In many studies you can find event organizers among the top busiest people at work. Juggling with a lot of things already, you might not be delighted to add yet another task – making your events more eco-conscious – to your project plan. But what if I told you some steps can easily be covered and implemented in your planning process, and it doesn’t need to be pressing all on your shoulders? Here are 5 simple ways to plan eco-friendly events by considering the below topics.
1. Hosting Live vs. Going Virtual
Especially in times of corona virus, start your first approach to shrink the carbon footprint by rethinking the format of your meeting or event. Now that you probably had been forced to cancel in-person events and maybe started organizing remote meetings already, give it a thought if the next meeting really needs to be planned in person. If it doesn’t, opt for remote meetings.
I’m actually glad that companies had been forced to try virtual meetings and hopefully have seen what a great alternative it is for people who aren’t in the same place. It isn’t as hard planning, doesn’t necessarily lack the networking character, and saves the attendees time and gas, too.
And even when you decide that the live part is essential, since your participants need to train on machines, for example, keep in mind that you can still provide an additional remote, virtual, and hybrid attending option to increase participation for those who otherwise might not be able to attend.
2. Choosing the Right Venue is Half the Battle
Choosing the city and venue are one of the first steps of each event planner. And they can make the biggest impact on your event’s carbon footprint. Thus, don’t start thinking about eco-friendly measures during your event planning but make it part of your pre-planning stage.
Centralized locations that balance out travel of your participants,
Venues closer to the majority of attendees,
Green hotels and venues to benefit from their already implemented initiatives and programs,
Bright venues bringing in natural light.
With the big meeting culture and employees travelling all around the world, they will be grateful for any additional time spent with their family instead of being locked in trains, planes, or cars. By reducing travel times, you and your guests will not only gain valuable time but also save on costs and carbon footprint to attend at the same time.
Green hotels will ideally purchase green energy and could have water saving appliances like two step toilets, rain collection processes and reduced use dishwashers. By hosting your event in one of their venues, you automatically increase your event sustainability.
Additionally, by choosing a month when the weather is mild in your destination city, you can reduce your energy consumption even more by avoiding extensive use of heating or air condition.
3. Make Use of Your Suppliers’ Expertise
To share the load of eco-conscious planning you can either delegate tasks to your team, or you can pass them on to your suppliers. Make your sustainable goals part of the bidding process and let them become creative how to help achieve them. While they’re still very motivated to get the job, benefit from outside-the-box-thinking that will distinguish them from other competitors. And the earlier you involve them in your plans to reduce the environmental impact, the more time they have to prepare on their end.
You don’t have to be an expert on sustainable event planning. Instead, benefit from your vendors’ expertise regarding use of compostable over biodegradable service ware, trained kitchen staff who know how to handle leftover food properly to make it available for shelters afterwards, or their cleaning staff using the right eco-friendly products. And if you are unsure about their practices, don’t be afraid to ask for proof and let them show you how they are sustainable. There is a lot of greenwashing going on when discussing sustainability, so better make sure to be talking about the same thing.
Since we already discussed reduced travel times, this can be applied here again: prioritize the use of local rental equipment and supplies, especially for heavy items. You can also minimize the setup in general and avoid anything that doesn’t really pay into the ‘wow’ effect of your event. Furthermore, focusing and hiring local acts and speakers will avoid unnecessary travel, too. And if transportation is really needed: Check out coach providers with e-cars and e-busses.
Unfortunately, it isn’t a common practice for suppliers throughout Europe yet to provide sustainable services. Therefore, thank those afterwards, who have helped you achieve your green goals. Leave them a review and show your appreciation to encourage them to follow this path and implement more green measures in their future business.
4. Adapt Your Meeting Agenda and Style
Now, there are also some elements to help you organize a greener meeting which you can consider when thinking about your event agenda or setting.
Implementing one of the following measures will contribute to a more sustainable event approach:
Choose start/end of your meeting at a time that coincides with public transportation schedules.
This will make it easier for your guests to use busses and trains for arrival/departure.
Plan enough time between sessions to allow people taking public transportation to reach the new site.
