How to hold more sustainable events
We all know events can be powerful catalysts for success, but let's face it—they often leave a less-than-desirable impact on the environment.
Nature Communications dropped a truth bomb recently: their research showed the event industry's carbon footprint equals the yearly emissions of the whole US. With the world focused on Net Zero, carbon-neutral events are now a must, no ifs, ands, or buts. Travel and event carbon emissions are under a microscope like never before. The future belongs to those who embrace this shift and leave their old, earth-harming ways behind.
Sure, the typical "solutions" like recycling and no printing materials are important, and we'll get to those. But there's also a whole bunch of simple and affordable changes that event planners can make to really push their events – and the entire industry – towards a zero-waste, zero-carbon future.
Before the event
Pick a venue that's eco-minded
One of the key ingredients for successful event planning is finding the perfect venue. And if you're aiming to make your event more sustainable, it's all about choosing an event venue with some serious green credentials. Luckily, many venues are already on board with the sustainability mission and are ready to lend a helping hand.
Just make sure they've got a few basics covered. Do they have recycling stations available? Do they have a water-saving policy in place? Do they use smart temperature controls? But most importantly, see if they're open to providing solutions to help you meet your sustainability goals.
Embrace the circular design trend
To make your practices more eco-friendly, take a close look at the materials you use. The end goal is to cut down on waste and pollution and promote the reuse of materials while supporting nature's regeneration. Choose lightweight, reusable, and modular designs so you can use fewer petroleum-based plastics. Instead of customizing everything, consider renting from existing exhibit contractor inventories to reduce waste.
You can also ditch traditional branding solutions (lanyards are an excellent place to start) and opt for recyclable materials instead. But why stop there? Go for an even greener approach and go digital!
Explore ways to shrink your freight load
Reducing shipping, especially air freight, by using lighter materials and scheduling shipments to consolidate can help cut down on climate pollution. Also, don't forget to ask your shipping logistics provider about their plans to switch to fuel-efficient, low-emitting vehicles (it’s slow, but the change is coming). Where you can, work with sustainable suppliers that are local to the event to reduce the carbon impact.
During the event
Limit single-use plastics: Encourage guests to bring their own bottles to water stations or hook them up with reusable or biodegradable cups and packaging, like takeaway coffee cups, cutlery, and food/beverage containers.
Make recycling easy: Don't just settle for recycling bins; make sure they are clearly labeled and placed strategically, turning recycling into a slam dunk for everyone involved.
Reduce food waste and food miles: Buffets are convenient but not sustainable due to food waste. To reduce impacts, ask if the kitchen composts or recycles grease. Serve condiments in bulk. For catering, source local produce and choose seasonal options.
After the event
Assess your carbon footprint and take steps to offset it
Robust carbon measurement is doable with the help of software or a consultant. Once you’ve got the numbers, you want to offset them in a way that makes an impact. Greenwashing away your post-event carbon footprint isn’t going to get us the future that we want.
So, what can your event planning partners do for you? Take FCM Meetings and Events, for example. They have teamed up with the South Pole to create a carbon offset calculator specifically for carbon-neutral meetings and events. You can offset everything from flights to food and choose from a range of global sustainability projects to support.
Pay it forward
Why not team up with non-profits or community programs to give away any leftover conference materials? Sprinkle some sustainability magic into your event by hosting workshops, making donations, or setting aside a section to chat about a greener future for all! By getting involved in these initiatives, you'll create a more eco-friendly event and spread the critical message of sustainability.
Finally, do a post-event audit
After the onsite event, it's time to tackle any remaining barriers keeping you from reaching your sustainability goals. This is where a partner like FCM Meetings & Events can help you grow – in greener ways. We'll put on our detective hats, analyze what worked and what didn't, and devise solutions. By addressing these obstacles head-on, we'll create a culture where sustainability shines bright, and your team will be the rockstars of green event practices.