Can events ever be truly sustainable?

Sustainability within the events industry has become less of a ‘nice to have’ and more of a requirement in recent years, but it’s no easy feat.

There are so many factors to consider: it’s not just about cutting the single-use plastics or going paperless, it’s about the venue you choose, waste production, every supplier or contractor, travel and so much more.

So, with all this in mind, can events ever be completely sustainable?

Delegate travel

Ultimately, it’s difficult to have any control over how your delegates travel to or from your event, where they stay or how they go about it, but you can do your bit to encourage car shares to reduce emissions or provide incentives for sustainable travel.

Perhaps you could partner with a coach company or a sustainable hotel nearby – remember it’s not just about you and what you’re providing or doing, it’s about your delegates’ whole experience and making all of it eco-aware.

It’s not just about plastic

It’s not only single-use plastic that event planners need to be aware of, it’s all that paper, too: invitations, programmes and schedules, name tags, leaflets from sponsors – the list is endless. Going paperless at events isn’t just about invitations, it’s about having digital name tags, utilising apps and technology and recyclable food packaging.

Digital where possible

There are many ways to ‘go digital’ throughout the whole event management process, too. As well as ensuring that all comms with your delegates is online, you can utilise free social media channels to create localised groups to encourage car shares or coaches, share schedules, maps, accommodation information and more.

Sustainable catering

Truly sustainable catering is about more than the food you provide for your guests; it’s the whole supply chain. It’s where your food is coming from, how it gets to you, the packaging it arrives in, how you serve it…

  • Will you be serving meat?
  • Is packaging recyclable or biodegradable?
  • Are your suppliers nearby? How will they get to you?
  • Are you utilising seasonal produce?
  • How much waste is there likely to be?
  • What will be done with waste?
  • How do you calculate how much food to order?
  • Can you serve tap water?
  • Is it possible to use glasses instead of bottles or cups?

Truly sustainable venues

Lots of events venues claim to be sustainable because they don’t have single-use plastics or use a digital registration system. However, there is a lot more to running a sustainable venue than meets the eye.

  • Find out what your venue does with surplus food – does it go to charities, food banks, compost or in the bin?
  • Are audio-visual facilities eco-friendly? Think energy saving lightbulbs, natural daylight, renewable energy
  • Are the facilities sustainable? e.g. low-flush toilets, glass bottles,
  • What happens to waste water?

Carbon offsetting

As event organisers, you can pay a little more for your venue to involve a carbon offset firm who will measure the carbon emissions of your event and attempt to compensate for it by planting trees, creating wind farms, replacing roofs with solar panels or even tackling poverty.

Choosing suppliers

It’s all well and good choosing a sustainable venue, taking registration online and going paperless, but if your suppliers have a huge carbon footprint, you’re kind of wasting your time.

Your chosen suppliers should be as dedicated to your sustainability mission as you are, so don’t be afraid to ask how or where they source their produce and what they do to neutralise their carbon footprint.

Asking your venue and suppliers the right questions around corporate social responsibility will help you to understand whether they are suitable for you and your event.