It’s easy to say you run “sustainable events”. But who are you fooling? Events aren’t sustainable.
That doesn’t mean you should abandon the idea, though, especially because event sustainability is a top trend for 2024.
Implementing sustainable practices can result in a 20–30% reduction in costs and a 60–80% reduction in waste (Events Industry Council). And with attendees increasingly looking for eco-friendly experiences, demonstrating your organization’s commitment to these initiatives can help increase attendance and improve your reputation.
By using technology to deliver the perfect mix of in-person, true hybrid, and in-person for the thousands of events you run every year, you’ll not only be more eco-friendly and attract more participants to your events. You’ll also boost engagement and enrich CRM records with invaluable first-party data that help drive next best actions.
Get 24 ideas from our 12,000+ enterprise event builders who are using technology to deliver greener events and start reducing your event carbon footprint by promoting environmentally friendly participant behavior today.
Want your very own sustainable event checklist? Request it now.
What Are Sustainable Events?
Sustainable events are all about taking steps to reduce the negative impact on the planet and society. You can do this by choosing sustainable products and services and carrying out processes that are mindful of our planet’s resources.
When it comes to creating sustainable events within your enterprise, there are a few key areas to focus on:
- Setting sustainability goals
- Giving your attendees the choice of how they want to attend
- Incorporating green initiatives
- Ensuring efficient energy usage
- Reusing materials
- Minimizing waste
- Selecting eco-friendly suppliers
- Educating attendees
By making conscious, informed decisions, you’ll create events that have a minimal negative effect on our planet and community. Plus, attendees will appreciate the efforts your enterprise makes to keep event sustainability top of mind.
Sustainable Events: Why Should You Care?
Let’s face it: Some people just aren’t convinced event sustainability is important. But did you know the events industry is responsible for as much as 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions?
Running sustainable events will ensure you don’t miss out on attracting a large audience to your events. That’s because with more and more people refusing to travel to reduce their carbon footprint, they want to have the option to attend your event remotely.
By striving for sustainability, you’re showing others you care. And that draws in strong partnerships and employees. Many people look to work for or buy 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) is 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 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, and event technology can help to reduce a lot of it. Your enterprise just needs to make conscious efforts to make that happen.
8 Benefits Of Running Sustainable Events
Are you curious about running sustainable events within your enterprise? It’s easy to see why. Focusing on hosting sustainable events will reap generous rewards. From cutting down costs to creating a long-lasting impact on your clients, customers, and industry overall.
Take a closer look at these 8 benefits of sustainable event planning.
#1 More Attendees
People are more likely to attend an event committed to ecological responsibility. Plus, if you give your attendees the choice of how they prefer to attend (online or in-person), they will appreciate the efforts you’re making to promote sustainable behavior. And you’ll get more people at your events.
Market your sustainable event ideas to your audience before your event to increase engagement. You’ll see more people turning up and will end up with a higher event ROI.
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? A mixture of virtual, in-person, and hybrid events! By offering attendees a virtual or hybrid option, you give those who may not have been able to attend your event in-person the chance to join remotely. This helps widen your guest list to go global.
#3 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 a mix of event formats and staying conscious of event locations for travel purposes will slim down the costs of your events.
#4 Greater Impact
Opening your event up to green solutions means stronger connections with like-minded people and businesses. This will increase your long-term success and profitability. You will attract those who want to work with companies like yours and give them the incentive to stay and grow with you.
Plus, you have the potential to connect with more partners from around the world and invite a broader range of attendees if you run a mix of virtual, hybrid, and in-person events.
#5 Higher Engagement With Attendees
Whether it’s a virtual, in-person, or hybrid event, creating a sustainable experience can boost engagement. A few ways to do this are by properly implementing event tech and omnichannel communication strategies, as well as using resources in an innovative way.
For ideas on how to engage your virtual audience, take a look at our article with 29 ideas for virtual event engagement that really work.
#6 Richer Data From Event Tech
Using event tech is a great way to run sustainable events. And a huge advantage is the enriched data you can collect from attendees. Some event platforms like SpotMe have CRM integrations that allow large amounts of data to be fed directly from your event platform to your CRM. If you’re a pharma company, for example, your sales reps can then use this data collected in your pharma CRM to drive their next best action with HCPs.
