Below, we list and explain potential tips and ideas for planning and running a sustainable event.
These tips cover different aspects of events, such as the venue, transport to and from the venue, supplies, food, waste management, and more.
These tips might be applied to different types of events, including but not limited to sporting events, musical events and concerts, food and beverage events, private celebrations (like weddings and birthdays), and others.
Firstly, What Is Sustainable Event Management?
Sustainable event management involves planning/creating, and running a more sustainable event.
There’s the different sustainability aspects of an event to consider, such as supplies, transport, food and beverages, waste, pollution, energy use, water use, and so on.
But, there’s also the different parties to consider that make the event possible, such as contractors, suppliers, sponsors, event attendees, and so on.
1. Hire, Or Outsource Planning To A Specialized Sustainable Event Planner
If you have the responsibility of planning or running a sustainable event, and you feel that you don’t have adequate sustainability knowledge or expertise, it might be far more effective and easier to find and hire (or outsource to) an event planner who specialises in sustainable events.
2. Consider Undertaking Sustainability Training
If you’re an event planner, and you think that sustainability will be a regular feature/requirement of events you have to organise and run in the future, it might be worth undertaking sustainability training.
This training might educate you on the basic concepts and principles of sustainability, as well as providing specific knowledge and expertise on how to plan and run a more sustainable event.
3. Consider How The Type & Scale Of The Event Impacts Sustainability
Two factors/variables that can have a significant impact on the sustainability of an event are the:
– Type of event
For example, there are indoor events and outdoor events
But, there’s also sporting events, music events, public holiday events, parades, private celebrations, and more.
– Scale of the event
This might include not only size of the event (i.e. how big or small it is), but also how resource intensive it is.
Consider how both of these factors might impact sustainability – particularly when planning an event (i.e. planning the scale of, and inclusions and exclusions in the event)
4. Look At Examples Of Existing Sustainable Events For Ideas
There’s many events now that implement at least some sustainable practices.
You might look both locally/nationally, and also internationally for examples of these events and practices for ideas.
5. Plan, Measure & Report On Event Sustainability
Before planning and running the event, you might consider the benefit of sustainability assessments and reporting.
This might involve outlining sustainability goals and actions across the different aspects of the event prior to it taking place, measuring the sustainability impact of the event at the time it takes place, and producing a finalised report on the impact and whether goals were met or not.
If it’s a yearly or reoccurring event, each report can be measured, compared or referenced against each other to learn and improve.
6. Hire/Use A Sustainable Event Venue
Some event venues place a focus on sustainability.
Event organisers may look for and hire/book venues that have different sustainability features.
For example, the venue might:
– Have some form of sustainability certification or accreditation
– Have internal sustainability policies and guidelines they follow
– Have specific practices relating to energy use, water use, or waste management that are more sustainable
Examples might include using cleaner forms of energy, making use of natural lighting, having energy efficient lighting (such as LED lighting) and appliances, providing water taps on-site and refillable water jugs and glasses/cups instead of relying on bottled water, and having recycling bins on-site too
– Be in a location that results in more sustainable transport to and from the venue
Some reports indicate that transport to and from an event can be one of the major contributing factors to the overall sustainability footprint of the event
Distance and the type of travel may play a role in the transport footprint
In terms of the type of transport, the venue might be close to public transport routes and links, and cycling routes
In terms of distance, the venue might also be close to attendees of the event
The distance of the event can also impact event suppliers – supplying the event involves transport in the form of freight
If the event is further away and requires flying or a long drive – the transport footprint may be less sustainable
– Have other sustainable services near to the event location
Some events like retreats require the booking of other services like accomodation for attendees
In this case, making sure that sustainable accomodation options are available near the venue might be important
7. Consider Whether Holding A Virtual/Online Event Is Practical
This is not always practical, but in some instances, an event might be able to be held virtually/online.
Some of the benefits of this are obvious – less travel, less resource usage, and less waste generated.
Virtual events might be common for some online creators and influencers, or for certain corporate events.
There’s obviously a tradeoff involved in virtual events vs in person events, so these tradeoffs might be weighed up beforehand.
8. Consider E-Invitations For The Event
An easy way to reduce waste for the event might be to send e-invitations, e-confirmation, and e-correspondence electronically/digitally for the event, instead of physical invitations and correspondence (such as paper and envelopes)
E-invitations might be sent via email or text, as some examples.
