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How to Plan a Sustainable Event

March 10, 2023

Climate change and sustainability are increasingly a focus in our world. As a result, interest in sustainable events is growing. But what exactly is a sustainable event, and why bother planning one if your event is already well attended? 

Sustainability is not the same as “green” or “eco-friendly”

The United Nations Brundtland Commission defines sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The terms “green” and “eco-friendly” refer to products or practices that won’t harm the environment.

What’s the difference? Sustainability is about balancing environmental, social, and economic concerns so that our planet can continue to support us all. Being eco-friendly or green is specifically about making choices or using products that won’t negatively affect the earth. 

Why plan a sustainable event

Number 1
Sustainability can help build a positive reputation for your event, which can lead to more attendees and sponsors. If potential attendees are aware your event is making sustainability efforts, it stands to reason that their interest in buying tickets will grow. According to Deloitte’s Sustainability & Consumer Behaviour 2022 report:

“More consumers are also being more proactive in their pursuit of adopting a more sustainable lifestyle, whether by choosing brands that have ethical or environmentally sustainable practices and values or by no longer purchasing certain products because they have concerns around the brand’s ethical or sustainability practices or values.”

Number 2
Younger generations, such as Millennials and Gen Z, are very much motivated by sustainability. According to Nielsen, 75% of Millennials say they are definitely or probably changing their habits to reduce their environmental impact. The World Economic Forum states, “Generation Z shows the most concern for the planet’s well-being and influences others to make sustainability-first buying decisions.”
Number 3
We owe it to ourselves and future generations to take better care of our world.
Number 4
They’re generally more cost effective in the long run. Sustainable event management helps to reduce waste and save resources. This article on Insights, the Events Industry Council’s blog, shares the hows and whys.
Number 5
Sustainable events are more memorable and unique since they often incorporate innovative ideas and technologies. The resulting buzz around your event can increase the potential for increased attendance and revenue. 

How to make your event more sustainable

By incorporating event sustainability into your planning strategy, you can help make a difference while ultimately making your event more successful. The following are some event sustainability tips:
Number 5

Use less plastic

Single-use plastics (like bottles and straws) are huge polluters. According to Earthday. org’s Single Use Plastic Fact Sheet:

“Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form (with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated)…Americans purchase about 50 billion water bottles per year, averaging about 13 bottles per month for every person in the U.S.! That means by using a reusable water bottle, you could save an average of 156 plastic bottles annually.”

To reduce the amount of bottled water at your event, you could:

  • Create a water station and encourage guests to bring their own refillable bottles.
  • Refrain from selling plastic bottled water.
  • Use biodegradable or compostable options.
  • Take plastic straws completely out of the equation.
Number 5

Create a sustainability policy

A sustainability policy is a document that outlines your commitment to hosting sustainable events. It can include reducing event waste, using recycled materials, sourcing local and organic food, and choosing environmentally friendly venues and vendors. Share your sustainability policy regularly on social media, post it on your event page, and generally sing it from the rooftops. Creating a sustainability policy shows your guests that you are serious about hosting sustainable events and helps you to hold yourself accountable.
Number 5

Reduce food waste

Wasting food is bad for your event budget and the environment. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency says that 40% of food is lost or wasted, annually costing an estimated $218 billion or 1.3% of GDP! Plus, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Food loss and waste also exacerbates the climate change crisis with its significant greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint. Production, transportation, and handling of food generate significant Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions and when food ends up in landfills, it generates methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas.”

There are many ways to cut down on wasted food at your event, such as donating leftover food to shelters or composting. Read through Further With Food’s Toolkit for Food Waste-Free Events for detailed information on the steps you can take.

Number 5

Choose environmentally friendly venues and vendors

When choosing an event venue, look for one that is environmentally friendly or has green certifications. Some things to look for include energy-efficient lighting, solar panels, water conservation measures, and recycling programs. Look for similar sustainability credentials and practices as you select vendors for catering, decor, rental items, ticket printing, event materials, and event platforms.

To encourage guests to leave their cars at home, try to choose a venue close to public transportation.

Number 5

Host a hybrid event

Hybrid events are a combination of in-person and virtual events. They help reduce travel expenses, resource usage, and event waste. Additionally, it makes your event more inclusive, which translates to more attendees.

Sustainable event management takeaways

Sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Therefore, it is essential to incorporate sustainability into event planning to reduce waste, support local businesses, and reduce your event’s carbon footprint. To make your event more sustainable, use less plastic, source local and organic food, and choose environmentally friendly venues and vendors.

For more sustainable event planning tips, check out our article,  Event Ticket Printing + Sustainability and How to Organize Attendees and Reduce Waste.

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