Even better: eliminate in-event travel by designing walkable event areas.
Include fair trade coffee breaks.
Create buffets with non-packaged butters and food in bulk-containers to avoid solid waste where possible and reduce time to resort recycling bins.
Use water-based, non-toxic markers on reusable white boards or go fully digital with screens and tablets.
Please keep in mind though that the above are only some tips to improve your event schedule or style. Priority should still be given to convenience for your guests, and e. g. timings not only be chosen according to bus schedules if it doesn’t make sense for you.
The times for stiff lectures and dry seminars are long gone. Now, it is not possible to stage every corporate meeting in a green environment but you can certainly capture a little bit of that spark by adding green walls, natural light, and fresh food options. Create an engaging program that will stimulate collaborative moments and include activities that lead to long-lasting memories. Successful event planners know how to make corporate gatherings more of a leisure experience that fosters long-term relationships.
Make sure to announce your sustainability goals on social media to inform your attendees about it upfront and raise awareness for the cause. Like this, they will also understand and accept certain changes at the event if they haven’t attended green meetings before. Maybe you also want to include green symbols and compliance logos on your marketing material to be recognized before and during the event. Sometimes it can also help delivering your sustainable event approach by sharing fun facts that show the difference each individual can make to cut carbon. Instead of sounding like a teacher, they will give your company its unique face and show the audience how you deal with the topic.
5. Involve Your Attendees to Multiply the Effect
Last but not least, let’s not forget about our biggest multiplier: the attendees! As you have mentioned your sustainable measures to your audience upfront, explain to them why you made that switch and how they can help you achieve the goal. Events are a wonderful tool to showcase and let people experience simple actions that can have a big impact.
By involving participants right from the start, they feel more connected to the issue and prepared to join in. Include any information about the sustainability objectives in the program and how you intend to meet those. Define a goal and ask for your attendees’ assistance to reach it. This could be anything from “saving 100 trees” to “walking 500 kilometers together”.
One easy way to get newbies on board is by playfully engaging them with the topic. Create a corporate sustainable competition before your next conference that offers incentives, discounts or other privileges for those who leave their car at home and instead walk or cycle to work every day for a week. The next step could be to incentivize carpooling to the conference, and ask them to bring their own bottle, which they can refill onsite. And who forgot to bring their bottle can purchase a branded stainless steel bottle for water at the conference, to avoid handing out plastic bottles at all.
Get your participants out of their comfort zone, let them explore new concepts and new settings. Storytelling is a great way to deliver messages and could be used to inform your guests about the locally sourced food they are served at the dinner. Let the farmer and his family say ‘hello’ to your guests in a short video, and introduce the chef who prepared their meal or the staff who serves it. Stories like these will stick longer in their minds than a simple note on the menu.
It’s scientifically proven that meeting new people facilitates inspiration and is more likely to lead to a breakthrough. The traditional hour-and-a-half keynote session is no longer enough. What enhances learning and boosts creativity are moments shared with physical activity, longer breaks to stretch and exchange with other attendees as well as the feel-good potential of natural light.
Well, these have been quite a few measures and you don’t have to go all in eco-friendly at once. While some of the measures might cost a bit, most of them are about running your event more efficiently – and may even save you money. The importance is to start early and not try to implement sustainability at a later point, which might cause additional cost.
And if it’s overwhelming or your budget only allows to focus on 1-2 areas, that is absolutely fine. It is enough to pick some of the tips and start integrating them in your sustainable event planning to highlight your eco-friendly efforts as a company. Anything is better than nothing and will leave a positive impression on your attendees. Moreover, by making just one small change you can already kick-start the sustainability awareness in your company and amongst your attendees, and give them ideas how to implement changes of their own.
How sustainable is your event planning yet? If you are quite new to it yet, subscribe to our newsletter to be informed about our upcoming tips and tricks. Or maybe you are following a green event approach already and have some great ideas to share with us? Then leave a comment below.
Have a wonderful day!
PS: Organizing greener events should start with yourself: say goodbye to that huge binder – if you’re still carrying it around – and make use of those amazing technology platforms that will transform your event planning significantly. I promise!