5 Ways to Create More Sustainable Events [+Tips for Going Green]

March 26, 2021
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“Going green” was never just a trend — this thoughtful movement toward sustainability and protecting the environment is reaching into all facets of life. Companies and individuals around the world are working hard to cut down on wasteful practices and aim for more ways to reuse and recycle. 

Now, these practices are entering the world of events. Organizers understand how wasteful events can be, with an abundance of single-use plastic, food waste, travel, and decorations that are used once and thrown out. 

Are you aware of the waste accumulated at your events and want to make positive changes? If you’re unsure how or where to begin, we can give you the tools to help you create environmentally sustainable events. Starting small is okay — as long as you keep moving forward and always look for ways to improve. 

The bonus of creating sustainable events is two-fold: you’re doing good for the planet, and you’re drawing attention and support to your events for your positive efforts. Learn what sustainable events are, why you should care, and steps you can take to make your events go green.

sustainable practices

What Are Sustainable Events?

So, what does “sustainable” even mean? By incorporating more sustainable practices into our events, we are aiming to avoid depleting our natural resources — not just for our own needs, but for the needs of future generations, too.

By working toward sustainable events, we are doing our part to improve and preserve our precious resources. 

Is there a way to balance amazing, full event experiences with sustainable practices? Of course! There are many ways to start cutting down on the waste accumulated at events and move toward reusing and recycling whenever possible. 

With strategic planning and carefully selected partnerships, you can be on your way to more sustainable events in no time.

Environmentally Sustainable Events: Why Should You Care?

Let’s face it: Some people just aren’t convinced sustainability is important. For those people, it may not be enough to simply say it’s good for the planet. However, it might help to understand that it’s good for business and staying in business. It’s also good for current and future employees and partners.

By striving for sustainability, you’re proving to others that you care, and that draws in strong partnerships and employees. Many people look to work for or purchase products from companies that are proud of their green achievements. Plus, green energy and technology can offer cost savings for many businesses.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the generation of municipal solid waste (MSW) equals 4.9 pounds per person, per day. A California study found the average participant at a public event generates 2.5 pounds of waste per day.  This really starts to add up when you consider an event with thousands of attendees over several days.

The good news is that most of this waste is recyclable. We just need to make conscious efforts to make that happen — cutting down on waste whenever possible and creating opportunities to reuse, compost, or recycle the rest.

3 Benefits of Hosting and Attending Sustainable Events

Focusing on hosting and attending environmentally sustainable events will reap generous rewards, from cutting down costs to creating a long-lasting impact on your clients, customers, and industry overall. 

Here are some of the greatest benefits to working toward this goal.

Convenience

How is a sustainable event more convenient? Think of some of the biggest ways events use up precious resources:

  • Travel (plane or car)
  • Guest resources (hotel rooms, print-outs, etc.)
  • Meal waste (including single-use plastics)

What is one way to erase all those issues? Virtual events! By offering attendees a virtual or hybrid option, you give opportunities to those who may not have been able to attend your event otherwise. You can also widen your guest list to go global.

New to hybrid events? Find out why they’re essential to your 2021 plan.

Cost Efficiency

Sustainable events end up saving you money in the long run, whether it be energy savings, food waste reduction, paper reduction, or attendee resources. It makes sense that a sleeker, less wasteful event would cost less, too.

Choosing virtual or hybrid events and staying conscious of event locations for travel purposes also will slim down the costs of your events.

Greater Impact

Opening your event up to green solutions means stronger connections with like-minded people and businesses, which will increase your long-term success and profitability. You will attract those who want to work with companies like yours, and give them incentive to stay and grow with you.

You also have the potential to connect with more partners from around the world and invite a broader range of attendees as well, without the limitations of an in-person event.

5 Ways to Make Your Events More Sustainable

You know you want to go green. And now you may be wondering how to make your events more sustainable? We’ve got five ways that can help you get started as you plan your next event.

#1) Go Virtual!

A sustainable solution that hits multiple marks, going virtual or hybrid helps with many non-environmentally friendly issues. You’ll create less of the following:

  • Travel
  • Food waste
  • Paper resources
  • Electricity use 

Plus, you’ll gain a much larger audience reach, since people who may never have been able to attend your event can tune in from home at their convenience. You can incentivize virtual attendees with discounts, swag, or other perks.

