Sustainable Event Planning: What You Need to Get Started

Georgia Davies
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The world is now more aware of the environmental threats posed by unsustainable practices, and this includes organizing events that may contribute to environmental issues.

And while event planners are understandably focused on giving their guests the best possible experience, many of them are now also becoming increasingly preoccupied with making sure their events are as sustainable as they are enjoyable.

If you are an event professional, then this guide is for you. Keep reading to discover why sustainable event planning is crucial and what you need to get started.

Why Sustainable Event Planning Is Important

Our environment faces numerous challenges, including climate change and resource depletion. And because the choices we make today can impact future generations, embracing sustainability means we’re choosing to create a safe and liveable environment for everyone – today and tomorrow.

These choices don’t just involve our personal lives, but are extending more and more to our professional ones, too. As an organizer of events, therefore, your job now goes beyond giving attendees a memorable experience.

You should also aim at making your event as sustainable as possible, by reducing your carbon footprint, limiting or eliminating the use of certain materials, adopting eco-friendly practices, and more.

But planning a sustainable event isn’t just better for the planet – it can also generate plenty of great benefits for your business, such as:

  • Reducing costs: Regardless of the size of the event, you will need to spend some money. The bigger the event, the more expensive it can be. But sustainable event planning can ensure you save money – especially if you’re on a budget. Technology can streamline your operations and reduce costs. From call center hosting for ticket sales inquiries to using digital signage for event information, there are many ways to cut costs by going digital.
  • Meeting attendees’ expectations: Today, people are more eco-conscious, with research highlighting that 78% of people believe environmental issues directly affect their daily lives and health. So, it makes sense that people also want to associate themselves with events that align with their values. Hosting an eco-friendly event helps you get attendees closer to their sustainability goals.

Now that we have clarified why sustainable event planning is a no-brainer, let’s discuss how to plan a truly “green” event.

9 Tips for Sustainable Event Planning

1. Set Clear Sustainability Goals

Specifically, some of these goals should include:

  • Reducing the event’s carbon footprint by implementing energy-efficient practices, such as LED lights and renewable energy sources.
  • Minimizing water consumption by installing water-saving fixtures and promoting refillable water bottles.
  • Promoting social responsibility by partnering with local businesses and organizations that align with sustainable values.
  • Diverting waste from landfills through recycling and composting programs.
  • Educating and engaging guests about sustainable practices and the importance of environmental conservation.
  • Measuring the event’s sustainability performance, such as tracking the amount of waste generated, energy consumption, and water usage.

2. Choose an Eco-Friendly Venue and Vendors

The venue plays a significant role in the success of your event. So choose a location that is close to public transport, has eco-friendly amenities, and is committed to sustainable practices.

A good rule of thumb is to select a venue certified as a green building or with green certifications, such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

Another option is offering attendees the opportunity to join virtually. This way, you can minimize the need for travel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. You can then leverage remote access software like RealVNC to stream the event to virtual attendees.

All stakeholders must be on board to achieve a sustainable event – including your vendors and suppliers. The first step is to consider local vendors for whatever you need. Then, if they can’t provide everything, reach out to only eco-friendly vendors. 

3. Adopt Green Catering Practices

Speaking of vendors, your event’s catering is also super important. If you are planning a sustainable event, the food must reflect that too. Green catering means sourcing food locally and organically.  

There will also be little to no meat consumption, as meat contributes to 57% of greenhouse gas emissions in the food production industry. Here are some green catering ideas for your event: 

  • Fancy finger foods. These food types prevent waste of service ware. Crostini, egg rolls, tarts, sliders, and taquitos can all look presentable with a cocktail napkin – even for formal entrées. 
  • Edible containers. These are visually appealing, fun, delicious – and still prevent waste. Choose containers like sweet pepper, bowls made of bread, or chocolate cups – something people can hold without utensils. 
  • Paper wraps. Are you serving more laid-back, on-the-go meals like rolls and sandwiches? Paper wraps could be fun. You’ll be able to show guests what’s on the sandwich, keep the contents neat, and reduce waste by eliminating individual windowed boxes.