#7 Better Company Reputation
People are becoming more aware of how their actions impact our planet. And they expect to see sustainable event management from every single company they interact with. Especially large enterprises. Show what you’re doing to run sustainable events. That way you will improve your reputation and stand out from your competition.
#8 Contribution To Looking After The Environment
Sustainable event planning is much better for the environment than traditional models. If we want to protect our planet for future generations, we should all be doing our part. And if large enterprises like yours contribute to caring for the environment by running sustainable events, you’ll set an example for other companies. No matter their size.
Interested in having your very own sustainable event checklist? Request it now.
24 Sustainable Event Ideas
Many enterprises know they want to go green. But are you asking yourselves how to create a sustainable event? We’ve put together 25 ideas you can steal to help your enterprise run more sustainable events.
#1 Assess Your Event’s Impact
When it comes to planning sustainable events, the first step is to assess your events’ impact on the environment. This means taking a hard look at everything you use. E.g., disposable items like plates, napkins, and utensils; energy sources like electricity and heating; and transport services like shuttles and taxis.
Look at what kind of materials you’re using. Are they recyclable? Can you go for renewable ones like bamboo or cork instead?
Calculate the total cost of your events in terms of energy, resources, and pollution produced. Then, it will become easier to make informed decisions about how to run more sustainable events.
To make this process easier, look into tools such as Green Event Calculator (GEC) This tool takes into account all the aspects of event production like transport, power generation, and other emissions to produce a report that covers:
- Carbon footprint (in tons or kilograms)
- Energy consumption (kilowatt-hours)
- Waste generated (in tons or kilograms)
- Water usage (in liters or gallons)
- Waste recycling rate (%)
#2 Implement The Perfect Event Mix With Virtual, Hybrid, And In-Person Events
Mixing the types of events your enterprise runs each year is an easy way to tick the event sustainability box.
You can reduce the number of in-person events your enterprise runs and host more virtual and hybrid events. This won’t just help you be more sustainable. It will also help you reduce event costs and gain a much larger audience. That’s because people who may not have been able to attend your event in person can tune in from home.
Here’s how a mix of different event formats can help with event sustainability:
The first benefit of hosting a mix of virtual, in-person, and hybrid events is the huge amount of money you can save. By running fewer in-person-only events and having the whole or part of your audience online, you can save on venue costs, catering expenses, and audio/visual equipment. Plus, guests don’t have to spend money themselves on travel and accommodation.
To find out more about how to reduce event costs, download our event budget template.
Reduce Carbon Emissions
Having to travel long distances for an event generates a significant amount of carbon emissions. But by running fewer in-person events and more virtual or hybrid events, you’ll reduce these emissions. This results in a lower impact on the environment and a more sustainable event.
Use Technology To Your Advantage
Technology makes sustainable event management easy, whether your enterprise runs in-person, hybrid, or virtual events. You’ll not only have less of a negative impact on the environment. Using an interactive mobile event app at your in-person events can massively boost engagement. Plus, using a virtual event platform through which attendees can join remotely helps you reach a wider audience and boost attendance.
Looking for an event platform that integrates with your CRM to bring you enriched data? SpotMe has been named a Leader in The Forrester Wave™: B2B Event Management Technology, Q1 2023 report. Get a free copy of the report now.
#3 Send Paperless Invitations From Your Event Platform
If you want to make your enterprise events more sustainable, finding ways to go paperless is a great place to start. Going paperless for invitations and other types of communications can go a long way.
When it comes to invitations, the most eco-friendly way to send them is from your event platform. It’s easy to send an invitation to guests directing them to your event platform’s registration page where they can sign up. You can then get all the registration data that you collect on your event platform fed automatically to your CRM.
By switching your enterprise events over to a digital-first approach, you can help reduce the amount of waste generated by your events. And at the same time you can ensure that people get the information they need in order to attend!
For ideas on what to include in your invitation and other event emails, download our 18 event email templates.
