You’ve likely noticed that many consumers are now making buying decisions driven by their environmental concerns. Consumers are choosing organic foods and other products that are sourced locally with fewer highly processed ingredients. They are also turning their backs on brands that fail to use environmentally friendly practices or lack transparency in their manufacturing, labor and supply processes. The live event industry is also taking notice, and some venues have implemented energy-saving features such as solar panels, energy-efficient lighting and wastewater reclamation. In addition to reducing environmental harm, making your event eco-friendlier can benefit your brand. Here are some tips for more sustainable, eco-friendly events.
Benefits of Eco-friendlier Events
Before we delve into specific steps for planning eco-friendlier events, it’s important to note that brands can benefit by championing a more sustainable, less environmentally harmful approach. Consumers are demanding more sustainability and environmental responsibility from brands.
- Brand Awareness & Brand Loyalty: Brands that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability frequently enjoy more brand loyalty. Brand loyalty is worth its weight in gold since attracting new customers requires far more effort and cost than maintaining relationships with existing customers.
- Reduced Costs: Strategic planning reduces excess expenditures, such as not overbuying food and beverages and printing excessive materials, which also reduces waste materials. As a result, waste management costs are lower.
- More Attendees: Many consumers, particularly Millennials and Gen Zers, are more willing to attend eco-friendly events. As a result, your event may enjoy a better turn-out.
Choose a “Green” Venue & Location
Before selecting the venue you’ve always used or the one that is the most well-known, do a little research into venues’ eco-friendly “scores.” Look for solar panels, natural lighting, energy-efficient practices and waste management. Venues that have invested in going “green” will include that information on their website. For example, San Francisco’s Moscone Center has an entire section detailing its sustainability commitment.
Other venues have invested in going “green,” such as the Miami Beach Convention Center that recently completed a $620M renovation. It included reduced-flow fixtures, rainfall capture and high-energy LED lighting. One of the best ways to identify an eco-friendly facility is to look for ones that have earned LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications. Another factor to consider is transportation around your venue — can attendees rely on public transportation, or can you choose a location that requires less travel for your attendees?
Be Mindful of Your Food Menu and Service
Events tend to create a lot of food and related waste, which ends up in landfills and increases carbon footprints. If possible, survey attendees when they register about their food preferences. Look for trends and plan menus accordingly. Try to use local vendors and locally sourced foods instead of ordering foods out of season or from far away. Do away with single-use plastic serving utensils, straws, plates, cups, bottled water, etc. Replace them with biodegradable tableware, reusable utensils, refillable water bottles and water coolers. Find out if you can send leftover food to local homeless or food shelters.
Use Fewer Printed Materials
Events typically create a tremendous amount of printed materials, from brochures to posters, agendas, maps, worksheets, signage and more. People are accustomed to using their smartphones to look up maps and other information on websites, so make as much information as you can available digitally. Many venues have apps that attendees can download. Use an online event registration system and provide opportunities for attendees to exchange digital business cards at booths and tables. Instead of printed posters and banners, use electronic signage that can be reused at another event. When you need to print materials, use recycled or seed paper.
Switch to Eco-friendly Swag
Instead of another branded ho-hum tote bag, mug, pen or other items that will likely end up in a landfill, look for interesting ethical and sustainable things that will delight attendees. Companies such as Planet Earth Promotions, Ethical Swag and Crestline sell a wide variety of eco-friendly swag items. You’ll find seed paper products, grow kits, bags, apparel, writing materials, tech gear, personal care products, solar-powered accessories and customizable swag packs. Some also source their materials from BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of color) or women-owned businesses or work with B Corp Certified companies.
Manage Waste Disposal
Events create a LOT of waste products, from food to paper to plastic and more, much of which ends up in landfills. Instead of having only trash and recycle bins, you can also add organic waste bins to collect biodegradable organic waste. Food scraps, flower arrangements, coffee grounds, wooden coffee stirrers and food-stained paper and packaging can go into organic waste bins. Clearly label the bins with examples of what can go into them. Many traditional waste collection services can also collect organic waste.
Use Reusable & Eco-friendly Décor
Cut flowers are a big energy waste — they often are grown overseas and must be transported long distances under refrigeration. They also require a lot of pesticides and water to grow. Instead of cut flower bouquets, use live plants. Look for recycled decorative products, audio-visual decor and energy-efficient LED lighting. Some of the same companies listed earlier that sell eco-friendly swag also sell décor.
As an event planner, you can make a few minor changes that can substantially change how eco-friendly your event will be. In addition to saving money and the planet, your event may attract more attendees and create a positive lasting impression. Using experiential marketing tactics related to your event can help build brand loyalty.
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