Whether you’re passionate about the environment or your attendees are asking you to up your eco credentials, knowing how to plan a sustainable event can be an important skill nowadays. With so many things to think about when you organise an event and so many demands on your budget, it might seem that planning a green event is a further complication. However, with a little thought and consideration, you can easily understand – and minimise – the impact of your event on the environment. Here are nine simple steps you can take to make your events more sustainable.
What is sustainable event management?
The importance of sustainability in events has become a pressing issue in recent years, and this trend will only continue. To put it simply, sustainable event management is the process of making individual choices that reduce the environmental impact of your event. As a creator, it’s your responsibility to do what you can to lower the carbon footprint of your event as much as possible. Making your event sustainable starts at the planning stage and impacts all of your decisions, including the contractors, sponsors, and suppliers you work with.
How do you organise a sustainable event?
1. Upcycle and recycle
When choosing materials for your event, try to incorporate recycled and upcycled elements, where possible. Single-use items can produce a vast amount of waste and be very damaging to the planet. Instead, do what you can to source things that can be given a new lease of life. Strategies could include asking attendees to return their lanyards or badge covers after an event so they can be used again, or using whiteboards or chalkboards instead of print signs that are more difficult to reuse.
Of course, there will be some materials that can’t be used again. In that case, recycle suitable materials, like plastic, cardboard, and paper. Encourage your attendees to recycle at your event, too, by making it clear where the recycling stations are and what they’re for.
2. Create a green catering plan
Food is a major driver of climate change, so catering is key to green event planning. Reducing the amount of meat on offer and having more plant-based options can help to make your event sustainable. Over-catering is also a common practice at many events, resulting in unnecessary waste. Meegan Jones, author of ‘Sustainable Event Management: A Practical Guide‘, says: ‘Food into landfill is a major cause of landfill methane emissions, a global greenhouse gas emissions contributor. Food waste at events also contributes to startling global food waste statistics, estimated at 1/3 of all food produced being lost or wasted’.
To cut down on food waste, Jones recommends accurately estimating the amount of food required for the number of attendees, the event type and timing of activities or breaks, and asking about dietary requirements in advance (which you can do on Eventbrite by creating an RSVP website with specific fields). You should also ensure any unconsumed perishable food has been handled correctly so that you can later donate it to food salvage programmes.
3. Keep it local
When it comes to sourcing what you need for your event, try to do so as locally as possible to cut down on transportation. This also has the added bonus of supporting the local community. When it comes to food, think about what’s in season and what’s easily available – it’s not green to ship in strawberries from South Africa so that you can have strawberries and cream in December!
4. Save trees, send digital invitations
Given the impact deforestation has on climate change, you might want to avoid paper invites. Rather than sending out invites and info packs, cut down on waste (and postage costs) by using Eventbrite to promote and manage your event. You can create an event page, featuring full joining instructions for your attendees and send email invitations from your Eventbrite account. With a suite of customisation tools, your digital invitation can look just as appealing as a paper one and it’s possible to contact up to 2,000 attendees per day. Plus, you can view who’s opened your email invitation or unsubscribed from your mailing list so you can make data-driven decisions.
Meanwhile, attendees can download the Eventbrite app and receive tickets straight to their mobile. Simply scan the QR code to easily check in attendees – a completely paper-free process!
5. Find green transport options
Excess carbon emissions produced by hundreds of single-occupant car journeys can have a harmful impact on the planet, so encourage attendees to find greener alternatives. Many train operators are willing to offer discounted tickets for event delegates. Check with your venue or city convention bureau if they already have an agreement in place. Leicester and Leicestershire Convention Bureau, for example, has a partnership with East Midlands Trains and offers a discount of up to 50% for visitors attending business conferences, events, or exhibitions in the city.
It won’t be possible for everybody to travel by train, so as an alternative, promote a car-sharing service such as liftshare.com to your attendees. Guests can use the site to either advertise their planned journey and look for others to share the ride, or simply request a lift. Either way, you’ll be helping to cut down on the emissions it takes to attend your event.
6. Give chemical toilets the flush
Chemical toilets aren’t just unpleasant – they’re also environmentally unfriendly. If you need outdoor facilities at your event, consider some of the newer, greener toilet options instead. Scallywag Party is planning to bring its composting loos back in 2022, saving a vast amount of water and cutting out the use of chemicals.
The use of sawdust helps to eliminate smells, and once the waste has been composted, it can be spread on fields to feed the land. Don’t forget to include some recycled toilet paper!
7. Go solar
If your event requires sound and staging, look at ways to save energy, like using solar power. According to Event Solar, most sound equipment and LED lights can easily be run on solar panels – even in cloudy Britain. Event Solar is the energy behind The Croissant Neuf Summer Party, a medium-sized family festival in Wales. The UK Festival Awards voted it the Greenest Festival in the UK three times, and it’s entirely run on solar energy.
You could have some fun with your renewable energy supplies by asking your attendees to get involved. From coffee bikes to charger stations, a number of installations can be powered by pedalling. Or you could use a dance floor or walkway to create kinetic energy. By asking attendees to generate power, you can entertain and educate at the same time.
8. Work with sustainable event suppliers
To run a truly green event, you need to collaborate with sustainable event suppliers. By choosing suppliers who align with your ethics, you can be sure that they’ll do what they can to make your event environmentally friendly. It’s a good idea to create a list of requirements when you’re choosing your suppliers. That way, you can set your own demands and go with suppliers that meet them. For instance, you might want all of your event decorations and props to be reusable – so find a supplier who can make that possible.
9. Hire a sustainable event venue
The easiest way to create a green experience is to select sustainable event venues, where everything will be taken care of for you. Choose a venue that has an international sustainability certification like ISO 20121, such as Manchester Central or ACC Liverpool. To help your guests feel connected with the environment, consider a venue like Sheepdrove Eco Conference Centre, which is located on an organic farm in Berkshire.
A specialist sustainable event venue can help you to save resources like water and power, divert waste away from landfills, offer guests sustainably produced organic food, and offset all of your event’s carbon emissions.
Examples of sustainable events
Riverford Field Kitchen
Riverford Field Kitchen hosts a number of seasonal events focused on sustainable practices, like growing your own fruit and vegetables. Its ‘grow your own’ events each have a different theme, from learning how to plant a kitchen garden to growing your own flowers. You might want to consider hosting a ‘grow your own‘ event – they’re a great way to encourage attendees to take up gardening.
The Sustainable Events Show
The Sustainable Events Show in London is leading by example. The one-day show brings together environmentally friendly event venues, event services suppliers, and event technology companies that practise sustainability. The organiser has not only created a platform that promotes sustainability but also works to ensure that it’s carbon-neutral.
Eleanor and Sarah run monthly workshops at The Remakery for those looking to repair and mend their clothes rather than throw them away. Through practical demonstrations, they show attendees how to upcycle items to reduce textile waste. There are many ways you could incorporate reuse and recycling into your event theme. For instance, you could host a flea market or a swap shop to encourage sustainable shopping.
Green event planning doesn’t have to be a challenge
By following a plan, you can take some of the hassle and cost out of planning a green event. Plus, now that you know how to make your events more sustainable, Eventbrite can help you put your plan into action.