Your company may have corporate sustainability goals or policies to promote environmental best practices, but to really re-invent yourself as a sustainable company, you need to walk the talk in all corners of your business. Events are a great way to communicate your priorities to employees, stakeholders, and participants, and show that sustainability is a priority. Integrating these easy swaps can save you money, be better for the planet, and solidify a statement for sustainability that attendees will be proud of.
- Go paperless
Whether its promotions, registration, invitations, or thank you notes, going paperless will save time, money, and paper. Promote your decision to participants so that they avoid printing their tickets and can see how easy it is to go paperless! Each year, the average American uses 700 pounds of paper, and there’s no need to add to this pile. Make it simple to stay in the loop through email updates, an online app, and digital wallet ticketing.
- Provide public transport options
Choose a venue that is accessible to attendees, and make sure that public transportation is available. Send travel information to attendees for convenient transit and/or bike routes, and make it easy for participants to carpool together. If the event requires air travel, make it simple and engaging for individuals to attend virtually. Learn about teleconferencing and other innovations to reduce commuting here.
- Source local, seasonal food
Minimize the distance that your food has to travel as well. Find a local caterer or partner with the venue to make sure that your food encourages economic development in the local community and promotes seasonal recipes that include fewer fertilizers, pesticides, and chemicals. Plus, purchasing a meal from a conventional supermarket chain uses 4 to 17x more petroleum than a meal bought with local ingredients.
- Vegetarian menu
One of the easiest and most impactful swaps is opting for a vegetarian menu. Your guests can still have a delicious and filling meal while enjoying seasonal vegetables and creative cooking. Spanish and Italian-inspired cuisines are especially easy to substitute vegetarian meals, and chances are, most guests won’t notice that the menu is intentionally meat-free. Eating a vegetarian meal just one day a week saves the equivalent of driving 1,160 miles. Tip: Be sure to test the food in advance and provide variety for all taste buds and textures.
- Reusable cutlery
Avoid single use plastic plates and utensils at all costs. 40 billion individual plastic utensils are created each year, and most end up in landfills. Opt for reusable options where possible first, then move to compostable. Work with your venue or catering company to price out the best combination for your event.
- Plan for waste
Did you know that food waste at events accounts for an estimated 1/3 of all food waste? Create a plan for any waste from the event, and make sure you know if the venue can recycle or compost ahead of time. Reach out to a nearby nonprofit or food bank to coordinate excess food donations in advance. Ensure that it’s someone’s responsibility to clean up from the event and pick up/sort any trash or litter in surrounding natural areas.
- Make it easy for guests
The reality is that guests will do what is most convenient, so make sustainability as easy as possible for them. A recent study found that making bins more accessible increased recycling and composting rates by 141%! Optimize the placement of compost and recycling bins and include clear signs indicating what goes in which bin. Allow guests to serve themselves to minimize food waste, and ensure that waitstaff and servers are trained to answer any guest sustainability questions/comments – good or bad.
- Host a daytime event
For a unique cost-cutting approach, consider hosting your party in the daytime. People love outdoor events, especially in good weather. Power can represent up to 70% of an event’s carbon footprint, so this is a great place to start. You’ll save on energy from having to light and cool the event space, which will also save on money as well. Plus, people eat and drink less in the daytime than at night, reducing food and waste, as well as your budget.
- Eliminate merch
The reality is, no one needs another branded tote bag or pen. The promotional products industry is worth a staggering $24 billion, but most of these products end will likely end up in the back closet or even the trash the next day. People are coming for information, connection, and inspiration – not gifts. Instead, create an easy system to distribute a recap of the event, contact information for speakers and attendees, and pictures from the event.
- Give back
If you’re hosting a multi-day event, provide your attendees with an opportunity to get to know one another through a local volunteer event. It’s a great way to spark joy over good-doing and a wonderful way to connect with the local people and native environment, especially for those who aren’t from the area. Get matched with local volunteering opportunities near you with this search engine.