Events are fleeting, but their environmental impact can last forever. Delightfully, we live in a time when environmentally responsible options are not only tolerated, but encouraged! Modern Event Planners no longer need to make sacrifices in order to meet the green standards that their clients and attendees now prefer. Best of all, many green options save money as well as resources—leaving budget goals met, and allowing for upgrades in other areas!
While it’s easy to dream of exotic locations and to assume that attendees will flock at the chance to travel to a new and exciting city, from a global perspective the more complicated our travel becomes, the more wasteful (and expensive) our energy requirements will be. In fact, the “local” movement has taken off on its own wings—becoming a call-to-arms against impersonal, generic choices and one-size-fits-all business options. Use the power of the local and green movements to support and validate environmentally (and fiscally) responsible choices for your next event. Consider these points as you begin your planning:
- Venue – as much as possible, determine a location that is centralized and convenient for the majority of your attendees. Sending employees to far-away places is expensive, both financially and in the use of non-renewable resources. Staying close to the home office saves money and reduces the carbon footprint of travel, but familiar doesn’t need to feel routine! Find a local venue that inspires your guests with a sense of community pride. Your budget will breathe a sigh of relief, and you can feel good about the amount of jet fuel your event didn’t burn. Look specifically for a venue that is committed to efficient, clean, renewable power, and be certain that the venue is able to assist you with appropriate recycling options.
- Vendors – once your venue is selected, look either for local vendors, or national vendors with a strong network that makes them “local everywhere.” With local choices, not only will you pay less in shipping, delivery, and travel costs, but you’ll know that you’ve made a responsible choice by avoiding the unnecessary cost of importing. The less distance that products and service-providers need to travel, the lower the carbon footprint of the event. In every supply category, search for providers that are willing and able to help you along the “path to green.” Does the caterer use organic, pesticide-free produce? Can (and will) compostable items be handled properly? Don’t worry about being perfect, just look for partners that are aware and making an effort. Look around for products and suppliers that are already in the area. It’s an excellent way to support a community, while reducing costs and carbon emissions.
Reducing landfill waste is an important issue across the globe. Businesses want to be seen taking the high road and avoiding one-time disposable use items that will become tomorrow’s trash. Events rely heavily on large quantities of temporary items—food service and beverage options, table settings and decorations, hospitality supplies, paper materials. Let’s look at the following categories where simple and cost-effective changes will quickly reduce waste:
- Printed Materials – switching from printed paper materials to reusable electronic options is one of the most straightforward ways to save money and reduce landfill waste. Although in the past, events needed brochures, printed maps, printed agendas, and other hardcopy paperwork, today’s event apps can almost completely eliminate the costly, error-prone, heavy, wasteful printing that was traditional for so long. It’s now remarkably easy to display, store, and distribute business and event materials without paper. Use kiosks for event registration—eliminating paperwork and printed ticketing. Kiosks can also be used for agendas—clearly allowing guests to navigate through the schedule, while being endlessly adaptable and reusable. Digital documents save time and money by eliminating trips to the printer and by preventing the high cost of emergency reprints. Interactive kiosks can also be used as digital document libraries—housing all of the information that a business or event would like to offer, immediately available for downloading directly to an attendee’s device, on demand.
- Signage – in the past, Event Planners used printed signage for wayfinding and as banners. Unfortunately, these items were almost always unusable for future events. By using digital signage such as LCD, plasma or touch screen monitors, Event Planners have the option to create and recreate exactly the signs they need—whether for wayfinding, informational purposes, event promotion and decoration, or for sponsorship opportunities that can help stretch the event budget even farther by producing sponsorship revenue.
Overall, the green philosophy is good for any business—not just the Events Industry. If companies focus on eliminating wasteful practices and turn towards local supply chains, reusable products, and sustainable materials, those businesses will come out ahead . . . naturally!