My Incentive to Make Your Event Green Easily – Check It Off

When dealing with new topics such as green event planning it is easy to get lost in lots of articles and videos and podcasts about it. Wouldn’t it be great to have some sort of a checklist at hand that reminds you of different possibilities, which you can check off afterwards when planning your next meeting? That’s what I will try to deliver to you with this article. Let’s check out four different event areas that you can influence to make your event more sustainable.

Travel/Transportation

 

First things first:

  • Consider a remote meeting if it isn’t necessary to meet in person.

    • This reduces the carbon footprint of avoided travel and equipment transportation immediately as well as time saved not being stuck in planes, trains, or on crowded streets.

  • Choose a central destination for your attendees that is closest to most of them.

    • No need to fly them all around the world unless there is a significant reason to host your meeting there.

  • Choose a city with direct flight access.

    • Fewer connections mean fewer emissions, good for the environment.

  • Choose a meeting venue and/or hotel with direct public transportation connection.

    • To support public transportation over taxi, provide tickets or discounts for the duration of the meeting to your participants. Make it as easy as possible for them to opt for the unknown by including description and maps in your event material, which route to take, where to enter/exit, mark the stations. We know how lazy people can be, so facilitate the eco-friendly option by giving them as much guidance as possible. This can already start with hostesses at the airport who guide them to the respective options.

  • Offer a shuttle service from central locations where attendees can meet and travel together.

    • They could even do carpooling themselves if you provide the platform, which saves on scarce parking space in big cities as well as cutting emissions. This is also a great measure to make sure most of the participants stay on schedule and arrive in time.

  • Create a walkable event area if you need more than one venue to avoid unnecessary transportation.

    • 1.5 km is considered a walkable distance. Unless the weather conditions are unbearable, a brief walk will also help to awaken the participants’ senses and make them more receptive for the following program.

  • Incentivize your guests to walk or use public transportation by adding game stations and other amenities along the way.

    • If it is too hot to walk between venues, create a shaded walkway that sprays water to cool the air. Place branded benches with free USB charge via solar panels that give an opportunity to rest and network. You could also include a public transport scavenger hunt in the program to get your attendees familiar with the system by exploring the city and encouraging them to use different modes of transportation. Still better than shoving them all in an air-conditioned bus.

  • Charter hybrid vehicles if transportation is necessary.

    • Offer electric cars or high efficiency hybrid cars when you plan chauffeur services or VIP treatment.

Technical Equipment

 

Sustainability doesn’t need to press on your shoulders only. Involve your suppliers and you may be surprised by their ideas, or benefit from already implemented measures:

  • Rent locally and schedule freight to reduce shipping costs.

    • Local companies (should) also know the circumstances at the destination best and can deliver items on short notice.

  • Check venues and hotels according to best environmental practices and choose accordingly.

    • You may also negotiate sustainable measures into the contracts to share the work load.

  • Check events preceding or following your own meeting to see if there is potential to cooperate.

    • By hiring the same AV company, you might be able to save on sharable equipment and setup costs.

  • Reduce energy consumption during non-critical periods and point this out to hotel and/or venue.

    • Ask them to keep lighting to a minimum during setup and dismantling, and avoid AC or heating during move in and move out when the precious energy will be lost through open doors anyways.

  • Opt for LED lighting and consider motion sensors if you need to install a new system anyway.

    • LED light bulbs have less output than standard lighting, require much less energy, plenty of options to work with, and have a longer life span. You see, choosing energy-efficient LEDs help achieve your event lighting goals at a lower ecological and economical cost. And why does the lobby need full lighting when no attendee will leave the plenary for the next three hours?

  • Consider green energy depending on season and destination of your meeting to make use of the free forces.

    • Located in Malta, we have 300+ days of sunshine every year. Solar panels can be integrated in many meeting furniture, e. g. smart benches as mentioned above, tables or even atmosphere lamps. These can be installed temporarily and provide high-tech charging options with lower environmental impact. Ideal for outdoor events, this furniture can be placed anywhere and provides not only a place to sit, put your coffee, or light but also the benefit of keeping every attendees’ most valuable item alive, their smartphone.

  • Implement people powered lounges to promote healthy living and clean energy sources.

    • Set up exercise bikes or treadmills that help generate energy for technology used at the event, or which are hooked to games and incentives to make the use more fun. On smoothie bikes attendees can literally mix their own drinks via pedal power or change the atmosphere lights while cycling. This type of lounge also facilitates networking and helps break the ice among participants.

