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Bringing people together is undoubtedly important, and events take various forms, ranging from meetings and trade shows to corporate events. It is through these events that we make connections and motivate employees to care about their work and the people they work with. However, we cannot ignore the environmental impact of the industry, particularly regarding greenhouse gas emissions. 

The event industry is responsible for generating more greenhouse gas emissions and a significant environmental impact through travel and air pollution, single-use plastic waste, food waste, excess paper production, and more. For instance, MeetGreen reported that a 1,000-person, three-day event generates 5,670 kilograms of discards, while Forbes noted that only 21% of branded merchandise is kept for any amount of time, with 23% ending up in landfills. 

Despite such challenges, the 2023 Global Meetings and Events Forecast shows that sustainability is becoming increasingly important, with 80% of respondents indicating that it’s part of their planning process. Therefore, here are some sustainable event ideas to incorporate into your event design:

Choose Greener Venues and Destinations

When choosing a venue for your event, it’s important to consider its impact on the environment. According to the World Economic Forum, buildings contribute 38% of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, it’s crucial to select a venue that has implemented sustainable practices such as recycling programs and energy-saving lighting. You can also look for venues with certifications like LEED or Green Key, or utilize tools like the TripAdvisor GreenLeaders program to find eco-friendly accommodations. 

In addition to the venue itself, consider the location of your event. Look for a venue that is easily accessible by public transportation or within walking distance for attendees. You can use resources like the GreenView Hotel Footprinting Tool or the Digital Event Carbon Calculator to measure your carbon footprint and identify areas where you can reduce your impact. 

To further reduce the environmental impact of your event, choose a location that has green initiatives in place. Check the Global Destination Sustainability Index to find the top eco-friendly cities each year, or select a destination that most attendees won’t have to travel too far to get to. By prioritizing sustainability in your venue and location choices, you can help reduce the environmental impact of your event and promote a greener future.

Go Paperless

Another great way to reduce paper waste and minimize your environmental impact is by going paperless for your upcoming event. Consider sending invitations through email and using digital ticketing software to ensure everything is organized and easy to manage. Additionally, event apps make communication simple, as attendees can access the day’s agenda right from their handheld devices. It’s a win-win for everyone, and a small step towards a more sustainable future

Reimagine Merch

It’s interesting to note that the event industry spends a whopping $64 billion on swag each year, but this has a negative impact on landfills. Moreover, the production of cotton t-shirts, which are commonly given as event merchandise, consumes a large amount of water – around 2,700 liters per t-shirt. This is equivalent to the amount of water an individual would need for drinking purposes for 900 days. 

Considering these facts, it may be time to reimagine the concept of event merchandise. Instead of giving out t-shirts, organizers can opt for more unique and meaningful gifts like Trees Not Tees. This organization plants a tree for each attendee and also sends them an email certificate with a picture of their tree. Other eco-friendly gift ideas include reusable mugs, merchandise from eco-conscious companies like Patagonia, plants or seeds. There are also many eco-friendly swag vendors to choose from. 

Alternatively, organizers can let attendees select their own swag to reduce waste. Lastly, gifting attendees with a donation to a cause that they care about is another great way to show your commitment to the global community.

Choose Eco-Friendly Suppliers

Just like you want to choose a venue that practices sustainability, the same is true of your suppliers. 

Food: For example, when booking your caterer or food vendor, you may want to ensure they include seasonal and locally grown and produced foods and have a plan in place to donate leftovers. You can also decide on an all-vegan menu and ensure that only compostable food containers are used. 

Furniture: Instead of buying furniture, opt to rent or look for vendors that specialize in sustainable furniture. 

Flower arrangements: While flowers always make nice decor, use potted plants or flowers instead that people can take home with them and plant in their yards. 

Some organizations even offer directories that can help you search for eco-friendly vendors to partner with.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

By adopting simple practices, you can make your event more sustainable and eco-friendly. Here are a few tips: 

  • Use reusable water bottles or glassware with pitchers stationed throughout the venue instead of single-use plastic. 
  • Opt for reusable flatware and cloth napkins and tablecloths instead of disposable ones. 
  • Ensure that there are well-labeled recycling bins placed throughout the event venue, next to trash bins. 
  • Double check that the products you choose are compostable not just biodegradable.

Planning a large event while being strategic about sustainability might seem challenging. However, it’s critical to meet environmental standards. Fortunately, there are many organizations like the Institute for Sustainable Events, Ecosystem Events, Global Sustainable Tourism Council, and MeetGreen that offer training in sustainable event planning. 

If you want to learn more about how to implement sustainability into your event design, you can tune in to our podcast with Leor Rotchild, founder of Do It Green, executive director of the Canadian Business for Social Responsibility, and the author of How We Gather Matters. In our latest episode of M+E, we discuss the importance of supplier diversity, attendee needs, AV closed captions, and more.

If you’d like to learn what our team can do for you, get in touch with us.

Call us at 800-290-0311.