As meeting planners, there are many event details to take care of — from planning a menu that accommodates all dietary needs to ensuring the guest experience is welcoming and all details have been thoughtfully planned out and communicated — and on top of all of that, staying within budget. It may seem like the last thing you need to worry about is how your event impacts the environment. Still, with daily reminders of the impacts of global warming, we have a social responsibility to do our part and help offset any adverse effects of our events.
While nothing is a quick fix, there are easy and cost-effective ways to keep your events sustainable. Promoting your efforts is also a great way to show your attendees and community that you care and are committed to being eco-friendly.
1. Go paperless
With the technology available today, it’s a surprise that anyone still has paper at events — but a lot still do! The best part about going paperless and adopting a digital approach is that it is probably one of the cheapest ways to help reduce paper waste.
If you work for a venue, make your sales kits, menus, and floor plans available online for planners who may want to host an event at your venue. As a planner, make all of your attendee resources available online or via a mobile app. Try to reuse items, such as badges and signage, wherever possible. Using recycled paper and materials is an excellent first step if you can’t go completely paperless.
2. Cut down on food waste
Did you know that food is one of the biggest waste generators at events? As a venue, having options and ideas to help eliminate food waste for your clients is a great way to show them that it is an easy thing to do.
If you can, find a partner in the area where you can donate leftover food from events, and share that with planners when they are considering your venue. As a planner, ensure you have accurate meal counts and aren’t over-ordering. Try to offer vegetarian or vegan options for your entire event where you can (encourage a “meatless meal” or “vegan break” during your event), and source locally whenever possible. By keeping your numbers accurate and opting for more locally sourced menus, you’ll be able to save money on your event food budget and make your events more sustainable.
3. Reduce, reuse, recycle
Many of us are familiar with the phrase, reduce, reuse, recycle. It has stuck with a lot of us from childhood but is a great way to help save you costs at an event. As a venue, finding items you can reuse and eliminating as many disposables as possible for your event clients can support this. Also, have recycling stations set up around your venue to be easily accessible. It will encourage people to at least stop and think before just trashing items that can be recycled.
As previously mentioned, try saving items and reusing them next year. Signage that can be saved and reused will help protect your budget and the planet. Most attendees throw away their badges and lanyards at the end of the event — instead, have a place where they can drop them off so that you can recycle and reuse plastic badge holders and lanyards.
4. Minimize water bottle waste
One of the most significant single-use items at events is plastic water bottles. Instead of having those available at your events, have water stations or pitchers of water placed at seats. This is a great step to make your events sustainable.
If you are hosting the event, make a note in your pre-event email that asks attendees to bring reusable water bottles. Most attendees probably travel with one anyway. These options are all cheaper than having to pay for single-use water bottles.
5. Encourage carpooling or public transportation
Travel is another cost-effective way to help reduce your event’s environmental impact. To help cut down on carbon emissions, encourage your attendees to take advantage of public transportation or carpool with a friend or coworker.
It helps if your event is in a major city where most attendees are from or work nearby. Make it less intimidating for them by having instructions and locations of the public transportation system in your pre-event email. If any of your attendees are traveling far and by plane to get to your event, research carbon credit, and reforestation programs — you may be able to help offset attendee travel emissions by buying carbon credits.
Your actions can help change the industry
As more planners and venues prioritize events sustainability, it will become a standard that the industry holds for all events and hospitality businesses. Make these changes and be vocal about how you’re achieving sustainability so clients and colleagues can be educated and start taking action themselves.