Going green: How to start creating sustainable events

Event professionals give their takes on the many different ways to make meetings more eco-friendly.

With travel being a significant part of an event footprint, planners should opt for venues that are centrally located and easily accessible by foot or public transport.
With travel being a significant part of an event footprint, planners should opt for venues that are centrally located and easily accessible by foot or public transport. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Rawpixel.com

Sustainability will be a key part of events in 2023 and there are many ways event planners can look to incorporate green elements, spanning travel, food and beverage, the venue and the technology used.

Michelle Sargent, director, Australia & New Zealand, CWT Meetings & Events says travel is usually the most significant part of an event’s footprint, so it’s a good place to start.

“When narrowing down locations for your event, consider the public transport system of each potential destination to ensure participants can reach your event easily,” she says. “Is there a reliable transit system in place that can connect meeting facilities and venues? 

"When providing travel and local transport suggestions to attendees, recommend routes that generate less environmental impact. Travel and transportation can account for more than 90% of an event’s carbon footprint, so encourage environmentally friendly transport, or organise shared rides to the event from popular pick-up points.”

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Sargent also recommends being selective about your venue, by opting for one that is centrally located and easily accessible by foot or public transport.

“If there are multiple functions within your event, try to source a venue that can accommodate all of them, rather than choosing multiple smaller venues that require attendees to travel back and forth,” she says. 

“You can go a step further by selecting a venue that operates a comprehensive sustainability programme. Ask potential venues for examples of responsible practices such as waste and energy consumption, sustainability certificates, and ongoing programmes to support local communities.”

Sargent adds that many corporate buyers are increasingly mindful of sourcing local food and beverage options, with many of the agency’s clients now expecting food on the menus to be sourced from within a 50km radius.

“Choose a caterer who understands the need for locally sourced, seasonal, and organic ingredients,” she says. “Favour menus with vegetables and poultry over red meat, in addition to serving filtered water instead of water bottles. And if there is leftover food, donate it to a local food bank or homeless shelter to help those in need."

To make sustainability a feature at business events, BCD M&E’s director of sales, Deborah Crosswell suggests creating a living wall.

“Living walls don’t have to be created only to be dismantled post-event,” she says. “Instead, build into the agenda the opportunity to add plants to a living wall that has a legacy beyond the final session. Plant walls aren’t just a great way to incorporate nature into spaces, they can also work to purify the air, add a calming atmosphere and help reduce the ambient temperature.”

By using LED bulbs, you can also immerse your audience in audio-visual content using a more sustainable form of technology. Crosswell says LED bulbs can be up to 80% more efficient than standard bulbs, creating an effective installation that is more eco-friendly.

For sustainable tech options, Chris Davis, director of applications development at BCD M&E suggests including recycling strategies in the design phase of the event – exploring options such as LED wristbands and collection points where tech can be re-used for another event or properly recycled. Spaces that have recently upgraded technology should be considered too.

“Although this may seem counter-intuitive, new technology is being designed to use less power and is becoming increasingly more efficient,” he says. “Hardware providers are also responding to the demand for greener, sustainable solutions by making their equipment easier to repair.”



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