June 01, 2021
By Felicia Asiedu

The ever-growing concern about the environment and climate change, led by high-profile campaigners like Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion, has accelerated demand for conscious consumerism and sustainable initiatives. More millennials and consumers are choosing to buy and support brands that are committed to the cause of sustainability. This desire to invest in green projects has also trickled down to the events industry.

Sustainable development has become a key buzzword for both B2B and B2C events. Event organisers are sitting up and taking notice of the need to create events with a reduced carbon footprint. More recently, the event industry affirmed its commitment to the cause by submitting an accelerated action plan aligned with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

UN Sustainable Development Goals

For event professionals, creating green events can be quite a challenge at times. You want to offer a rich, personalised attendee experience while ensuring the event also meets your sustainability targets – a tough balance! Since your carbon footprint is affected by all the major aspects of your event, such as travel, food & beverage, venue, and accommodation, what should you implement to create a business-driven green event?

Here are the top 10 green event ideas to help you out!

#10 Select green event venues

Green venues

With clients increasingly looking to host green events, it has become more important than ever to select venues with solid sustainability credentials. An easy way to validate their credentials is to ask whether the venue has a certification for sustainable events like ISO 20121.

Even if they don’t have this certification, the venue should be able to show they have invested in green initiatives. This helps organisers measure the impact of their event, minimise wastage, and reduce carbon emissions. For instance, the venue could have a robust onsite waste management system, in-house recycling programme, portable composting toilets, energy-efficient systems or more. Other factors you should consider while selecting a green venue:

  • Centrally located for easy access via public transport.
  • Sufficient lodging and meeting space, to eliminate the commute between accommodation and the session location.
  • Technologically advanced with electronic signage and automated energy-saving installations.

#9 Say no to single-use plastic!

Single use plastics at events

If all the environmental campaigns and YouTube videos depicting the horrors of the rampant use of plastic haven’t convinced you yet, consider this…the EU is going to ban single-use plastics from 2021. Most disposable plastics are difficult to recycle and a nightmare to deal with for waste management providers. Some simple steps you can take:

  • Replace plastic spoons and straws with bamboo-based ones. You can even use compostable plant-based straws. Best of all, go straw-free and drink straight from the cup!
  • Install water stations with reusable cups.

#8 Provide shuttle services

Shuttle services as a green event idea

Transport is one of the major areas that can impact the sustainability of your event. If most of your attendees are using private vehicles to commute to the venue, the carbon footprint will end up being significantly higher than you expected. You can create incentives for attendees to take public transport or a lower impacting transport source by offering special swag or discounts on the goods and services to be showcased at the event. A few other steps you should take:

  • Provide shuttle services to the accommodation and event venue
  • Encourage attendees to carpool when shuttle services are not available
  • Use electric, hydrogen and hybrid cars for your official transport

#7 Order for individuals, not a crowd!

Food at green events

According to the UN, yearly food wastage in rich countries (222 million tonnes) is almost equal to the total net food produced in sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes)! Food waste is a massive concern and not just a humanitarian one. Food wasted in enormous amounts is sent to landfills, which releases greenhouse gases like methane and is a direct cause of global warming. To avoid wasting food here is what you can do:

  • Plan the menu according to the number of attendees estimated to attend. This is pretty easy for hosted events.
  • Engage local food vendors known for sustainable practices. In case you fall short, you can always have a pre-event tie-up to make emergency arrangements.
  • Use smart buffet service styles that will increase attendee satisfaction while limiting food wastage.
  • Partner with food donation programmes or consider alternative options such as livestock feeding, food waste for industrial energy and compost creation etc.

#6 Use proper cutlery that can be reused

Green cutlery

No plastic spoons. No plastic plates. No plastic utensils. A strict no to anything plastic – it will just create a mound of unmanageable rubbish! For catering, use china tableware or metal utensils that can be washed and reused. Waste is a big problem for weddings – research shows that 20kg of plastic waste and £488 worth of food waste can be produced by a single UK event. You should also:

  • Ensure any packaging the food arrives in is recyclable.
  • Encourage attendees to refill water bottles through drinking water stations.
  • Use compostable items and reusable crockery for take-away options.
  • Avoid using single sachets of sugar, salt or coffee – these are incredibly wasteful and a pain to dispose of.

