The events industry often tops the list of sectors that are the worst offenders for contribution to waste and landfill. According to a report from Event MB,an average an event attendee will discard 1.89kg of waste per day, of which 1.16kg will just go straight to landfill. So, for a 3-day, 1,000 person event, 3,840kg of landfill materials could be created. (Or the equivalent weight of 2.6 compacted cars.) That is not even considering all the other environmental impacts your event may be having on the environment. Travel emissions, food miles, and meat based menus all also need to be factored in.
Clients and event attendees are getting wise to unnecessary waste and are more aware than ever of their impact on the environment. So, what can corporate events do to become more sustainable? Here are our 8 top tips to make corporate events more environmentally friendly!
For some, this is a scary thought! No copies of agendas, no site maps, no workshop overviews, no feedback forms, no paper whatsoever. But let’s think about how much of that material is just discarded at the end of an event. It is very rare that a delegate will take home and then keep everything they get in a conference pack. And if they do decide they want to look back at the event and the content covered, they’ll jump online to take a quick look.
With that in mind, even if we can recycle all the paper materials, do we even need them at all? Can we use projection to display the agenda for the day? Can we do a couple of large scale site plans instead of a copy for everyone? Can we share workshop summaries digitally so delegates can check out content on their phones if they need to?
Event apps are a great way to support going paperless. It can keep all the event information centralised and encourage conversations and engagement within a private digital space. Key conference messages can be relayed via event app’s, programmes, agendas, workshops and abstracts can all be shared and added, and (permissions allowing of course!) some platforms allow delegates to interact with each other, allowing further opportunity for networking.
Many venues are starting to adopt app technology as an addition to their offering to event organisers and delegates. Some venues, such as conferences at Lancaster University, now offer an event app as part of their conference package. Their app allows organisers to create a bespoke and interactive platform for their attendees to engage with, making the paperless process seam an oh-so less daunting one.
Seed Paper Badges
Badges and lanyards can be one of the main offenders when it comes to unnecessary plastics at events. We print name badges on paper, that then go in a plastic badge holder that then gets clipped to a mass produced, branded lanyard. All things of which are unlikely to see the light of day again as soon as the delegate gets home.
One alternative to this could be using a seed-paper name badge instead. Designs can often be customised to fit your needs, and the paper printed includes any number of different plant seeds embedded into the mixture. The seeds themselves can still germinate after the papermaking process and they can sprout when the paper is planted in soil. So you can encourage delegates to take their badges home and pop them outside in the garden. This also acts as a continuing event legacy, reminding delegates of the day they spent with you, everytime they see the successfully germinated flowers.
The image shows badges using seed paper at the recent Eco-I Conference we ran for the Centre for Eco Innovation.
Meat Free Menu
Meat emissions are one of the biggest contributors to the volume of greenhouse gases that, as a population, we are releasing into the world. The production of red meat in particular emits more greenhouse gases than any other form of food, be it via the emissions created producing animal feed (Including nitrous oxides emitted from fertilizers used on animal feed and carbon dioxide emitted transporting the feed to the animals), cattle being one of the largest producers of methane, and finally the meat miles racked up to transport the cattle from farm to table.
Being bold and offering a completely meat-free menu at your event is one huge way of lowering the overall event emissions level. It may raise eyebrows with some delegates initially but if you work with an innovative caterer that can develop an interesting menu, you may be surprised by how many people don’t even notice!
We first offered a fully vegetarian conference menu back in 2010, which was particularly groundbreaking at the time! Today more and more conferences are embracing a meat free menu.
Organic, Local and Seasonal Ingredients
Working with a flexible, adaptable caterer should mean that requesting local and organic ingredients shouldn’t be a problem! Ingredients should always be seasonal too to reduce the food miles travelled. This is an opportunity to differentiate your event menu and even serve up local delicacies or traditional fare. We love serving hot pot or butter pie and red cabbage at local business networking events in Lancashire for example!
The less fertilizer that has been used in growing and producing ingredients, and the less miles they have travelled to get to where they need to be, the better! These may only be tiny changes, but every little helps in the quest for more sustainable events.
Eco Travel Options
Choice of transport to and from an event can set a clear message from the start of the kind of sustainable event you want to encourage and develop. Send walking routes to delegates outlining how easy it is to walk to the event from key transport hubs is a great way to encourage your attendees to get active and arrive at your event energized. We always identify key transport links and highlight all public transport options, making it is easy as possible for attendees to get to the venue. Car pooling can also be encouraged, as can additional incentives for attendees that walk or cycle.
The recent Eco-I 2019 Conference hosted by the Centre for Global Eco-Innovation at Lancaster University ensured they contracted electric buses to shuttle attendees to and from the nearest train station, ensured on site accommodation was available so attendees didn’t have to leave Campus, and they discouraged attendees from driving by not offering a reduced rate on parking charges to make it a less appealing option.
It is not uncommon to make water available for event attendees throughout the day, either in plastic bottles that attendees can grab and go, or via water jugs and glasses that can create huge amounts of washing up. Choosing a venue that has built in drinking water fountains located throughout, and encouraging delegates to bring their own refillable water bottles can also make a small but significant impact on an events sustainability.
Bring Your Own Reusable Cup
Tea and coffee. An event essential! But have you ever put any thought into the amount of paper cups we go through, not to mention the plastic lids, or the amount of washing up that all those fresh cup refills generate? 300 attendees, having an average of 4 cups per day; that’s 1,200 cups, saucers and teaspoons that will need to go through the dishwasher or even worse, 1,200 one-use paper cups and lids distributed in just one day.
The growing popularity of reusable travel cups means that a large number of your environmentally conscious delegates probably already have one. Share your sustainable event intentions in the event information beforehand and encourage delegates to bring their cup along with them, saving unnecessary washing up or the use of paper and plastic materials wherever possible.
Do you have any top tips on how to make your event more sustainable and Eco friendly? We’d love to hear them! Just leave us a comment below!