To professional event planners:
Sustainable events should draw in guests who are enthusiastic about learning something new while deepening their connection with a given industry. If corporate events are to maintain profitability, prestige, and overall value, they must adjust to environmental realities and be willing to acknowledge previous shortcomings. In the wake of a global pandemic, travel restrictions, and ecological crises, the expectations of attendees are transforming to consider these new environmental challenges.
As the operational brains for making group activities possible (and enjoyable!) at the corporate-level, event planners cannot afford to curate hypocritical lectures on the importance of sustainability while offering VIP materialism. The presumptuousness behind gathering in person—rather than online— is more obvious than ever before and remains accented by the abject danger of viral exposure. In terms of hosting large groups of people, the future is not yet clear. However, themes for sustainable events seem to be coming into focus.
Reducing guest’s waste and energy expenditure
Whether you’re targeting influencers, executives, or general admittance, asking attendees to get on board with your ecological goals will place collaborative emphasis on the broader objectives of the event itself. This will help guests set their expectations and intentions for your green event before walking in the door. The motivation of collectively moving in a constructive, positive direction is an important part of setting the tone for your organisation and audience.
For the sake of your event’s dedication to sustainability and reputation as a force for positive change: forgo providing plastic straws and finger foods on disposable plates; choose not to provide t-shirts, and start investing in (and celebrating!) your organisational strategy for reducing waste.
You should certainly provide comfort and amenities for your audience, but these perks should be consistent with the idea that your impactful, eco-friendly event is scalable. You may only be able to safely fit 50 people into your solar-powered event space this year, but imagine when COVID-19 has subsided, and you can comfortably invite 500 more: would your event scale without exponentially producing waste?
Curating sustainable amenities
An eco-friendly event is devoid of party supplies and step-and-repeat photo booths. Not only will this strategy save your organisation money, but it will also spare you the embarrassment of wearing a disposable party hat.
Curate the details of your space to show you’re thinking integrally about the economic sustainability of your event, the industry in which it exists and the planetary ecology on which it depends. Encourage vendors to choose reusable materials in their booth designs and to avoid disposable swag and printed materials using solvent-based inks. Wood pallets make for creative, lost-cost backdrops and utilising LED lights can save up to 80% of the energy of old-style trade-show lights. LEDs are also more customisable allowing for different effects and colours.
Calculate how you’ll sign contracts with vendors and how your guests will arrive and be registered. There’s no excuse for requiring paperwork to fill out with printed name tags in plastic slips. Onsite check-in applications like OnArrival allow you to track events more closely in real-time and to reduce the check-in process to the scan of a barcode.
Write your ecological imperative into every RFP you send out and merge it into every conversation you have with a potential vendor. Negotiate strategy and price based on the elimination of superfluous party favours.
Look for greener spaces
Picture a rock falling through space with nearly 10 billion humans on it. This group is attending one simultaneous, worldwide event wherein every facet of resource management counts toward the probability of survival—and everyone is on the planning committee.
As an event planner, you must organise your soirees as if the success of the greater, planetary event, known as life, depends on your event location.
Nature evokes the primal, sought after privilege wherein humans feel inspired to gather with one another safely. A warm, high venue with views of water — a space where one can relax and view elemental forces at work. This is a painting-filled cave above a primordial expanse, or a high-rise corner office, or countless other environments in between. There’s no better way to help attendees raise personal awareness of environmental challenges than being adjacent to precious natural resources, or their destruction. Event spaces that provide a window into the environment are not only intuitive places to be creative and inspired as a group, but are also the best places to discuss the nature of sustainability in business planning.
Reassessments for a sustainable event
Use your most recent event as a measuring stick and challenge you and your team to consume less when producing the next one. From the perspectives of cost and attendee experience, providing exotic freebies doesn’t improve a gathering but can distract from the intellectual value of your event.
In all cases, serve local products and build relationships with brands and individuals who are measuring their ecological impact. Ask your colleagues and attendees to bring their own water bottles rather than providing them with single-use plastic ones. If reusable plates aren’t available at your venue, use biodegradable cups, plates, and silverware, and track how much of each you consume. Create a display within the event that highlights how and why you’re choosing to eliminate plastic waste. According to The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN):
- Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year for use in a wide variety of applications.
- At least 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year and makeup 80% of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments.
- Marine species ingest or are entangled by plastic debris, which causes severe injuries and deaths.
Select an event space that affords clean water, natural light, and convenient accessibility to your audience. Consider what your event demands in terms of energy: how will guests travel to your gathering, and what will your event give back in the form of inspiration and creative potential?
In the years to come, event planners will find that eco-friendly spaces are evocative of deeper connections between guests and subject matter—and that these events deliver more fun than energy.