The end of the Republican and Democrat party conventions in July were huge events that drew large crowds and party faithfuls. It got me thinking about how organizing committees are thinking about and practicing sustainability. Over the past two decades or more, sustainability has been a trending topic as hosts try to figure out how to be less wasteful and attract attendees that share those values.
Here are four ways event organizers can green events of any size.
Work with vendors that share your values
This is the most important tip. Working with venues, caterers, florists and other vendors that are committed to sustainability will help to ensure that you have a green event. Ask if they are green certified. If they are, it means they follow a set of industry standards to run their internal operations, services and/or products. By surrounding yourself with vendors that share your values, you can trust that they will not cut corners.
Cut down on waste
I have seen first hand how organizers can cut back on waste with a few tweaks. A main area where conference planners can cut back on is printing! Printing is a huge cost and let’s be honest, most of it ends up in the trash (oh my!) or in recycling bins once the event is over. Technology however can be a great friend and can help minimize waste. If you are holding a conference, make use of tools like email, google drive or dropbox to share documents. Attendees can have access to finalized documents and print them at their leisure. Its also a good idea to invest in evergreen pieces as much as possible. Create items that have the name and logo of your organization only (skip the year) so they can be used again and again. Also make sure to collect lanyards, clip boards, binders and anything else that can be reused.
Recycling and Composting
Some cities require special events to include stations for recycling and composting. San Francisco is one such city. While cities have sponsored recycling programs to collect plastic, aluminum and paper products few have sponsored composting programs. Composting is the process of collecting leftover food scraps to decompose and be returned to the earth as nutrients for soil instead of ending up in a landfill. San Francisco, Austin, New York, Portland and Hoboken are examples of cities that provide municipal composting. If your event isn’t in a city that mandates composting talk to your venue and caterer and make sure this is something they can set up for your event.
Many event organizers have already embraced technology for marketing and advertising. Gone are the days where posting flyers across town or taking ads out in the local paper are necessary. In today’s marketplace, word of mouth and digital marketing and advertising have greater reach and are much easier to track and evaluate than paper based ads and marketing.
Similarly, e-invitations are becoming the standard for event invitations including weddings (although less popular). They are the route most people take for sharing invitations for birthday and dinner parties to conferences and retreats. They are fast, affordable, green and can be customized.
Another great way to use technology is to skype or video conference speakers, this is especially great if your speakers or presenters aren’t local. It cuts back on guests’ carbon footprints and helps you be a good steward of your resources. Even better, if it can be managed, consider having an online webinar or course instead of a physical conference or meeting. I have been a part of several online courses and depending on how the teacher sets up the course and engages with the students, these can be very impactful and worthwhile. While not for everyone, (like wedding e-invitations), it is something to consider.
There are so many ways to green your event, these four are excellent ways to get you started.
What other tips would you recommend?