Reuse. Reduce. Respect. – Green Event Planning Made Easy

After having promised that green event planning isn’t as complicated as you might imagine and also doesn’t necessarily ruin your budget, let’s dig in some real practices that you can start implementing today. When talking about being environmentally friendly, many people think about recycling first. However, there are some steps to consider before this.

Reuse – Be Smart About Your Decisions

Reuse – everything! Ok, that is a bit exaggerated but if you look around yourself you can find many alternatives before purchasing something new for your event, or finding new use of items before throwing them out. This is often referred to as repurposing and upcycling.

 

One of the easiest things is to opt for reusables in the first place. Choose reusable cutlery and cloth napkins instead of their disposable version. When preparing name badges, don’t let your guests walk home with them but set up a bowl (visibly or at the exit) to collect them at the end of your event. Who collects name badges or lanyards anyways? Prevent them from ending up in the garbage and save yourself money by reusing them for your next event.

Refuse – single use! Each event might have a different theme but when organizing meetings and events for the same client try to create some generic signs that you can reuse at every event, e. g. ‘this way’, ‘toilet’, arrows in all directions, etc. These can be designed in CI colors and will therefore fit almost everywhere. Laminate them once to be used several times.

The same applies for other event materials like table numbers, menus, or transfer signs. Avoid personalization with dates or specific event information to be able and reuse them. Does the transfer sign really need to have the event logo or would the company logo work just as well? The former would end up in the trash afterwards, but the latter could be wiped clean and used again.

Of course every event should have its own touch and shouldn’t be one big reuse of generic event material. But be smart instead of producing one-time items. Use screens or chalkboards to present individual phrases and themes. Have a fancy chalk artist that can change messages even during the conference without discarding the sign. Slides of digital screens are even easier to exchange and can all be prepared in advance.

 

Repurpose – be creative, reinvent! Are you a bit more hands-on? Then build your own bars or food stations from upcycled piece of furniture. Are there many construction sites around? Go and ask them for some of their unused pallets to stack them as bar tables, lounges, or backdrop for your photo booth. Take some old shelves and convert them into rustic wooden signs.

If your event material needs to travel a lot, you may also want to check cardboard booths and furniture. These can be folded quite small and are much lighter to transport than big exhibition stands. Use cardboard cubes for a pop-up meeting space, and reuse them again and again. Needless to say that they are a great way for branding, take minimal effort and are highly adaptable.

Talking about cardboard: don’t throw out all of the boxes when unpacking your event material. Keep some of them at hand in the back office to pack excess or reusable event supplies at the end of your conference. It makes transporting those items much easier and you can store them effectively.

In the unavoidable case that you had to produce plastic bags, try to make them reusable ones, and don’t forget to collect left bags at your meeting to reuse them when you are done.

Repair – before you replace! Some of your event props don’t look as nice anymore? Repaint them and they will look as good as new again. This painting action could also be a nice activity to grow your team together.

 

Last but not least, if you really don’t see any use for yourself anymore, donate unused materials. Schools, art workshops, and charity organizations will look forward to receiving your unwanted but wonderful event props. And if you are looking for some unique items or inspiration, I can recommend the ‘Hanseatische Materialverwaltung‘ in Hamburg, Germany, which has a vast fundus of the most bizarre items from props to furniture. Always worth a visit!

Reduce – Be Conscious About Your Actions

Reduce – consumption! This will avoid creating too much waste or excess items big time. Planning your food and beverages waste-wise will not only contribute to a better impact on the environment but also save you money. This doesn’t mean to be greedy with food supplies, but are your final attendee numbers still up-to-date? Send out a final info email and remind them to update their attendance. Always calculate that at least 10-15 % of registered people will not show up in the end and cancel last minute.

Planning with non-personal event material that can be reused is good. But stop using items that aren’t seriously necessary is even better. Rethink which elements are crucial for a successful event and which mainly contribute to more waste.

Rethink – your choices! Reduce paper consumption by communicating digitally. Brainstorm items and find suppliers that can deliver give-aways that aren’t individually wrapped. Opt for food that can be served in bulk-sized containers, e. g. butter or milk on buffet stations. Not everything will be suitable for this, so make recycling options more prominent. And educate your attendees along the way.

 

Respect – Be Kind to the Environment

Recycle – last option! If you feel like it, ignore all of the above tips but please, please at least encourage your suppliers and attendees to recycle. And we all know, the easier something is, the more likely people will follow: place recycling bins next to trash cans and provide VISIBLE and CLEAR signage to state exactly what needs to go where. And make it SIMPLE because who will read long dos and don’ts lists after a couple of cocktails? Have signs on eye level and increase the ease to recycle by using brightly colored bins.

Additionally, you can make your meeting impact the destination more positively by involving in local volunteering projects and giving back to the community. Participants are no longer travelling to meetings only for business but often combine it with leisure time. Why don’t you help them connect to the destination in a meaningful way by offering authentic cuisine, integrating community service projects as team building activities, or book local entertainment?

By following some or all of the above suggestions and making your event planning eco-friendlier, you can save trees, minimize waste and conserve water and energy, which is not only good for the environment, but also for your wallet. Supporting local farmers provides you with fresher produce, and also improves the local economy.

All of your choices have an impact. What will be your contribution to reduce global warming?

Kristin Sammann

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