Sustainability is a buzzword of our current climate and is rapidly becoming a key priority within the events and conferencing world. As event planners, we have an obligation to consider the impact our events have on the world around us and to take steps towards a more environmentally conscious approach.
With every event being a unique experience, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to sustainable planning, but there are certain considerations that can be applied to most situations. Here we take a look at six key focus areas that will be relevant to the majority of conferences and events.
The planning stage of any event is an organisational mind field and many a tree has been known to suffer in the process. You can cut down on your paper consumption by adopting a no-paper policy or, at the very least, encouraging a considered approach. Use recycled paper, enforce double sided printing and recycle any unneeded paperwork post event. Consider your marketing carefully. We live in the age of digital communication and it’s likely that for every on-paper marketing technique, there are at least two digital alternatives.
2. Venue and Transport
Your attendees may well be coming from far and wide, so opting for a venue with good transport links can drastically reduce the carbon footprint of your event. If delegates are responsible for their own travel costs, and if your budget allows, consider offering a small subsidised allowance to those who opt for public transport. If travel costs can be reclaimed, offer incentives for the use of public transport or carpooling initiatives. If you have a large number of delegates coming from one area, can you offer a coach pick up and drop off service?
3. Energy Consumption
There’s no two ways about it; events need power. You’ll need an AV set-up that effectively supports your aims and suits the size and scale of your event. But with a little imagination and creativity, you can often find ways to make this more efficient.
Could you incorporate natural daylight into your design or, if not, make more effective use of artificial lighting? Could you plan a more suitable seating arrangement that eliminates the need for additional screens and makes full use of the room’s natural acoustics? Are their elements of your set-up that are there simply for technologies sake, offering little to no value to your event objectives? A good event production company will work with your goals in mind, offering cost and energy saving alternatives.
If your event includes elements of creative theming, approach it with a sustainable mind-set. Could you use live plants as table centres or decoration and arrange to have them replanted post event? Could you incorporate natural elements such as wood to enhance your theme? Or use products made from recycled materials?
Whilst sustainable theming may take a little more time and imagination, done well, it can result in a truly unique event experience for your delegates. Natural elements can heighten senses not normally catered to at certain events, such as touch and scent and when all of our senses are heightened, we become more susceptible to messages and information.
5. Food and Drink
Where possible, source organic and locally produced products for your catering needs. Not only will this cut out travel related emissions, it will add value to the local economy. Cater carefully to your attendee numbers to avoid waste and, if you do find yourself with leftovers, consider donating these to a local charity or food bank. And of course, avoid plastics by providing jugs of water, glassware and crockery.
6. Give Back
If your event is inclusive of team building sessions, consider activities that give back to the local community, or the world at large. Contact the council of your event location to see if there’s an area of land that needs cultivating, or a community project your delegates could offer help with for an afternoon. Is there the potential to incorporate fundraising activities into your team building efforts, raising funds for environmental causes? If your event is a company conference, your delegate teams could produce sustainability projects for the workplace.
Of course, every event is unique, with its own objectives, activities and methods of delivery. There’s no set blueprint for sustainable event management but by adopting an environmentally and socially conscious approach, you are taking steps to extend you’re corporate social responsibility, presenting your organisation in a positive light and playing your part in protecting our environment in the process.
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