So you’ve decided to look into having more sustainable events with the admirable aim of a reduced carbon footprint.

Congratulations. It’s a responsible and positive move.

As an event planner, you have an opportunity to show others the way to lessening the impact on our valuable resources.

This is not a passing trend, but rather a mindful practice at the heart of any business strategy and future goal planning.

“Between air travel, energy use, and excess food (not to mention booth installations, printouts, and giveaways), the average 1000-person event reputedly produces 530 metric tons of CO2e emissions.” Julius Solaris, Event Manager Blog

Thankfully, sustainability is achievable and may be easier than you think.

Why it’s Important to Know Your Impact

To make constructive changes, event planners need to gauge their current practices.

Why? Knowing the impact events may be having on the environment points to specific areas for improvement. This is not a lesson in how bad you might have been, but instead it’s something far more positive.


Knowing the facts gives you an idea of what to measure and helps focus your energy onto specific areas to change or improve. The end result is being able to see clearly how your practices contribute to improved sustainability. 

Sustainable Events: Where to start

Not sure where to begin? Try looking at these points. Most event planners will recognise many, if not all of these aspects of their daily lives.

  • Right from the start – The beginning of any event plan has many contact points. The first phase impact can be reduced by cancelling meet & greet travel plans and replace with video conferencing. The good news here is you’ve also just saved on travel and accommodation costs as well as improving our event’s footprint.
  • The Paper Trail – It’s an obvious one, but going paperless can be the easiest way to start minimising waste. Use an event app, build an event website, or stick to emailing. Encore offers a Chime Go which gives you and your attendees the convenience of easy access to all event information at any time, everywhere you go so reducing paper waste is easy. Use a simple event platform designed to ensure delegates have easy access to all event info and live updates before, during and after the event, without the need for excess paper use.
    When all else fails, stick to email.
  • Power Consumption – Does your AV and event technology provider actively take steps to reduce their energy use? Overuse of power and under utilising of more eco-friendly options is one area constantly under the microscope. Where possible use renewable energy sources and switch all lighting to LED and lower power efficiency systems where possible. Your AV technology provider should be willing to rationalise inventory to minimise redundancy and over-engineered AV solutions. Have the conversation with them to see how you can both achieve a reduced footprint for your event, there’s often cost savings involved to.
  • Venue Locations & Transportation – Hosting your event at a venue with accommodation facilities immediately cuts the need for transportation. Your guests will appreciate not having to think about cab-charges and Uber rides to get to their hotel safely. This is a great opportunity to really consider your venue options. Easily walkable venues, and those close to public transport assist significantly. Where combined/local event venue and accommodation are not possible, offering shuttles are a great alternative. One vehicle transporting many attendees reduces the impact of several vehicles in the traffic at once. In addition, clearly conveyed information about public transport sent out to registered attendees will be greatly appreciated. Also, when scheduling your event, take into account peak travel times to avoid the traffic. Faster travel means less impact and happier commuters.
  • Modern Day Conveniences – Encourage alternative transport. Have bike racks, bike storage areas or bike concierge at your event. We’ve all seen more and more bicycles in the city. People making their own stand on reducing their personal footprint will likely remember an event where this is on offer. Having change areas, private shower facilities and lockers at your event also makes life even easier for those choosing peddle power.
  • Food & Beverage – Catering companies using eco-friendly utensils is a simple way to make an immediate change. Choose providores and caterers that are committed to using sustainable fish, organically grown fruit and vegetables, and locally sourced hormone-free meat. Ditch plastic for biodegradable or reusable cups. Another tip with catering is to not over-cater the event. The guest list should be quite specific in terms of numbers, and dietary requirements, so you can cater for your guests’ needs. If you find yourself with an abundance of leftover food, consider the many companies that accept donations in the area.
  • Waste Disposal – Have you confirmed your venue has the facilities, and the mindset to recycle waste? Everyone should be well aware of the need to re-use and recycle in order to reduce landfill and the overall impact on our environment.Ensuring there are adequate recycling bins and general waste bins around the venue will safeguard against any issues with imposed clean-up fees or removal costs.
  • Go Digital – Use online registration platforms to be more sustainable. Not only is it cost-effective, but will save delegates time enrolling on the day. Send e-mail notifications and create e-tickets to be scanned from their smartphones to eliminate the need for endless paper printouts.Use digital signage at your event, rather than one-off pull-up banners. Used a branded event platform – they’re informative microsites of your event housing all the relevant information in one place and can be updated instantly and continually. This goes a long way to reducing the need for excessive amounts of printed badges, programmes, posters and brochures.

Putting your event sustainability plan into action

Ok, so you know what is possible, now’s the time to translate it into your reality and transform yourself into more than just someone whose intentions are good.

  • Create a List: Put the ideas in order, beginning with those things where you can have an immediate impact, through to those which will require more thought, planning, and discussion with others.
    For you, maybe using less paper, and having more virtual meetings is completely do-able in the beginning.
    For every point you’ve made, add the goals.
  • Be Realistic: This is not something that can happen overnight, so don’t have the expectation that you can save the world in a week. Plans that are rushed or ill-considered will be doomed to fail, or worse, not even see the light of day.
  • Review and Monitor: Over time, add and remove where necessary to make each goal stronger. Long term, consistent and thoughtful objectives are the way to go.

Sustainable event inspiration

Check out these three events Event Brite shared that have put their suitability goals into action.

Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014

A little known fact is that these Games were the first to secure the ISO 20121 sustainability standard. This measure of sustainability is voluntary and is a promise to all those watching that this event leaves behind a path of positive footprint reduction.
All the venues where the competition was held were completely car-free. In addition, the organisers used a local company to provide efficient and clean energy. They also ensured the headquarters for the Games were on an energy supply recognized as a Green Tariff.

Baseball All-Star Games

Major League Baseball requires its members to be a member of the Green Sports Alliance. Providing sustainability guidelines, the Alliance ensures the following happens:

  • Teams collect recyclable items throughout each game.
  • Solar panels are installed at events where possible. The aim is to have each game powered by 100 per cent renewable energy.
  • Traditional ‘Red Carpet’ events are now referred to a ‘Green Carpet’ by the use of eco-friendly materials for the carpet.
  • Any food prepared at events that remains untouched is donated to their preferred charity for those in need of a meal.

The Show Goes on at the Shambala Festival

England’s four-day carnival-like Shambala Festival has taken steps to ensure much of its single-use plastics are eliminated entirely.

  • Individual water bottles are encouraged for refilling onsite to reduce bottled water housed in plastic.
  • For those who forget, the sale of stainless steel bottles adds to driving the point home on the reduction of harmful and wasteful synthetic materials.

Other Helpful Resources for Sustainable Events

Want more? Check out these additional places to go.

To have an environmental conscience is commendable. Putting these goals into action wherever possible during your event sets you apart.
This is not just about you as an event planner feeling better about your impact, but an ongoing commitment your company and its guests will bear witness to.
In a world full of rhetoric and promises, actions speak louder than words.

Let’s begin your action points today. Our experience can show you the way to more sustainable event planning.

Contact us for expert advice on your next event by sending an online enquiry today and we’ll get right back.


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