The state of sustainability in the events industry
The number of event organizers taking sustainability seriously is on the rise, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Many event-related organizations, venues and businesses are taking steps toward a greener future, including developing robust sustainability programs, building greener convention centers and joining industry-wide campaigns such as the Net Zero Carbon Events pledge, and global initiatives such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In response to the urgent need for sustainability, VDA has compiled a list of tips for how every event professional can contribute to a greener future and make a positive impact right now.
How to create more sustainable events:
Create a sustainability policy.
The first step is to have key stakeholders take part in identifying the goals and objectives of your sustainability policy. From here, it’s time to develop actionable steps that align with these goals and objectives.
For example, if one of your primary goals is to reduce water waste at events, consider installing free water refill stations on site so attendees can refill their reusable bottles instead of purchasing plastic ones from vendors
Create satellite events and keep things local.
Smaller, more intimate events can be an important part of a bigger plan for sustainability. Rather than having one major conference a year, consider hosting a series of regional micro-events. The best part about this approach is that it keeps travel time for participants to a minimum, which helps reduce carbon emissions significantly.
Consider portable event environments and pop-up structures.
The popularity of pop-up events has grown rapidly, especially for B2C events. Sadly, sustainability isn’t always associated with pop-ups. Creating a temporary space is only really sustainable if you can create a structure that is portable and reusable.
Pick your venue based on sustainability ratings.
Choosing a venue is probably one of the most important things to consider when you are planning an event. When evaluating site options, make sure that it has the right sustainability ratings. You can look for venues that have invested in sustainability and have been awarded with LEED certification, or use an industry-specific search engine like GreenBook, which shows green events and eco-friendly venues.
Work with sustainable event vendors.
Working with sustainable vendors is the key to running a truly green event. By choosing partners who align with your ethics, you can be sure that they’ll do what they can to make your event environmentally friendly.
Create a green catering plan and donate extra food.
First, focus on local suppliers. Not only does this reduce the carbon footprint of transportation and packaging, but it also helps support local businesses and communities. Second, look for companies who use sustainable practices in their production processes. Thirdly (and most importantly), work with your caterer to create menus that minimize waste. Finally, if there is any food left over after your event, don’t throw it away! Partner with food pantries and donate excess food to them once your event is over.
Integrate hybrid and virtual events in your strategy.
Rather than encouraging all attendees to travel to your events physically, consider providing an option for your audience to attend remotely. You can greatly reduce your event footprint by taking this approach, sometimes by as much as 95%.
Cut down on paper materials and offer digital swag.
Make use of technology to your advantage and instead of printing out brochures and other materials, direct attendees to your event website or app. Offer digital event swag as an alternative to traditional materials like pens, t-shirts and hats.
Implement a waste management program.
Ask attendees to bring reusable mugs and water bottles from home to minimize trash. Your next line of defense should then be recycling. If you can’t avoid producing trash, the next best thing is to make sure that it’s properly disposed of and recycled.
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