(5 minute read) Businesses are under increasing pressure to host and plan greener events. At this time of year in particular we see more conferences and events as we run up to the holidays. Read on for 6 steps to help you plan a green business event.
Being sustainable means that you are making changes to avoid the depletion of natural resources, and yet it is still important to market your business or your organisation, perhaps by organising a conference, an event or hosting networking meetings. Events, by their very nature, are transient, temporary occurrences that tend to use a lot of resources (both financially and physically). The steps below can be applied to help you green any business event including networking, workshops, conferences and business celebrations including drinks, dinners and awards ceremonies.
Not all of the steps below will be possible for every event. What this guidance is designed to do is to help you think about the different elements of your events and reduce impacts where you can. Where it is not possible, identify where the barriers lie and communicate that to your colleagues, who may be able to suggest a solution. This is by no means a comprehensive list but it should provide you with a good starting point to plan your green business event.
Making an event more sustainable requires you to think outside the box. How can you begin changing the way you plan events? What choices can you make to be more sustainable? In order to deliver a greener, more sustainable event, you need to make a plan and the steps set out below can help with producing that plan.
Step 1: Production and Purchasing
For recurring events there are some questions you can ask yourself straight away to avoid the unnecessary use of resources (and reduce the cost of the event). Look at the budget or planner for the last time you organised this event:
- What was over or under-utilised last time?
- What can you eliminate or reduce this time?
Step 2: Go Paperless
- Put all event information on an event page / app or email subscription instead of mailing attendees individually.
- Avoid printing programmes / agendas – if there are last minute changes to the agenda or speakers you would only have to re-print, and if you have no-shows you will have lots of recycling to do.
- Post copies of the agenda at strategic places around the room or, if you have access to screens, display the agenda on those instead. This will drastically reduce the number of pages you have to print.
- If you want to take it even further – try something like smart tags.
You can find more information on going paperless at events here.
Step 3: The Venue – location
Some attendees will always need to, or choose to, drive to a venue. The goal is to make it just as easy, if not easier, to get there by other means.
Can the venue be accessed by public transport?
- Consider accessibility first and foremost. Accessible by public transport means that attendees can reach the venue directly by train, bus, walking or cycling.
If not, is there a way to get people there with a bit of thought?
- For example, if the nearest train station is a few miles away, can you work with the venue, or with event sponsors, to provide shuttle transport from the station to the venue?
- In the event materials, make public transport the first item on the directions of how to get to the venue. Put driving directions at the bottom of the list. It’s amazing what a difference that makes.
- If the venue is in a city or town centre, consider explicitly asking attendees to arrive by public transport. This will reduce congestion and potential parking issues.
Is the venue run on renewable energy?
- If you’ve managed to tick all the boxes, ask whether the venue is run on renewable energy – either directly through on-site measures or indirectly via a renewable energy tariff. This is (currently) a nice to have, but it is an amazing thing to be able to say in your event materials.
Step 4: Food and Drink
This is where it’s really important to work with the venue to deliver a sustainable event.
Cups and crockery
- Provide reusable mugs, glasses, plates and tableware instead of disposable.
- Where this isn’t possible, use biodegradable cups. Encourage guests to bring reusable water bottles or provide glasses.
- Provide plentiful access to tap water – ensure the venue continuously refills jugs or bottles with tap water to reduce the risk of people feeling like they need to buy bottled water to get through the event.
- Is it really necessary to provide sparkling water? If you feel you can’t do without, consider keeping the sparkling behind and providing it if people ask for it, rather than providing equal amounts of still and sparkling.
Here are the basics, which you likely already know or are doing:
- Minimise the amount of food you provide.
- Ensure any leftover food goes to a local programme to donate it to those in need.
And here’s where you can make a real difference: plant-based menus
Food, particularly red meat, has a significant impact on the environment. Why does event food have to be meat-based? Most people are quite happy to eat a good vegetarian meal once in a while, and certainly for one meal.
- Order entirely vegetarian food for the event.
- Is your venue able to provide an interesting vegetarian menu?
- Can they design one?
- If you don’t feel you are able to eliminate meat, try making plant-based the default.
- When you ask people for dietary preferences, state that the menu will be plant-based to reduce environmental impact and ask people to tick a box if they want the meat option. You might be surprised how many people just go with the default.
Step 5: Waste
Confirm that your venue recycles waste.
Make it easy for attendees
- Minimise the amount of waste they will produce in the first place (see Step 4: Food and Drink)
- Minimise the different types of waste that they will be disposing of
- Make the different bins really obvious and easy to understand
Step 6: Event Content
Once you’re comfortable with the previous steps, have a think about the content of the event itself. Sustainability is a universal concept; therefore, it can run through every event that you organise.
If you have stands with exhibitors, challenge them to come up with a sustainable stand – for example: instead of giving away lots of individually wrapped sweets, what else can they do to attract people to their stand?
Does the agenda include sustainability-related items? This might be around:
- global and UK government policy changes towards a low-carbon future;
- changing customer client/ investor/ stakeholder demand;
- business adaptation and resilience to future stresses;
- health and well-being;
- business efficiency; or
How can you make more of that? Work with your speakers to design something that really fires up the imagination of the audience.
This is by no means a comprehensive list; however, it should provide you with enough prompts to be able to plan a green business event.
The good news is that, by considering the above steps, you will end up with a consistent approach to planning green business events. The great news is that the result will be a well thought-out event with clear green elements – boosting positive feedback from attendees.
I am a sustainability coach with 10 years experience in the sustainability sector. Contact me for more information on how I can help you integrate sustainability into your organisation.