about food waste
According to the EPA, food waste is the single largest component of solid waste in the U.S., making up more than 20 percent of what we throw away. And much of that wasted food ends up in landfills, where it decomposes and emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
So consider composting at your event or inviting local food vendors already composting. If you’re serving prepackaged foods, encourage guests to take their leftovers home. Bring reusable dishes, cups, and silverware for your caterer. Or look into renting items from companies who specialize in sustainable event planning.
In 2014, New York’s Tenleytown neighborhood celebrated Earth Day with an annual street festival.
Organizers recycled more than 50 tons of waste, cut food waste by over 30 percent, and diverted more than 37,000 pounds of leftover food from D.C. Central Kitchen—the largest meal distribution organization in our region—helping to feed hungry people in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Now that’s a sustainable event.
10. Source sustainable food
It’s an unfortunate truth that most disposable plastic isn’t recycled—it ends up in landfills or our oceans. But you can make a big difference at your next event by eliminating plastic bottles and serving food on recyclable plates.
Offering drinks in reusable cups will also save a lot of waste. You might also consider composting any organic material left over after your event.
You might also consider composting any organic material left over after your events, such as banana peels, coffee grounds, leftover fruit and vegetable scraps, used napkins, paper towels, and uneaten food.
When disposing of the contents at home, store it in a sealed container first, so animals don’t have access to it.
For your next event, consider how it will affect your community’s ecosystem. By eliminating single-use plastics and serving food on sustainable products, you can help reduce waste and make your event more sustainable.
Be sure to discuss your options with local hotels or venues so they’re prepared to support a greener celebration.
11. Provide greener transportation options
If you’re hosting an event, there’s a good chance that many of your attendees will be coming from out of town.
You can make it easier for guests to choose eco-friendly transportation options by providing information on public transit, carpooling, and biking. You can even offer incentives to encourage sustainable travel.
Another way to encourage greener transportation options is to help make it easier for attendees to share rides or rent a Zipcar.
If you have your event at a hotel, you could also offer discounted parking rates for carpooling participants.
It’s not easy being green; it takes commitment, creativity, and planning. First, you need to plan for everything: what will the food be? Will it be compostable? What materials will be used for decorations? Where will the leftovers go after the meal? What cleaning products will you use?
It may look like a lot of work at first glance, but we’re all in this together–one person doing their part makes a difference.
Hopefully, these ideas help you think about your next event in a way that’s more respectful of our environment. Although sometimes you may have little control over aspects like venue, date, and time, as an organizer, you can do many things to make your event more eco-friendly.
And if everyone pitches in, no one has to miss out on their annual party! A sustainable event leaves something positive behind instead of taking something away.