New to going virtual? You’ll need a virtual event platform for streaming sessions, maintaining audience engagement, and analyzing data. Fortunately, you have many options today for finding a virtual event platform that is just as lively, engaging, and fulfilling as attending in-person.

With many virtual event platforms, you can create an event app, too, which will help both virtual and in-person guests stay up-to-date on session and speaker information, maps, agendas, and more — without the need to print all of these resources.

#2) Plan, Plan and Plan Some More

Creating more sustainable events involves meticulous planning and preparation. You’ll need to carefully examine all areas of your event to determine how they can become more green, including location, transportation, food, energy, plastic, and paper use.

You also will need to communicate these changes with all staff and partnerships, to see which vendors and suppliers fit in with the new company culture. If one of your suppliers is using a lot of plastic or waste but is unwilling to change, should you use them anymore? Are you willing and able to train all staff so everyone understands the new expectations?

Planning sustainable events can take a lot of work at first, but over time it will make things much simpler. In the beginning, it will take a lot of attention to properly execute the following:

  • Preparing the appropriate amount of recycling bins with signage and instructions
  • Creating incentives for recycling or reducing waste
  • Streamlining meals
  • Going paperless by creating digital resources
  • Focusing on sustainable partnerships

#3) Find Ways to Reduce Food Waste

What makes event mealtimes so wasteful? Usually, there is an excess amount of food at events, and food and drinks are consumed with single-use plastic cups, plates, and utensils. Then, all remaining food, utensils, and cups are thrown out as trash.

Of course, adding recycling bins is helpful for properly disposing of these materials. But first, we should look at ways to reduce waste before we figure out the best way to dispose of it. You can reduce food waste by having attendees place orders ahead of time, and donating or composting leftover food. You also can use an ordering system that calculates the amount of food you need.

Partnering with a venue that has already established green practices will make mealtimes much easier. This way, they will have recycling or composting programs in place. If not, you’ll have to find the best ways to donate the food yourself and recycle all food packaging.

To stop the abundance of plastic and create a more environmentally sustainable event, use reusable dishes and utensils, or look into biodegradable options. Offer reusable water bottles as swag or encourage attendees to bring one to the event, and install water stations to refill them.

#4) Develop a More Sustainable Event Design

A more sustainable event design means diving deep into where and how you hold events. This includes opting for virtual or hybrid events wherever possible, or re-evaluating large events altogether.

Can you hold several smaller, regional events to reduce travel? Can you connect everyone from their own locations via technology? Should you choose a more central venue location? Can you host more outdoor sessions to reduce electricity consumption?

Consider these types of questions when evaluating your event design to discover what’s possible.

Need inspiration for a virtual product launch? Check out How To Take Your Product Launch Events Online.

#5) Consider Hiring a Sustainability Consultant

If you’re serious about making big changes but are unsure how to make it work for your specific situation — or lack the time and resources — you can hire a sustainability consultant. 

These advisors help companies become more environmentally responsible by assessing all aspects, such as energy, waste, and overall impact. Then, they will help you develop sustainability plans based on their assessments.

This can help your company establish good practices throughout, including event design. Especially if you have a large company that holds several internal events, a consultant can help you change the entire company culture concerning sustainability.

A consultant also can help you plan for large cost-saving energy changes, such as solar panels, packaging, and transportation alternatives.

environmentally sustainable events

6 Tips for Going Green Without Breaking the Bank

Going green also needs to be sustainable for your business. It doesn’t have to start with a complete overhaul of your efforts. Any steps you can take to make your events more environmentally sustainable can make an impact. Here are 6 tips to go green while making sure the costs are sustainable too.

#1) Reuse Wherever Possible

Commit to stopping single-use plastic. Instead, use reusable plates and utensils, install a water fountain that can refill bottles, and reuse event decorations and signage. If you have plastic bags on hand for any reason, use them all or recycle them. 

Offer reusable swag that won’t get tossed away, including water bottles or notebooks and pens made of recyclable materials.

