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  • organising green events

How to make your event more Green

A large event can generate huge amounts of unnecessary waste, adding to an already alarming amount produced each year in this country. By running a sustainable event, you can reduce its carbon footprint and really make a difference. And it doesn’t need to stop there – by including information about the sustainability of your event on your website and really shouting about it, you can encourage others to consider going green too.

Many event planners are concerned that running a green event will quickly become a logistical nightmare, but this is not the case. With a few key changes and a handful of positive actions, you can make your event more environmentally-friendly. We share with you some steps you can take towards organising a greener event.

What is a ‘green event’?

So you’ve decided you’d like your event to be greener, but what exactly does this entail? A ‘green event’ must be conducted in an environmentally and socially responsible manner: this means you should plan your event to waste as little energy and water as possible as well as limiting greenhouse gas emissions and general waste.

You can also use your event to positively influence the environment by promoting green initiatives and finding ways it can engage and benefit the local community. Green events have the knock-on-effect of improving your client’s profile in the local area as well as yours as an environmentally-conscious event planner.

Minimising waste at your event

You may wonder just how your supposed to achieve a fully ‘green’ event whilst still planning it meticulously and ensuring that everything goes ahead without a hitch. Isn’t trying to be environmentally friendly just an extra hassle?

Going green needn’t be a headache, especially if you try to think green right from the start. Make it part of your whole event strategy and you’ll find that the tools and solutions are readily available as you go along.

Before starting to plan your event, write a statement of eco-friendly intent and devise a ‘green’ policy. This will help you make decisions as you plan and inspire your team and any volunteers to think differently about the event. It’s a great idea, if resources allows, to have a person solely in charge of planning the event’s eco strategy.

Think about the impact of every decision you make at each stage of planning, considering whether each product or service is minimising the impact your event has on the environment. If not, then find a substitute. You might even find this is cheaper.

By planning how to minimise waste well in advance of the event itself, you will have a head start at making your event green. Try to incorporate recyclable décor items that can be reused or sold after the event.

Go Paperless:

Paperless events rollers of printing paper

Image via National Library of Ireland on Flickr

Opt for a paperless event: avoid sending out paper invitations, instead send digital invites to which people can RSVP online. Set up a paperless registration process by using app-based registration on smartphones and tablets. Name badges are a must at a big event to make networking easier. Rather than using paper or plastic, why not use corn-starch badges instead? They are fully compostable. Similarly, why not use lanyards made from bamboo? Again this is compostable and is a fast-growing crop, meaning it’s sustainable too. Encourage guests and exhibitors to make Powerpoint presentations to avoid wasting paper on handouts and brochures.

To send out a really strong eco message, you could even ban the distribution of promotional leaflets at the event and instead have an event app which can include all the exhibitor details as well as any special promotions or discounts on offer. The event app would also be a great place to view timetables, map and refreshment information.

Rather than giving delegates bags of giveaways that they’ll never use again and dump in the nearest available bin, try to give less but more by including genuinely useful free merchandise that they’ll be able to reuse. Make sure these are made from 100% recycled materials.

If you’re producing branded items for the event make sure you avoid putting the date on these, so they can be re-used again event after event, year on year.

 

Catering:

Ensure your catering is as ‘green’ as it can be with forward-planning and a bit of innovative thinking.

When planning the menu for your event, try to consider seasonal and local food, which isn’t likely to leave a big carbon footprint. Foods with small carbon footprints include chicken, turkey and pork as well as vegetables, in contrast beef or lamb carry a high environmental cost. If you’re employing caterers, then work with them to achieve these aims as much as possible, keeping food miles to a minimum.

Confirm the number of delegates with your caterer as close to the event as possible. This way the amount of food can be adjusted to ensure minimal waste. On the day of the event, you can take steps to reduce food waste right from the moment your guests arrive by refraining from re-filling the buffet too regularly. Let the levels of food go down naturally; there’s no need to overfeed everyone. Ensure they have enough, but try to avoid having lots of leftover food lying cold and untouched at the end of your event.

Inevitably you will end up with some leftover food. Why not donate any uneaten food to a charity such as Food Cycle? Ensure you organise this with your organisation prior to the event.

