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Understanding the gravity of the climate crisis, we have seen a pivotal shift towards sustainable practices across various sectors. An impactful and immediate change we can make is within the event industry. Embracing eco-friendly events is not just a powerful statement but a substantial step towards a sustainable future.
Events, both big and small, leave their mark on our environment. Consider the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. Despite best intentions and significant efforts to manage the environmental impact, an estimated 3.6 million tons of CO2 equivalent were emitted. That's more than some countries emit in a year.
It's not just global mega-events that have a significant footprint. Even smaller-scale events have environmental impacts that can't be ignored. For instance, an average music festival in the US can generate up to 53,000 tons of waste, including food, packaging, and miscellaneous items. Imagine the cumulative impact of all the conferences, festivals, and gatherings happening around the globe each day.
Creating eco-friendly events is not just an ethical decision, it is a social responsibility. As event planners, we have the opportunity to lead by example and influence a wide audience.
Take the example of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in 2021, where the event's organization focused heavily on sustainability. Every aspect of the event, from transport and energy use to food and waste, was planned with a minimal carbon footprint in mind.
This served not only to limit the event's environmental impact but also to underscore the conference's message and influence attendees and viewers worldwide.
Before you jump into implementing eco-friendly changes, it's vital to understand your current standing. A sustainability audit provides you with a clear picture of your event's environmental impact. It helps identify areas where you can make the most meaningful improvements and set realistic, impactful goals for your green shift. Here's how you can conduct a sustainability audit for your event:
Determine what areas you want to include in your audit. This could be anything from energy consumption and waste management to transportation and food sourcing. Consider all phases of your event, from planning to execution and post-event activities.
Now that you've defined your scope, gather all relevant data from your past events. This might involve analyzing event records, contacting suppliers for information, or surveying attendees.
The goal is to get a detailed understanding of your event's environmental footprint.
These are some aspects of your event that you could investigate:
Analyze your collected data to identify the most significant sources of environmental impact. Consider both the direct impact (like energy consumption at the venue) and the indirect impact (like emissions from attendee travel).
A carbon footprint calculator can also be a good place to quantify your past, present, and future events’ environmental impact. Below are some you could use:
Once you have a clear understanding of your impact, identify areas where you can reduce it. These will be your focal points when you start to implement eco-friendly practices. For example, if you find that waste generation is a significant issue, focus on a couple strategies to divert waste at your next event.
Based on your identified areas of improvement, set realistic and measurable goals. These might be short-term (for your next event) or long-term (over the next few years).
Your goals could be anything from reducing energy consumption by 10% at your next event to achieving zero waste within the next five years.
Examples of Goals:
A sustainability audit is the first crucial step in making your events eco-friendly. It gives you the knowledge and tools to make informed decisions and take meaningful steps toward a sustainable future.
Remember, the goal of this process isn't to make your event perfect—it's to make it better. Every step you take towards sustainability, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction.
As an event executive, there are many things you can do to make a difference. Here are fifteen ideas, arranged from easier to more complex, to help you make your event more eco-friendly.
6. Choose a Sustainable Venue: Select venues with green credentials or those that use energy-efficient equipment and practices. Look for venues that are LEED-certified or have a proven commitment to sustainability. Other certifications to look out for include, but are not limited to Green Key, ISO 20121, Green Seal, and Energy Star.
7. Use Local and Seasonal Catering: Partner with caterers who source local, seasonal, and organic food and beverages. This reduces the carbon footprint associated with food transportation and supports local businesses and farmers.
8. Consider Hybrid or Virtual Events: Embrace digital platforms and host hybrid or fully virtual events. This significantly reduces the environmental impact by cutting down on travel-related carbon emissions and physical resource usage.
9. Use Energy-Efficient Equipment: Choose AV and lighting vendors who use energy-efficient equipment. Opt for LED lighting and energy-saving appliances wherever possible and consider renewable energy sources like solar panels. For outdoor daytime events, take advantage of natural light.
10. Implement a Waste Management Plan: Develop a comprehensive plan to minimize, manage, and dispose of waste responsibly during and after the event. Consider hiring a green event consultant to help with this.
11. Prioritize Sustainable Suppliers: Collaborate with suppliers, vendors, and partners who share your commitment to sustainability. This could range from choosing eco-friendly decoration suppliers to AV providers who offer energy-efficient options.
12. Incorporate Green Energy: If feasible, use venues that are powered by renewable energy or incorporate elements of renewable energy in your event setup, like solar-powered outdoor lighting.
13. Promote Water Conservation: If possible, choose venues that have water conservation measures in place, and encourage attendees to use water responsibly. Provide information about the importance of water conservation to attendees.
14. Create a Green Event Policy: Develop a policy that outlines your commitment to sustainability and guides your decisions in planning and executing events. This policy could include everything from waste management to energy usage and can be shared with your suppliers, partners, and attendees.
15. Strive for Continuous Improvement: Each event is an opportunity to do better. Gather feedback, measure the impact of your green initiatives, and use these insights to make your next event even more eco-friendly. Consider using sustainability indexes to measure and track your progress.
The shift to eco-friendly events is more than just an environmental choice—it brings with it a host of tangible benefits for your company.
An event is an extension of your brand. By aligning with sustainability, your event sends a strong message about your commitment to social responsibility, enhancing your brand image and reputation.
Eco-friendly events can also attract sponsors, speakers, and partners who share similar values. This can lead to fruitful collaborations and business relationships that go beyond the event itself.
Today's eventgoers are more eco-conscious than ever. They appreciate and feel more connected to events that prioritize sustainability. By hosting an eco-friendly event, you're aligning with their values, leading to increased engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty.
Although it may seem that implementing green initiatives could increase event costs, that's not necessarily the case. Sustainable practices often lead to cost savings in the long run. For instance, digital ticketing eliminates printing costs, while efficient energy usage and waste reduction can significantly cut down operational expenses.
The shift towards eco-friendly events also spurs innovation. It challenges you to come up with creative solutions to minimize environmental impact and keeps you ahead of the curve.
The path to eco-friendly events is a journey filled with continual learning, adaptation, and innovation.
At August Jackson, sustainability is more than just a buzzword. We've formed a dedicated team of professionals across all disciplines committed to guiding us towards greater sustainability. In addition, every event we host will now have a designated 'Green Captain'—a representative focused on ensuring sustainable practices are front and center, benefiting our company, our clients, and our planet.
Interested in creating sustainable, impactful experiences with us? Contact us today!