#5 Biodegradable utensils will also do

Biodegradable cutlery

If using bone china and other crockery is not possible, go for biodegradable alternatives. There are numerous options available in biodegradable tableware that have a low carbon impact. You can also opt for ‘biodegradable plastics’, which are made from renewable raw materials such as starch, orange peels, corn oil and plants. These plastics brake down easily by naturally occurring bacteria, thus decomposing quickly and benefiting the environment.

#4 Eco-friendly swag options

Green gift ideas

Swag items shouldn’t become a burden on your event’s carbon footprint. Free promotional merchandise at events, like T-shirts, key chains, pens and bottles tend to end up in landfills. Instead, we recommend promoting eco-friendly gifts that can speak to the environmentally-conscious side of the attendees. Here are some options you can consider:

  • Eco-friendly/recycled notebooks and journals
  • Plants and seed packets
  • Reusable tote bags
  • Bamboo cutlery kits
  • Recycled backpacks, eco-friendly USBs
  • Recycled mugs and tumblers

#3 Use recyclable material

According to Positive Impact Events:

“Waste production has increased 10 times over the last century and will likely double again by 2025, with half of that waste from households and half from industrial and commercial buildings.”

They go on to say:

“By recycling materials, such as plastic, paper, glass and metal, this significantly reduces the amount of energy and emissions used to create a new product from recycled materials, as well as addressing the challenge of resource scarcity. It is estimated that 5.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide could be avoided by 2050 if recycling rates of industrial, commercial and household waste increased to 65%.”

Recycling at events

This statement makes a solid case for recycling as an integral part of any green event idea or strategy you create. You should:

  • Select suppliers who use compostable or recyclable packaging
  • Recycle food and beverage containers, steel cans etc.
  • Focus on things that are easily recycled – e.g. glass, cardboard, printed material. This will help you save landfill charges.
  • Put up easy to view signage at your event, so visitors are informed of recycling procedures.
  • Share recycling success stories on the event website.

#2 Have a proper waste management programme

Event waste management programme

Events generate a tremendous amount of waste, and the least you can do is to segregate the waste properly for recycling. In general, you should have a waste management programme that follows the principle of ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’. Here is what you can do:

  • Strategically place recycling bins that are correctly marked or colour coded for dry and wet waste, paper, aluminium cans, and so on.
  • Put a service team in place to collect, empty and sort the waste that tends to pile up quickly.
  • Limit the number of brochures or leaflets that any exhibitor might want to distribute at the event. Additionally, you can levy an explicitly mentioned ‘green charge’ or ‘waste management charge’ in the contract agreement for those who plan to do so.
  • Connect with a local food bank or shelter so leftover food doesn’t go waste.

#1 Minimise Paper. Shift from Print to Digital

Event management software at green events

One of the most recommended green event ideas and surprisingly often ignored is to use event management software. An end-to-end event software platform can help you digitise various aspects of the event, eliminating any need for printed material like flyers, brochures and session schedules. You will not only minimise paper usage but also conduct the event in a more efficient and streamlined manner, ultimately saving costs and driving ROI. Here are the different ways an integrated event management software helps you create a green event:

  • Use webinarsmobile event apps, and online media kits to streamline the flow of meeting information without any delay or cost incurred in sending out paper alternatives.
  • Create an event website to provide important information and updates, highlight speakers and session details, thus reducing the distribution of paper material during the event.
  • Manage last-minute changes at the venue with an event registration software.
  • Send the attendees personalised follow-up emails, and online surveys instead of a traditional direct mail thank you note. This also provides insights on attendee behaviour and expectations, and what steps you could take to create better events in the future.

Interested in more? Download this infographic and learn how you can use sustainable catering to further develop a green event.

Felicia Asiedu

Felicia Asiedu

An experienced CIM qualified marketing professional, Felicia is the European Marketing Manager at Cvent and has nearly 15 years’ sales and marketing experience in fast-moving technology businesses. She's responsible for the strategic direction of the marketing team in Europe, including expansion planning, campaign execution, demand generation and event management.

Before joining Cvent, Felicia held multiple marketing and business development positions with technology providers including Rackspace, Telecity Group (now Equinix), Infinity Data Centres and Merrill Corporation (now Datasite). Having had a healthy appetite for events for many years, she also has experience in planning and hosting both corporate and private events as well as speaking at both live and virtual events.

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