While crafting a 100% zero-impact event is almost impossible (sorry to debunk a myth), there are plenty of ways to tackle the environmental and food issues that afflict our planet. As event planners, we can make a contribution towards more sustainable practices.
From the landfills and oceans, the animals and back to our cities, living and working spaces, and tables, the amount of environmental havoc is shocking in scale.
When we organize an event, we should be aware that any material we create, use, and distribute –catering, promotional materials, etc.– end up somewhere after we use it. How often has a lanyard your brought home from a seminar ended up in a drawer piled up over some passes from previous events? Or can you count how many pens you’ve accumulated this past year? It often feels like every event aliments a relentless cycle of consumerism.
Fortunately, there are some other ways to approach capitalism purposefully while making a positive impact.
Here are some excellent eco-friendly practices to consider regardless the size and scope of the event:
1. Ditch Paper for Digital Supports
Many events still produce enormous amounts of paper waste, despite the fantastic digital solutions available for communications, sponsorship, and programming. Go digital, and if printing is still necessary, at least make sure to use recycled paper.
2. Serve Just Enough Food
If you have worked in a supermarket, at a restaurant, or at a perishable food service provider of any kind like I did, you know well enough how much food goes to waste at the end of the day. Hence, order just enough food for the number of your guests and work with caterers that share the same philosophy. Also, if you ask in advance about your guests’ allergies and intolerances you can prepare food accordingly. And if there’s any waste, don’t throw it in the trash, but donate it to a local charity.
3. Choose Recycled Materials
Pens, lanyards, cutleries, bottles are usually all made of plastic. If there a way for you to switch to recycled materials, do so. Objects made of recycled cardboard, graphite or bamboo are not just more eco-friendly but also a good promotion for your brand. Plus they can always be customized to your taste and corporate needs.
4. Walk the Talk
I once attended a conference about social design that didn’t excel in anything but the volume of plastic packages and giveaways. We know that running a zero-impact event is nearly impossible but if you call yourself “sustainable” make sure to walk the talk.
“You will positively influence others’ actions through living your values congruently.”
5. Give Away Reusable Objects
In the last edition, the renowned MAD Symposium introduced a more sustainable approach to hydration opting for no plastic bottles. Instead, all participants received glass bottles, which they could fill from water stations placed on site. Considering how often people are going to use a bottle after an event, this is absolutely a smart way to promote your brand after the happening has ended.
6. Go Local
As we know, conferences and overall events produce tons of waste. If you want to introduce your community to a conversation about sustainable practices, make sure to include them. For instance, why not commission some custom-made objects to local artists or design a menu together with local eateries. If you know that you have international guests, this approach will help you promote the local design, art, food, and hospitality scene to the world, while working on your sustainable approach.
These are just a few ways to improve your standard practice. Did I miss anything? If you have successfully implemented your practice in any other ways or if you have some other tips, please comment below.
Also published on Medium.
Disclaimer: we’re not affiliated in any way with the brands mentioned above.
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