If nothing else, the past year has underscored the importance of health and wellbeing. Even when the virus fades, that urge to heal and preserve what we cherish should remain vibrant. In that vein, organizations and planners should strive to do their part to give back to destinations and the world at large through eco-friendly events. Going green in events is not a new trend, but it’s important to maintain despite some likely upcoming changes at conferences. It’s expected water bottles will replace water fountains and other communal options to minimize touchpoints. Similarly, plastic-wrapped disposable silverware will be common. These COVID-friendly features, while important, add waste thereby increasing your event’s overall footprint. Luckily, there are ways to offset the additional waste with other measures aimed to limit carbon footprint. Consider these points when assessing how your next event can have a positive impact beyond building relationships and earning education credits. Consolidation While no one enjoys the reason for losing a year’s worth of face-to-face meetings, there are some benefits to thinking of new ways to accomplish goals. Associations, corporations, and other organizations learned to work remotely and coordinate over Zoom, Slack, and other email and social media channels. The new way of thinking about connecting and networking can help you make smart decisions when it comes to events as well. For instance, was attendance lagging at one of your smaller events? How much was accomplished in person that wouldn’t have been possible virtually? The reality is some smaller events can be combined into one, or at the very least be co-located. Obviously, this would lower costs for hosting an event. But what does that have to do with sustainability? A lot. There is certainly debate about the number of carbon emissions emitted from airplanes vs. automobiles, but we can all agree, any reduction of travel is better for the air we breathe. We certainly do not advocate eliminating face-to-face meetings, as they are a lifeline to innovation and ingenuity, but being smarter about how and when to hold gatherings represents a holistic view that has great benefits. When planning your event, focus on finding a central location that’s easily accessible to attendees and offers public transportation systems. The fewer attendees flying in or driving long distances, the better for the environment. Remember, every little bit helps when going green. E-Marketing Digital marketing has become standard and for good reason. Not only is it more efficient and less wasteful, but it also allows marketers to collect and analyze real-time data. By dropping the paper, your organization will be able to see who opened your emails and study reasons why they worked or were not successful. You’ll receive real-time information regarding the demographics of attendees, which gives insight into your audience and allows you to tailor your marketing strategy effectively. The smart choice is really smart when you add in the reduction of costs and waste by relying on email blasts, social media, and other digital marketing tools. It’s a win-win! Cutting the Paper Trail Many technology experts will say that there’s been a decade’s worth of advancement in the past year. These tech tools can be financially wise investments, limit waste, and cut down on attendee frustration. No one enjoys waiting in a long registration line, a process slowed by signing in and printing badges. The time has come to do away with these staples of conferences. There are dozens of providers offering digital badges that turn a smartphone into a key to navigate the event. A QR code is sent prior to the conference, turning the experience into something similar to going to a concert or movie theater. A pain point is suddenly a fast-moving process that sends the attendees right into the heart of the action — where you want them! This digital key is actually a transformer, as many companies can upgrade to a virtual backpack of sorts. Instead of going from booth to booth at a trade show, attendees can scan their phones, and an exhibitor’s information is sent electronically. This makes it easier for exhibitors to collect information from their visitors, while also allowing attendees a more efficient way to exchange contact information, read packets and explore future partnerships. Less paper is printed, and less goes into a trash can. Meanwhile, the interaction at the trade show is more meaningful. This formula is also a great way to win over sponsors who can ease your costs while going green. Giving Back One of the fundamentals of destination management is to leave a place the same, if not better than you found it. Enjoying the breathtaking views of a destination is only possible if we work with local partners to remain eco-conscious and keep them clean. Many conventions and visitor bureaus can recommend local organizations dedicated to preserving natural treasures. In Florida, for instance, many groups offer options to help keep the Everglades thriving. The South Padre Island Convention Center in Texas recently did its part to save thousands of the area’s beloved turtles. Our team organized a rehabilitated turtle release and coral building activity for attendees during a recent incentive trip to the Maldives. These experiences allow attendees to immerse themselves in the destination and its culture while making a positive contribution. Programs protecting the environment are educational and enjoyable. There is nothing more fulfilling than leaving a place better than you found it. It also fosters better teamwork and raises morale as employees/members know they are part of a group that thinks of the greater good. Eco-Vents Under the stewardship of Francesca Radabaugh, Paragon Events focuses on bringing our standard of excellence to clients’ events, while adding an environmentally conscious spotlight. With her degree in Geography, Natural Hazards, and Environmental Justice, she brings a high level of focus and credibility to our plan. Through internet-based communications, online registration, inventive transportation, and the use of local suppliers and vendors, Paragon has developed a plan to be environmentally responsible while still providing all of the bells and whistles that our clients have come to expect. We have come to find that there is no initiative too big or small. Even the smallest change can bring about big results. Contact Paragon Events to discuss your current events and goals for going green. Together, we can have a big impact! This blog post was authored by Matt Swenson.