#4 Make Important Documents Available On Your Event App
Making documents available on your event platform is another great way to run more sustainable events. This can be as simple as providing PDF versions of handouts, slides, or materials.
If you’re a pharma company and need to adhere to compliance standards, you can provide regulatory documents like SmPCs (summary of product characteristics) and PIs (prescribing information) that HCPs can access with one click of a button.
To find out more about how to stay compliant with your life science events, check out our article about how to follow HCP compliance regulations with hybrid and virtual event platforms. Based on an interview with Caroline Petit, Takeda.
Having participant materials accessible online eliminates the need for physical copies and reduces paper waste, which contributes to a more sustainable event.
You can use this sustainable event planning technique as a way to engage with attendees and personalize their experience. Being able to provide an easy-to-use event app gives you the chance to interact with participants in a number of ways. E.g., through online surveys and polls, interactive Q&A sessions, or even live chatting with sponsors and partners.
#5 Provide Maps On Your Event App
Making sure your guests know their way around your in-person event is important. And it makes sense to do this in an eco-friendly way. Providing maps on your event app frees up paper waste. Plus, it gives attendees useful navigation tools.
Your event app can allow attendees to plan their route and navigate the venue with ease. They’ll be able to locate the nearest restroom, conference room, snack bar, and more.
The best part? It’ll save you time because your marketing team won’t have to create physical maps for everyone!
#6 Use An End-To-End Event Management Platform
Event technology has a major role in reducing industry carbon emissions.
For large-scale enterprise events, an end-to-end platform is key. It allows you to oversee everything from registration and pre-event engagement to communications and participant data, streamlining the entire event process. Plus, having an event platform that integrates with your CRM lets you track engagement metrics like ROI and attendance, giving you more visibility into your event’s performance.
Not only is it great for managing your event itself, but an event management system can help with event sustainability. Many systems offer features that encourage green event planning, such as paperless registration systems, automated notifications, and even eco-friendly reward options for participants. These features allow you to reduce waste while ensuring a smooth-running event.
To help you find the right end-to-end B2B event management platform for your large-scale events, download our event RFP template and send it to a selection of vendors.
#7 Provide Material On Your On-Demand Content Hub
After an in-person event, you may want to send your attendees away with printed materials. But this leads to paper waste. Plus, if you run virtual or hybrid events, how can you get this material to your remote attendees? By post? Not very eco-friendly.
By using a gated on-demand content hub that’s integrated into your event platform, you can upload materials for your attendees to download and store on their computers after your event. You can even turn your live events into on-demand videos in just a few clicks.
If you make this digital material available to all attendees, whether in-person or online, you run a more sustainable event. Plus, a gated on-demand content hub is a useful source of first-party data, as you can see how much your audience engages with it and get lots of other valuable engagement metrics.
For more information about event metrics to track with your event platform and CRM integration, read our article.
#8 Replace Throw-Away Swag With Digital Event Engagement
We’ve heard it so many times. Make your swag sustainable by including eco-friendly snacks, recycled material, and locally produced products. But how about using your event technology to boost attendee engagement instead?
If your enterprise runs hundreds of events a year, it’s likely you waste a lot of money and create a negative impact on the environment with huge amounts of event swag. But, audiences don’t want this anymore.
Event participants want more digital engagement. So, take advantage of your event app to send out pre-event survey questions and get them interacting with your event on the activity feed and through polls and Q&A. You could even introduce elements of gamification.
By focusing more on event engagement, you also get to know your audience better, as all the engagement data you collect will be fed directly from your event platform into your CRM.
#9 Look For Zero-Waste Event Vendors
Going green isn’t just about making small changes in your sustainable event planning process. It’s about finding vendors and suppliers who share the same values. Take the time to seek out zero-waste event vendors that offer products and services that help you reduce your carbon footprint.
For example, for in-person and hybrid events, look for caterers and food vendors that focus on organic ingredients or use compostable packaging and cutlery. If you’re looking for event furniture, try to find a company that specializes in sustainable furnishings, such as those made from recycled materials. And while you’re at it, why not consider renting rather than buying supplies? Suppliers can often provide items like tables, chairs, and even decorations on a rental basis, so you don’t have to commit to buying something that you may only use once.