Lastly, to avoid waste, budget for the correct number of attendees. And if there are leftovers, donate them to local shelters, food banks, or compost. Many cities provide composting services – you can also purchase a compost bin for your event.

4. Use Digital Promotions Instead of Print Materials

Gone are the days of glossy, printed brochures and flyers to promote your event. Technology has made it easier than ever to market events digitally.

Rather than printing 1,000 invitations and mailing them out, use digital platforms like social media and event websites to spread the word. Apart from cost-saving, these platforms offer other benefits. For instance, a phone VoIP service can encourage increased engagement by combining its phone support, email, and chat features – while reducing the need for printed materials.

5. Promote Sustainable Transportation Options for Attendees

Transportation emits 20% of global CO2 emissions and is the second-largest polluter worldwide. A successful sustainable event planning is incomplete without addressing transportation.

We have already discussed that you should find venues closer to public transport or offer virtual attendance. But if none of this is possible, you can reduce the carbon footprint from your event by encouraging guests to carpool, use public transportation, or ride bicycles.

For guests from out of town, you can arrange shuttle services using eco-friendly vehicles – or partner with ride-sharing services. Attendees staying at nearby hotels can also be transported by shuttle buses to and from the event.

6. Minimize Energy Consumption and Use Renewable Sources

Does your event require sound and lighting? This is another area to focus on for sustainability. If you need to set up a stage and sound system, choose energy-efficient equipment to minimize energy consumption.

You can efficiently run most sound equipment and LED lights using solar panels if you have that option.

Get your attendees involved in your renewable energy supplies. Several installations can be powered by pedaling – from coffee makers to charger stations.

Alternatively, you could create kinetic energy on a dance floor or walkway. Engaging attendees in energy generation can be entertaining and educating.

7. Ditch Swag Bags

Swag bags are great, and they are a thoughtful way to show your guests how pleased you are that they came to your event. You also kill two birds with one stone by promoting your organization with branded merchandise.

But have you considered the damage these bags can cause to the environment?

Those 50-cent notepads or keychains are sourced from materials that contribute to deforestation. Plus, they eventually end up in landfills.

Next time, go digital. Virtual bags, like discount codes, e-tickets, or downloadable freebies, can be just as appreciated. They also don’t leave a negative impact on the environment.

If you think about it, it’s a win-win situation for all parties. Guests won’t misplace these eco-friendly gifts and can access them anytime. You and your sponsors also have fewer items to buy and carry to the event, saving costs.

8. Reduce Plastic Waste

Plastic takes time to decompose and is harmful to wildlife. Reduce plastic at your event by providing biodegradable plates, refillable water bottles, and bamboo cutlery.

Installing water refill stations over offering bottled water can also go a long way in minimizing plastic waste. Tell guests to come with their reusable water bottles too.

9. Host a Virtual Event

Want to go green completely? Consider hosting a virtual event instead of an in-person one. Virtual events eliminate transportation, reduce carbon emissions, and save energy. Also, they can reach a wider audience around the world. It’s a sustainable and cost-effective option that allows for networking and engagement.

Ensure attendees can easily access the virtual event platform, and communicate details such as how to log in, navigate, and participate in advance. Using country-specific domain names can also enhance accessibility. For example, an Israel domain name for Israeli participants, an Italian one for Italian guests, and so on.

Embrace Sustainable Practices to Create Unforgettable Events

Eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyles are becoming increasingly popular in the event industry. The majority of respondents to the 2023 Global Meetings and Events Forecast report implemented sustainable programs for meetings and events. This trend will continue in the future. 

If you want to plan sustainable events successfully, implement the tips covered above. From gaining clarity over your sustainability goals to choosing the right local partners and delivering a truly eco-friendly event, there is a lot of work for you to do – but the results will totally be worth it. 

Georgia Davies

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