Some apps also have the capability to provide tickets and notifications to event attendees
9. Advise/Inform Event Attendees About Greener Transport Options To The Event
Event organisers might organise or inform event attendees about:
Car pooling options with other event attendees
Private group transport and shuttle services to and from the event
Public transport routes and options to and from the event
Bicycle storage areas available on-site at the venue
10. Consider The Energy That The Event Will Use
Some events use more energy than others, especially those that use a large amount of electronics, heating, cooling (in the form of A/C), or lighting
For events that are more energy intensive, it may be more sustainable to prioritise energy efficiency, and use cleaner forms of energy instead of fossil fuel based energy where practical
Generators might be common at events that are more remote, or further away from a grid energy supply. Generators can commonly run on gasoline, diesel, and other fossil fuel based fuels
One tip for energy use to reduce the need for heating might be to hold an event in more moderate months of the year where it’s not overly hot or cold
11. Consider The Water That The Event Will Use
Some events use more water than others
For events that are more water intensive, it may be more sustainable to prioritise water efficiency, checking for water leaks, recycling or treating used water where possible, and using rainwater where safe and practical to do so
12. Use More Sustainable Event Supplies & Services Where Practical
This is a broad solution because of the range of supplies and services that can be part of different events.
Some of the ways be more sustainable with event supplies and services might include:
– Rent or hire furniture and props where possible so they can be reused again
Examples might include chairs, signs, decorations, ornaments, and so on
– Use sustainable event supply products and companies where possible
Some companies specialise in sustainable event supplies, and may offer recycled products (such as recycled decorations), up cycled products (such as up cycled decorations and props), and other types of products
Contractors may also use up cycled pallets as part of their equipment
For events where portable toilets are required, some companies offer more sustainable portable toilets that use sawdust for events as an alternative to chemical toilets
– Find alternatives to single use supplies, and supplies that may also lead to littering
– Sustainably source supplies where possible
For example, if flowers are required for the event, some local flower suppliers may grow their flowers in a sustainable way
– Sell or donate supplies that are leftover where practical and safe to do so
This reduces the amount of supplies that get sent to landfill
– Order local supplies where possible
To cut down on the supplies transport footprint
– Hire local in the community where possible
This may be more sustainable from a social sustainability perspective
– For yearly or reoccurring events, it may help to set up longer term relationships and partnerships with suppliers that are either local and/or prioritise sustainability
13. Consider How The Food Catering Can Be More Sustainable
Ideas for more sustainable food catering might involve:
– Confirming food orders and dietary requirements of attendees prior to the date of the event
This may help reduce over supply of food that may not get eaten
– Catering sustainably produced animal meats and animal products
For events where animal products are served, catering sustainable produced meats and animal products may be an option
– Providing some meat free or animal product free food options
Some reports indicate that meat free and animal product free food options, such as some plant based food, are more sustainable in several ways
– Sourcing locally produced and processed food
This may help cut down on the transport footprint of the food
14. Reduce Single Use Waste
There can be a number of ways to do this, including but not limited to:
– Reducing the use of single use event supplies
Such as balloons, glitter, confetti, and other decorations
Reducing or eliminating single use items like plastic straws may be another option
– Using reusable items and products where possible
Especially for bottles, cups, cutlery, plates, etc.
Taps and reusable bottles or refillable water jugs and cups might be used instead of disposable plastic bottled water
– Order in bulk for the event where possible, and be mindful of minimising packaging for event supplies
Bulk order may contain less packaging waste, and some suppliers may be intentional about being more sustainable with their supplies packaging
– Offer to collect items that might be thrown out by event attendees after the event is over
This might include tickets, lanyards, badges, pencils and pens, notebooks, and other items
– Be more sustainable with gift bags
Eliminate gift bags, use reusable bags and sustainable products as gifts, or, offer e-gift cards instead of a physical bag and physical gifts
– Where outfits are required for the event, attendees might consider renting or selling their outfit afterwards if they plan on it being a ‘one time’ outfit
15. Reduce Food Waste
Potential ways to reduce food waste at an event might include:
– Being more intentional about preparing only what will be eaten
– Hiring caterers or contractors that find secondary uses for leftover food
– Finding local food donation programs and initiatives
– At some events, event organisers may inform attendees to bring a food container to take with them excess food they don’t eat
16. Dispose Of Event Waste Properly
Some of the ways to do this might include:
– Provide an adequate number of bins at suitable locations across the event
– Make sure different types of bins are clearly marked, and it’s clearly explained what goes in them
Such as general waste and also recycling bins
– Hire people to pick up litter after the event is over
– Make sure waste goes to the right waste streams when disposed of
Such as general waste, recyclable waste, and organic waste streams
Some event venues might also have on-site composting, or organise for organic waste to be sent to composting facilities
Ask waste disposal contractors exactly where disposed waste is going to manage this more effectively
– For some specific events like music festivals, some leftover waste items like tents might be able to be sold or donated instead of being thrown out
17. Other Sustainability Tips & Ideas For Events
Other sustainability tips and ideas might include:
– Communicating sustainability requirements to event contractors and attendees clearly prior to the event
– Donating a portion of ticket sales to a sustainable cause
– Getting event sponsors involved in sustainability initiatives
One example might be matching contributions to sustainable causes
– Purchasing carbon offsets for the event
Although, there might be some debate over how effective and worthwhile carbon offsets really are
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