Get 2020 vision on your event sustainability

It’s the time of year where we are all making resolutions and setting goals for the year ahead.  Losing weight, going for that promotion, taking care of ourselves – what will you be focusing on?  One thing we all need to be more mindful of is the growing need to be sustainable.

If you are in the event industry – what better time to start initiating sustainable practices into your event planning.  Not only will you be driving positive social change and reducing the harmful effects events can have, but also totally revolutionising how you deliver your events. 

Take a look at my top 20 tips to get you started.  Stand out in 2020 – go sustainable!

  1. Keep it Simple

Planning events is time constrained enough without throwing in a sustainability curveball, so don’t try and do everything all at the same time.  Build sustainable ideas into your planning early, choose a few ideas and give them a go to see what works for you.

  1. Trust your gut

Share what you are doing and thinking about with your stakeholders and colleagues.  Bring them along on the journey but stick to your guns if you are challenged.  Share your enthusiasm and the support will come when you can show the positive impact you are having.

  1. Empower your suppliers

However amazing you are, you cannot run events single handedly.  We all have to work with venues, caterers, stand builders, production teams – they are our partners in delivering events successfully and responsibly.  Talk to them and see how they can help you with building sustainability into events.

  1. Choose Green venues

As with your suppliers, venues can take a lot of the work out of going sustainable.  Power and energy efficiency, caterers, waste management, location and accessibility – find the right venue and you could have a lot of these ticked off already.  Make it a key criteria for your venue selection process.

  1. Demand diversity

Sustainability is more than reducing our negative impact, is about driving positive social change – make sure your agenda reflects that.  Ensure there is at least 50% female representation and you promote cultural diversity on your speaker list, not just middle-aged white men in grey suits. 

  1. Scrap giveaways

The chances are, whatever you have given away to leave a lasting impression on a customer is not on their desk, its in landfill.  Stop doing giveaways.  Look at valuing customer connections through experience and if you really want to give something, try a charitable donation on their behalf.

  1. Stop printing brochures

Just stop.  Use QR codes so people can access digital copies or send them on email.  Better still house all your materials in an event app and enhance the entire event experience for your customer.

  1. Look after your guests

And your crew!  Wellbeing is essential to sustainable event management.  You don’t need to run yoga sessions at every break but think about the experience. Do you have natural light?  Is the space well ventilated?  Can they access outside space?  Is there wifi?  Is the food and drink nurturing?

  1. Give an authentic experience

You want to deliver an event that is unique and memorable, so what could be better than showcasing the city or town you are in.  Is there a local cultural experience you can give your guests? 

  1. Shop local

You want to serve fresh, local and above all seasonal produce at your event.  In doing so you are also keeping the food miles down to reduce the carbon footprint, and supporting local businesses and farmers. 

  1. Lead the way with LED

Remove the reliance on pull up banners which get thrown away after your event.  Rent plasma screens or ask your venue about digital signage.  For the main stage, make the screen the set so you don’t need to use single use print for the stage surround.

  1. Ditch the plastic

Think about the materials you are using to bring your event to life.  Refuse plastic, but where it is unavoidable think about how you can re-purpose or re-use it instead of just binning it at the end of the event.

  1. Watch your waste

Every event creates waste so as an event manager you have to really plan for how you will manage this waste early in the planning process.  Reduce what you create for the event in the first place, then secondly, re-use or re-purpose before recycling and divert as much as possible from landfill.

  1. BYOB (and coffee cup!)

This is becoming more expected now too.  Ask people to bring their own reusable water bottles and coffee mugs – don’t surprise them on the day, tell them in all communications in advance.  For those who forget, you can supply glasses and crockery for drinks, don’t offer a plastic alternative.

  1. Badges for bees

Name badges are a must at an event, but instead of using the traditional plastic version, you can now print onto seeded paper which can be planted to grow wildflowers and help the bees!

  1. Donate food waste

Firstly, be really mindful with your catering numbers to limit leftover food and then remember – 70% of food waste is actually consumable so don’t throw it away!  Re-distribute your leftover food to charities or homeless shelters.

  1. Get on your bike

One to speak to your venue about, but think about how delegates will access your event.  Are you close to public transport?  Can you walk to the venue?  What about bike routes?  Promote all options on your invitations and event websites and encourage greener ways to travel to your event.

  1. Don’t default on decorations

Balloons are the default event decoration, but there are so many more beautiful ways to decorate your space without the negative impacts.  Paper lanterns, garlands and pom poms, as well as naturally foraged floristry all make an event look stunning.

  1. Ready, Set, Measure

The key thing when starting out with sustainability is to monitor and track what you are doing.  You may think its only a small thing, but all changes towards a more sustainable event industry are making a huge difference.  Set yourself goals from the outset and measure the impact you are having.

  1. Share the love

This is key.   We want to make all events, sustainable events, so educate people on what you are doing and why.  Tell the story and help people understand why you have made the changes.  Within the industry promote what you are doing, what worked, what needs tweaks and encourage others to have a go.

I would love to know how you get on.  Share your thoughts and feedback in the comments below!

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