Also, ask your caterers if their suppliers can ensure all lorries and vans use full food containers where possible, i.e. that the food comes in bulk rather than individually.

In terms of saving on your number one beverage – water – start by asking your venue what water saving devices are in place. Communicate the importance of using water efficiently with your venue and the caterers. Most importantly, instead of buying lots of bottled water, save on valuable budget, resources, transport and waste by using tap water instead with filters. It tastes just as good and is significantly cheaper.

Save water by asking your caterers or host team to avoid pre-filling glasses before an event. Simply fill guests’ glasses on request, thereby not wasting a drop.

A mainstay of an event will be tea and coffee, to ensure guests are as refreshed and energetic as they can be. Try to choose coffee and tea from sustainable and fair-trade growers.

Event waste:

From the outset, check that your event venue recycles their waste; if there is no system in place for this, you will then have time to organise a separate recycling company which can come to pick up the waste after your event.

Try to use recyclable or biodegradable utensils; there are some innovative and sleek examples out there, so you don’t need to bring the style of your event down. Make it as easy as possible for your guests by providing lots of recycling receptacles. Offer guests the chance to recycle food too, by providing compostable bins for all food waste.

If you’d like a uniform for staff at the event, ask them to wear clothes of a similar colour that they already own. Alternatively, if you are going to purchase new uniforms, ensure they’re recycled after the event.

waste from events at landfill

Image via The U.S. National Archives on Flickr

Exhibitors / Entertainment / Extras

Ensure you have strong eco-friendly messaging surrounding your event and in all communications so it’s clear just how important it is to you. This will encourage your exhibitors and delegates to think consciously about their interaction with the event and maybe even beyond.

Why not encourage exhibitors to opt for a ‘green booth’ option, which means that the materials that make up the booth get recycled year on year?

Aside from the carbon footprint and the waste aspect of your event, also consider how you can save and even generate your own energy. If your event will have exhibitors, encourage them to think laterally regarding how much energy their exhibit will use.

Obviously they’ll want the exhibit to look fantastic and attention-grabbing but this doesn’t mean they have to use excessive amounts of energy. For example, people can be used to power anything from movie projectors, margarita stations and dance floors. Not only will people feel engaged, it will energise them and will save on electricity at the same time.

If its not an exclusively commercial event such as an awards ceremony or a conference, where you will be inviting guests and speakers, then save energy throughout the day by integrating recharge lounges powered by people. This will get your guests active and provide a fun change from sitting, listening and taking notes.

For any additional lighting you’re planning to install (in addition to the already existing lighting at the venue), try to use LED lights, which can reduce your carbon footprint by more than 70%.

Venue

Choosing the right venue is vital to the greenness of your event. Gather information regarding a venue’s use of energy prior to booking and consider how your guests will travel to the venue, as well as organisers, speakers and exhibitors.

Destination is key to making the event a success in terms of sustainability. Ensure the venue is situated conveniently for the majority of your guests and that the public transport connections are good.

If the venue is not in a central location, you could see if another event is happening nearby and ask to team up on transportation arrangements.

You should also encourage car sharing or incentivise using public transport. It’s a good idea to advise that there’s no onsite parking and encourage your guests to arrive in others ways. Provide comprehensive information regarding the public transport available or even any specific event transport that you’ve arranged. Provide walking directions to your event too, especially if it’s located in the centre of a city or town.

When considering your venue, check that any suppliers you are likely to use are located as close to the venue as possible to avoid long journeys to transport equipment. Try to use the venue’s in-house AV equipment to save on unnecessary miles too. By thinking ahead and by using a good planning schedule, you can really add to the greenness of your event.

After the Event:

After your event is over there’s still plenty to do. Tell your delegates and suppliers how successful your event has been in terms of eco-friendly standards. Learn from the decisions made and processes undertaken as well as discovering areas where you could improve in terms of greenness.

Think how your event has had a positive effect not only on the overall environment but also on the local community. You could incorporate a social project within your programme to create a positive legacy, perhaps providing a chance for students to gain work experience at your event. Good luck with going green.

 

20 Bedford Way is a London event venue. Centrally located in Bloomsbury, it benefits from fantastic transport links. For all venue enquiries contact us on (0)20 7612 6143.

 

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