Regardless of your event size—from street fairs to board meetings or anything in between—there are simple steps you can take to drastically reduce the negative impact your party has on the environment. With sustainability and social responsibility top of mind these days there is tremendous opportunity to make any high-profile event a platform for increasing public awareness about eco-friendly alternatives available and the importance of recycling.
From paper trails to transportation, all the elements needed for an event can pile up. To reduce your carbon footprint, here are some strategies you can incorporate into you next event to make it more eco-friendly.
1. Make a plan.
It’s important to remember that switching to a more sustainable event will take planning, time and if done poorly, can end up costing excess money. Develop a strong to-do list, checkpoints and deadlines for results by a creating a timeline. At the end of the day, jumping on the sustainable event trend is a good thing, but it's going to take strong management skills and time. Be patient, collect your resources, ask for feedback and give yourself enough time to meet your deadlines.
2. Communicate your green message.
To run a truly green event, you need to win the hearts and minds of your attendees. Share and promote your eco-friendly actions. You should also promote environmental sustainability and encourage others to make green choices in their everyday lives as well.
3. Get digital when it makes sense.
Reconsider how you are making an impact with potential attendees. Instead of mailing out invites or memos, create an event page, app or an email subscription. Look to infuse digital components like your website, blog or social channels that’ll keep your attendees connected and informed—without paper waste. It also allows them to share your updates, event information and content with others all over the world, building your audience and reach for your events while increasing engagement.
4. Make your venue a green choice.
Choosing an eco-friendly venue is a great way to get ahead. From their green roofs down to their black water treatment facilities, today’s leading event venues are not just great spaces for amazing experiences, they’re sustainable, too.
Green venues often cover a lot of the legwork when it comes to environmentally conscious suppliers. Look at your hometown when possible to further reduce your footprint. Depending on how progressive your city is, you may have plenty of eco-friendly options available—there's over 60,000 LEED-certified buildings in the U.S. But no matter where you host, an outdoor set up is about as green as it gets!
If your event requires sound and staging look at ways to save energy, like using solar power—most sound equipment and LED lights can easily be run on solar panels.
5. Consider a variety of transportation options.
Incorporate eco-friendly transportation options into your events, and offer incentives for attendees to use them. Coordinate ride sharing for event attendees or encourage eco-friendly vehicles to help cut down on the emissions it takes to attend your event. As incentives, provide a bike valet, bus passes or free parking for those who carpool or drive hybrid or electric vehicles. You can even provide small prizes for those who choose green transportation. While not all attendees will take advantage of these options, those that do will appreciate the effort.
6. Look to locally source when possible.
When it comes to sourcing the things you need for your event, try to do so as locally as possible to cut down on transportation, which has the added bonus of supporting the community. When it comes to food, try to think about what’s in season and easily available.
7. Recycling needs to be the standard—not an afterthought.
One of the biggest reasons why people toss recyclable materials into regular trash cans is because they can't find a proper recycling unit. Are waste receptacles clustered in sets of recycling and garbage throughout the event space? If not, ask that they are paired together and that you want them clearly marked with proper wording, colors and images of disposable items on both the recycling bin and trash can.
Composting bins is another practice venues are getting in on with 49% that took part in the Green Venue Report 2018 making them available in public spaces and concession areas. Since the event is being organized by you, it's your responsibility to make sure recycling options are readily available all throughout the event space.
Another idea: Consider putting together a list of non-profits or community programs that you work with on a regular basis to donate left over conference materials.
8. Let nature light your way.
Photographers call twilight the magic hour. Whenever possible, opt for natural light. Or, add a bit of drama and atmosphere with flameless candles. Use them both as a centerpiece and strewn about the room. LEDs are an energy-efficient light alternative to traditional incandescent bulbs, which waste 90% of the energy they consume on heat.
Organize a food rescue plan.
More than 50 million Americans are food insecure. More than 40 billion meals are wasted a year. Instead of adding to the waste, rescue would-be wasted food and deliver it to our food insecure neighbors.
The Events Industry Council Sustainability Initiative has some great resources that provide recommendations on how to make your events even more environmentally and socially responsible.
Take a little time to consider and implement environmentally-friendly options for events. By choosing to go green at your events, your brand shows attendees the choices you’re making and brings them in on the positive changes they’re affecting. This will create positive affinity for your brand, creating stronger brand advocates as a result. Want more ways to develop brand advocates? Download our ebook, Brand Advocacy and the Emotionally Connected Customer.