Finally, make sure to invest in event technology solutions that allow attendees to interact with each other without using paper or plastic. By using digital solutions like interactive webinar software or cloud-based registration software, you can reduce your event’s waste output and help your enterprise become more sustainable overall.
Discover what green initiatives SpotMe is working on to help you create more sustainable events.
#10 Use Digital Networking Instead Of Business Cards
Going paperless is a simple way to achieve sustainable event management. But how about giving your participants the tools they need to go paperless too?
One of the main reasons people attend events is to network with other professionals in their industry. Take medical congresses, for example. HCPs go to hear from and build relationships with other HCPs.
If your event is in-person, people exchange paper business cards. But by using your event app, you can encourage your participants to network digitally without producing any waste. You can match participants, and they can exchange details through your event app.
This is one of the best sustainable event ideas for hybrid and virtual events because your participants can network no matter whether they attend in-person or online.
#11 Use Eco-Friendly Marketing
When it comes to marketing your sustainable event, you’ll want your marketing materials to be eco-friendly.
Here are some ideas for sustainable event marketing techniques:
Use Social Media
Using social media platforms like LinkedIn can help you spread the word about your sustainable event with minimal resources and cost. Plus, using social media is a great way to engage with your target audience and start conversations about event sustainability topics before, during, and after your events.
You may want to have a few key printed materials, such as posters to decorate your in-person event venue. Make sure they’re printed on recycled paper that uses vegetable-based inks instead of toxic ones. If you need to print flyers, you can print on both sides of the paper with minimal ink to maximize resources.
Use Digital Communications
Placing digital displays around your venue or sending out digital newsletters can help reduce waste from printing materials that are frequently thrown away after use. Plus, using digital advertising is more effective when targeting younger audiences than traditional print advertising methods.
Promote “Zero-Waste” Initiatives
Consider ways you can promote “zero-waste” initiatives at your in-person and hybrid events, such as providing reusable water bottles or snacks in reusable containers instead of single-use plastic ones. You can make sure all materials used are recyclable or compostable so that nothing goes to waste at the end of the night!
Lacking inspiration on how to market your B2B event? Check out our article for more 23 B2B event marketing ideas.
#12 Choose Smart Transport Choices
The way your attendees choose to get to your in-person event can make a big difference to your event’s impact on the environment. Encourage your guests to use public transport like buses and trains, or consider offering a shuttle service running from a nearby public transport stop to your venue.
If those aren’t options, carpooling or ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft are great options that could help bring down the number of cars being used on the roads. You could even think about running a few electric vehicles with charging stations for longer trips.
As well as reducing carbon emissions and helping you run more eco-friendly events, these transport choices can act as great cost-cutting measures for you and your attendees.
Not only are you doing something positive for the environment, but you make it easier for those attending your events to travel sustainably and economically. Plus, it will leave everyone feeling good knowing that they played their part in helping you host a more sustainable event.
#13 Opt For Eco-Friendly Venues
When organizing an enterprise event with hundreds or thousands of attendees, it pays to be mindful of the venues you use. After all, where you host your event impacts your carbon footprint. Consider choosing venues that are committed to event sustainability and have a track record of implementing green practices.
If possible, select venues that prioritize:
- Digital communications
- Sustainable building practices
- Recycling programs
- Water efficiency initiatives
- Energy conservation
- Waste management processes, etc.
It’s important to look out for green certifications that verify that venues abide by the highest standards in sustainable event operations. Plus, make sure the venue uses sustainable event practices such as using compostable and reusable plates and cutlery made of biodegradable materials, or providing dishes and glassware sourced from sustainable suppliers.
#14 Select Reusable Materials For Event Settings
When enterprises run events, they don’t just have to ensure they run smoothly and leave a lasting impression. They have to reduce their waste impact as much as possible. One way to do this is by using reusable materials for event settings like decorations, tableware, and other items.