  • Implement a digital registration process for the conference.

    • Using e-tickets or digital passes are not only more efficient and eco-friendly, they also avoid any ticket drama at the entrance, reduce costs and the environmental impact.

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Catering

 

The younger generation is the attendee of tomorrow and F&B is actually a critical touchpoint for most of them. Make sure to know your target group and their needs to reduce food waste:

  • Check previous event data and analyze ordered quantity and selected menus.

    • Did they prefer meat over fish or the vegetarian options? Exchange unpopular dishes or remove them entirely to reduce the menu but keep the quality high.

  • Include more organic food to make the meal plan healthier and the attendees less tired.

    • Did you know that vegetarian dishes have 30 % lower environmental impact than non-vegetarian diets? Maybe it’s time to increase the vegetarian options. Make the change playfully by introducing Meatless Mondays which showcase the reduction of water and carbon to produce a menu without beef or chicken.

  • Choose locally sourced and in-season food from local vendors.

    • Like this, the food hasn’t travelled around the world before ending up on the plates but will also be more fresh and tasty.

  • Remind the guests to update their attendance a week before the event to send final numbers to the caterer.

    • Don’t forget to calculate last minute cancellations as well to avoid over-ordering food while still making sure the caterer delivers sufficient amounts. Having your guests pre-order their main dish or other food options helps the kitchen enormously. And don’t worry, it will still be possible for a few guests to change their choice on-site.

  • Use water refill stations instead of water bottles.

    • This cheaper option reduces the amount of plastic at your meeting significantly and also avoids half-full bottles being thrown out because nobody remembered where they placed their bottle.

  • Implement digital menus using tablets.

    • The tablet table ordering keeps printing costs down, reduces paper waste, can be updated anytime, limits selection of dishes when ‘sold out’, and works with automated ordering systems to guarantee faster serving.

  • Partner with homeless shelters or local initiatives to manage leftover food.

    • In order to provide leftover food to people in need, it is necessary that the staff who is handling the food is trained and understands what is to be done with it.

Waste Recycling

 

Last but not least, focus on proper handling of waste or think about ways how to even avoid things to become waste in the first place:

  • Choose event material that can be composted.

    • While all compostable material is biodegradable, not all biodegradable material is compostable. Compost ends up as rich humus full of nutrients for plants and causes no harm to the environment, while biodegradable material also breaks down quickly but may leave metal residue behind. However, we all agree that biodegradable materials are still way better than non-biodegradable (plastic & Co.).

  • Provide good recycling and waste stations at the event to keep attendees’ efforts minimal.

    • Help your attendees understand how to recycle properly with color-coded bins, clear labels, signs or even cool pictures to make recycling fool-proof, and monitors to help them sort their waste. Consistency with the recycling areas supports a quick learning so that the proper use will be a no-brainer soon. And place enough containers everywhere so that guests don’t have to walk long to dispose their trash properly. As with everything, the easier it is, the more likely everyone will participate.

  • Incentivize recycling with freebies or digital swag.

    • If your guests are very reluctant, maybe it helps to offer smart give aways in exchange to them coming to you and sorting their waste accordingly. Gamification always helps engaging attendees with new topics.

  • Reduce or avoid waste by using re-usable materials, e. g. real china, plates, cups, cutlery.

    • Offering items or food in bulk-containers instead of single packaged also helps reduction of excess waste.

  • Repurpose event items before they end up in trash and give them away.

    • If you chose living décor like potted bushes or plants over flower bouquets it will be lasting longer and is more sustainable. Offer these floral arrangements as prizes, plan raffles to give away plants to attendees, donate flowers to presenters, ask around at local initiatives, schools, or charities who could re-use event decoration. And if that might not be suitable, I’m sure most of your event helpers will be grateful to take home a plant or two at the end of the event as well.

While some of the mentioned measures might take more planning or budget than others, remember that you don’t have to implement all of them at once. Some ideas work easier at certain type of events than others. The important thing is that you take a moment to analyze your next event and see which potential there may be. If there are only 2-3 things you can start changing today, your event already did its first step towards sustainability.

I hope you could take away a few ideas, and if you like what you are reading, download the PDF checklist to keep useful points at hand when planning your next event.

Kristin Sammann

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