Working Sustainability into Your Events

Event Planning and Sustainability: How to Make Your Next Event a Green Event

Turns out, the simplest and most effective thing that event organizers can do to make their event more sustainable, no matter the venue, is to simply ask about green event programs or sustainable alternatives available. 

Most venues today can provide you with an event experience that has a smaller environmental impact and give you a better story to tell stakeholders.  “Just Ask” you say, ok yes I can do that, but you are probably wondering what exactly should I be asking for? Keep it simple and take on a few major impact areas where the venue can easily support you and where you can find big wins with minimal effort.

Energy & Water

To reduce your energy and water impacts, ask the following questions:

  • Do you hold any sustainability certifications?
    • Venues that are LEED certified have followed a strict certification program in which the systems and programs throughout building are high efficiency and minimize waste.
    • TripAdvisor GreenLeaders program is self-reporting system for hotels that have committed to a minimum level of green event practices and procedures at their facility. The higher the rating the more programs and infrastructure are in place.
  • Can you keep the lighting to a minimum during move in and move out?
  • Can you keep AC or Heat off during move in and move out when possible?
  • Can you implement a power down plan and end of show day?  (basically make ask that lights are turned off and that any other AV equipment enters a power saving mode a the close of show day.)

What can you easily influence as an event organizer? To reduce the energy and water use onsite, remember to eliminate bottled water from your event, ask the catering partner to not pre-pour water glasses for banquet events.

Waste Management

To reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill, ask the following questions:

  • Are waste bins clustered in sets of recycling and landfill throughout the facility? If not, ask that they be clustered in that way or that you want clearly marked recycling bins next to every trash can in the center. Check out the GVR Garbage Gallery for images of good waste signage. Or use this nifty link to create your own green event compost, recycling and landfill signage for free!
  • What is the average waste diversion for the venue? (this will give you an estimate of how much waste from each show makes it to the landfill and how much is recycled, anything over 50% in the US is pretty great)
  • Do you have a list of non-profits or community programs that you work with on a regular basis to donate left over conference materials?
Plan Events Seamlessly

What can you easily influence as an event organizer? To reduce waste going out, reduce what you bring on site. Encourage exhibitors to reduce or eliminate give-a-ways onsite that often end up in the trash. Track what is left over at the end of your events and see what you can do to reduce printed materials, badges lanyards etc. If you can reduce the quantity to produce you can save money and save space in the landfill.

Food and Beverage

To reduce the impacts of food and beverage ask the following:

  • Request that condiments (sugar, creamer etc.) are to be served in bulk
  • Does the kitchen compost organics? Do you recycle kitchen grease?
  • Meatless Monday Menu – to produce a pound of beef it takes 1,799 gallons of water and releases about 22 lbs of carbon.

What can you easily influence as a green event organizer? Incorporate as much seasonal/local/and organic food offerings as possible, ask if the venue has an onsite garden or local or regional food vendors that can round out your menus. (local or regional can be defined by less than 250 miles)

Today more and more venues are making moves to increase energy, water and waste efficiency which in turn reduces the environmental footprint they lay down for your event. Unfortunately, even with the best intentions, venues and event organizers seem to be missing the mark when discussing and executing sustainable event options.  A key finding of the 2015 Green Venue Report showed that on average 27% (up from 20% in 2012) of event organizers discussed sustainability or “greening” when engaging with the venue.  86% of responding centers also said that sales staff are well versed in the venue’s sustainability practices and or “green meeting options” and discuss this during the pre-event planning stages.

So while more planners are discussing greening with venues more often and the majority of convention sales teams are prepared to address sustainability request, significant opportunities remain to increase the amount of communication and improve the rhetoric and implement of sustainable practices at events.

These simple questions will get everyone thinking on reducing impacts that come from your green event and these lists of best practices should help you and your event partners (AV, Catering, Venue, CVB/DMO etc.) get started on making all events more sustainable. Ultimately we believe “green events happen in green venues” Check out these venues that have made sustainability programs and practices a priority and can help elevate your event’s greening game.

The Event Planners Guide to Modern Meeting Design