Examine all elements of your event to decide where and how items can be reused. It’s always better to reduce waste and costs in the first place, then recycle what’s left. Reusing whenever possible will cut down drastically on the waste accumulated at your events and will save you money over time.

#2) Don’t Start Thinking Sustainably Too Late

Sustainability can’t be an afterthought or it won’t be properly executed, and many of your goals won’t get fulfilled. Careful sustainability planning can also help you plan more deliberately and rethink several event costs.

If you’re going to plan a hybrid event, research the right virtual platform and have your tech stack set up accordingly. If you’re going to have the right amount of food to reduce waste, have everyone place orders ahead of time. If you want to find a venue and sponsors that support sustainable practices, you’ll need to do your research.

Taking time to properly train staff and think through the logistics or recycling and other green practices can ensure you get the most out of these efforts and that you can continue them for each of your future events.

#3) Make Event Sustainability a Requirement for Sponsors and Partners

The ultimate goal is to have everyone you’re working with aligned in their sustainability efforts. This creates a more seamless experience, and one where you’re not the only one contributing toward a sustainable event.

Can your exhibitors cut down on plastic, paper, and energy use? Does your venue have a recycling program? Does your food vendor use the least amount of packaging possible? Can you source local, high-quality food?

Consider these areas when you choose your partnerships — and don’t be afraid to ask for proof or credentials.

#4) Include a Waste Management Plan in Your Sustainable Event Planning Process

Having a plan can make sustainable efforts more efficient and deliberate. With your waste management plan, the amount of trash should be minimal once your sponsor and partner goals are aligned. What’s happening with the rest of the waste? It should be recycled, reused, or composted. 

Any plastic, packaging materials, paper, or cardboard will be properly recycled, while all reusable items will be accounted for. No food will go to waste — it will either be donated or composted.

All initiatives should be properly communicated to everyone involved. Be honest and open about your goals and the areas in which you are still learning, and after the event be willing to evaluate what worked and what didn’t.

#5) Going Virtual? Choose a Robust Virtual Event Platform

If you’re opting for a virtual or hybrid event, you’re going to need a virtual event platform that can handle your ambitious goals. Consider these types of features you can find with many platforms:

  • Branded experiences throughout
  • Personalized agendas with themes and tagged sessions
  • Ability to send notifications and announcements to attendees
  • Audience engagement tools such as polls, Q&As, and gamification options
  • Breakout and one-on-one capabilities for networking
  • Sophisticated reporting and analytics tools

By creating an event app for attendees, these tools support sustainable events by allowing information to be shared digitally and reducing the need for printed agendas, brochures, and maps.

And for the attendees participating virtually, you’re reducing your carbon footprint with less travel, food, waste, and energy use.

Want to know all the tricks for virtual lead generation? Read A Marketing Team’s Guide To Generating Leads With Online Events in 2021.

#6) Share Your Sustainable Efforts on Social Media to Encourage Others

Social media will be a powerful tool for sharing your sustainable efforts. In crafting these posts, you’re not only sharing your new practices, but encouraging all followers to do the same. You’ll attract like-minded customers and clients who share your ideals, and, if they are impressed, they will share your efforts with their network.

Consider making your sustainable practices a part of your event promotion, too. You can incorporate recycling icons into your logos and determine the best ways to communicate how important sustainability is to your company and its events. Share your “paperless” goals, and your commitment to ending single-use plastic.

Make followup communication digital, too, with surveys you can share on your channels and thank-you emails. Ask how attendees felt about your event changes, and how you can improve.

Make the Most of Your Sustainable Events By Going Virtual With SpotMe

The move to more sustainable events starts with a rich virtual event platform. Let SpotMe support your green goals by giving attendees the option to participate remotely — and give in-person attendees a paperless experience. 

Everything from registration to speakers, exhibits, schedules, and agendas can be available right at their fingertips.

Give attendees a personalized journey however they show up, and make connecting with others simple. With SpotMe, you’re never far from any features that encourage interaction or networking.

Start a free trial today to experience how SpotMe can make your events more sophisticated, streamlined, and engaging.

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