Greening your event
NH Meetings Feb 06, 2018
Are you ‘greening’ your events? It may be a relatively new term, usage beginning in early 2017, but it’s all the rage across the meetings and events industry as planners aim to build in all possible sustainability measures, from early communications through to project closure. At the start of this year we gave you a glimpse of the top trends for 2018 and there was no doubt that being green was an integral part of them. Let’s see what’s happening out there, as sustainability takes its place in every planner’s strategy handbook, no longer is it just an added extra…
You’ll likely have heard about ‘zero kilometer food’. By selecting locally produced ingredients you cut out the vast transport needs to provide sustenance – not to mention all those tempting treats – for your attendees. This has numerous benefits and, over time, can actually change the make-up of the local economy. A key element to having 100% local produce is to remember that the seasons play a major role in what food is available at the time of your event and, thanks to modern thinking and responsible venues, much of the leg work is done for you with restaurant chefs ensuring they always have a locally-sourced menu available. Don’t forget that healthy eating also forms part of today’s green meetings. And for when the dining is complete, look into options for how to donate any leftovers to those in the region.
As well as cutting out the delivery requirements for the food, taking into account the travel needs of those attending is where significant greening can be achieved. Where are guests coming from? How will they be traveling? What additional transport requirements will be required from the airport or train station? Will further movement be necessary for in-event activities or for attendees to visit the surrounding area? All these factors must be considered ahead of choosing your venue and suitable alternatives can then be sought to minimize the carbon footprint of the group. Getting everyone outside for some fresh air is as green as it gets but how they do this is up to you!
Does every attendee really need his or her own pen? There’s a question to start with and take forward with other items. The answer is, of course, no, and instead have a stash of stationery (recyclable of course!) for people to take as and when required. This will significantly reduce the material outlay. Check your venue is offering eco-friendly refreshment instead of bottled water, as well as recycled and biodegradable cups, napkins etc. You can aid this too by incorporating paperless check-in, sharing studies/reports/agendas online, and digitizing your promo-material as much as possible. Social media has done wonders to save paper use and who doesn’t have a smartphone or tablet these days, anyway? If something absolutely needs to be printed, it can only be using recycled paper.
Most attendees are starting to get used to the idea of sustainability however there is still more direction needed before we can accept it as the norm. Having recycling bins is one thing but ensuring that they are clearly signposted and simple to understand is vital to the process serving its purpose. Recycling is not just a paper exercise (excuse the pun!) to say you have done something so make sure a difference is actually made across the length of the event. Of course, creating a truly green event is so much more than Recycling with Reuse and Reduction being the major ‘R’s in the equation. Apply that logic to all the décor for the event venue, or at least demand it from your provider, to achieve your green goals. No matter the size of your meeting or event, waste minimizing and management should be an essential part. Ensure the venue is set up with technology such as motion sensors to turn off lights when rooms are unoccupied and water-efficient faucets that curtail waste.
Carbon offsetting is a growing trend so check out the options available to you and, if it fits with the plans, why not develop a related team activity like planting trees: team building meets saving the planet. And forget carbon neutral, the new term doing the rounds is being ‘net positive’ – leaving the venue better off than it was when you arrived. A progressive challenge for everyone.
As Mónica Chao reminded us, a sustainable or ‘green’ event is defined as “an event, designed and organized in a way that minimizes potential negative impacts and leaves a beneficial legacy for the host community and all involved.” It’s all about taking steps to reduce waste, minimize use of energy and materials, and targeting recycling or reuse solutions. Getting it right on a global scale, and promoting it, can help protect our natural environment and change the norms that have formed part of the industry’s culture and beyond.
How will you be greening your next event? Can you walk away ‘net positive’? Remember, this is one aspect of your success that nobody minds you shouting about!
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