You can easily find reusable materials that are designed specifically for events. Opting for these can help you run a more sustainable event. Not only are they durable and eco-friendly event options, but they’ll save you time and money in the long run!
Here are some ideas:
Reusable Totes Or Bags
Using reusable totes or bags instead of single-use plastic ones is an easy way to make your event more sustainable.
Recyclable Serving Platters
Using recyclable platters instead of single-use plastic or paper ones helps reduce the amount of waste at your event. You can also rent out serving platters from catering companies. That way you don’t have to buy them outright!
Having some beautiful tablecloths are a great way to create an inviting atmosphere at your events. And by choosing reusable ones made from natural fibers like cotton or linen, you help to minimize the negative impact of your events.
Putting in place recycling practices during your events is an easy way to stay eco-friendly. Make sure that during and after your sustainable event, you store and dispose of recyclable materials properly. Think about this during the sustainable event planning process to know where you’ll store you materials, as well as how you’ll collect and recycle them after.
Providing multiple large recycling bins throughout your event space is a great way to make sure that attendees can easily find and use them. Placing smaller bins at each station or table will encourage guests to dispose of their waste accordingly. Be sure to label each bin with signifying markings such as “Paper,” “Glass,” or “Plastic & Metal Items” so that guests understand which items to recycle in each one.
Incorporating educational messaging within your event can help attendees understand why you are embracing event sustainability, and how they can support your event sustainability ideas. You could send out push notifications on your mobile event app with eco-friendly tips. Or you could host a meeting or seminar about sustainable event practices. Anything that makes it easier for attendees to make informed decisions during your event.
You should train your event staff on recycling practices to make sure they dispose of all recyclable material properly throughout your event. Having staff on hand who are informed on how to keep recycling goals in check will ensure that nothing slips through the cracks!
#16 Give Prizes Or Giveaways That Go To Sustainable Causes
You can run a more sustainable event by giving prizes and giveaways that go to sustainable causes. For example, you could offer a gift card to a company that focuses on eco-friendly products or services. Or you could give away recyclable items, such as T-shirts made of organic cotton or reusable water bottles.
Giving prizes and giveaways in this way helps spread the message of event sustainability among your attendees and customers. It shows that your enterprise is committed to making conscious efforts. Plus, it’s a great way to reward customers for helping you tu run an eco-friendly event.
#17 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 greener, including location, transport, food, energy, plastic, and paper use.
You 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
To put in place a strong sustainable event planning process from the very start, download our event brief template.
#18 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 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 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.
#19 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.
Interested in having your very own sustainable event checklist? Request it now.
#20 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.
#21 Consider Hiring A Sustainability Consultant
If you’re serious about making big changes but 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 sustainable 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 your enterprise holds several internal events. A consultant can help you change the entire company culture concerning event sustainability.
A consultant can help you plan for large cost-saving energy changes, such as solar panels, packaging, and transport alternatives.
#22 Make Event Sustainability A Requirement For Sponsors And Partners
The ultimate goal is to have everyone you’re working with aligned in their event 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.
#23 Share Your Sustainable Efforts On Social Media To Encourage Others
Social media will be a powerful tool for sharing your event sustainability 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 follow-up 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.
#24 Don’t Start Thinking About Event Sustainability Too Late
Event sustainability can’t be an afterthought, or it won’t be properly executed, and many of your goals won’t get fulfilled. Careful sustainable event planning can help you plan more deliberately and rethink several event costs.
If you’re going to plan a hybrid event, research the right hybrid event platform and have your tech stack set up accordingly. 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.
Looking For An Event Platform To Help You Run More Sustainable Events?
When it comes to event sustainability, taking a holistic approach is key. That means looking at your annual events’ footprint with a critical eye and updating your enterprise event strategy to include the perfect mix of event formats – virtual, in-person, and hybrid.
SpotMe’s end-to-end event platform is tailored to midmarket and large B2B enterprises in high-touch industries, for example, life sciences, that run thousands of mixed events every year. Its engaging mobile event app helps you to run more sustainable events while getting deep data insights thanks to its CRM and MAP integrations.
To find out how SpotMe can help you with sustainable event management, request a free demo.