World Environment Day encourages worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. Since 1974, June 5 is recognized by the United Nations as the day to raise awareness on emerging environmental issues and sustainable consumption. Participation has grown to 143 countries in recent years. The 2017 theme is ‘Connecting People to Nature – in the city and on the land, from the poles to the equator.’ Paragon Events is reflecting on our impact and how we can better interact with the environment to produce green events as well as positive changes within our industry. Learn more about this international effort at the official website worldenvironmentday.global.
Although some waste is inevitable, a little forethought can go a long way. From pre-event to post-event, there are many deliverable green event options that will take minimal time and energy, while giving you a great result. These pointers can be used in whole or in part and can fit any vision, budget, or level of commitment. There is no substitute for face-to-face but that doesn’t mean you have to waste!
How can we, as an industry, implement green events solutions? At a high-level:
- Skip the paper and go digital through online registrations and meeting materials
- Reduce unnecessary waste
- Transport attendees responsibly
- Reduce and offset your carbon footprint
- Utilize name badges with a less environmental cost
- Spread the word about your organization’s green initiatives and good deeds
Now let’s take a look at some specific areas during each stage of the planning process that can be eco-improved!
Site Selection: Location, location, location! Choose a centralized location to hold the event to reduce the environmental impact of transportation. If your client and attendees are located in California, pick a location on the west coast. If your client is located in California but attendees will be coming from across the US, pick a central location such as Denver. Also, select off-site activities that are close to the hotel or event venue to help cut down on transportation.
Pro tip: Select hotels, convention centers, restaurants, and other sites that have a green initiative of their own. Does the site recycle? Compost food waste? Does the hotel provide optional towel re-use? Do the restaurants use locally grown foods? It’s much easier to go green when your vendors already have!
Invites and Registration Materials: Go digital! The most measurable and easy way to go green is to cut out the paper. Invite people to your event through email or direct online messaging. This not only cuts out the use of paper but also allows you to track important metrics. For example, who is opening your emails, who is opting out, and what content in the email sparked a person’s interest?
Have attendees register and confirm their attendance through an online registration tool. Provide downloadable conference materials, which cuts down on paper and printing costs. Online registrations cut down on paperwork and labor, decrease human error, and help increase attendance!
Promotional Marketing: Join the social network! Directly targeting your audience saves you from wasting money and can increase your reach and audience.
Pro Tip: Share your green initiative with attendees! Send out press releases talking about your event and environmentally conscious goals.
Transportation: Keep it interesting! The best way to cut out transportation is to use the hotel’s on-site activities as much as possible. When this is not an option for your group, select restaurants and activities that are close to your hotel. Go somewhere within walking distance, provide bicycles, or really make it fun with a pedicab!
Food and Beverage: Make it a local favorite! When it comes to food and beverage, local is king! When you use locally grown and in-season foods, you are helping cut down on fuel use (shipping) and packaging (plastic and paper). This also helps to support the local economy and farmers. Aim to use items you can get in bulk and opt-out of individually packaged snacks.
Drinks and beverages should also be served from bulk packages. Avoid bottled water and soda as much as possible. Serve fountain sodas and provide water coolers instead. Not only does this cut down on waste, but it can provide cost savings.
Pro Tip: Give away a branded, re-useable water bottle for people to use at the event, leaving attendees with a tangible reminder of your green event initiative.
When it comes to table settings, class it up! Use china plates, glasses, and real silverware whenever possible. This cuts down on waste while bringing a more sophisticated vibe to the event. If you MUST use disposable plates and cutlery, use biodegradable. There are even disposable place settings made of bamboo that are a great meld of form and functionality.
Printing & Meeting Materials: As mentioned previously, provide a downloadable version of any handouts, agendas, or other presentation materials that may be needed. These can be provided to attendees within the registration site or mobile app, emailed, hosted online, or provided on a USB drive.
For signage, use hotel leader boards to your advantage. These can be used to direct guests, post information about sessions and locations, or view agendas.
If you must use printed signs, make them re-useable. Don’t include a date and use riders to change specific information. This also provides cost savings!
Waste and Trash: This is where using vendors with a green initiative comes in handy! Strategically place recycling and composting bins in heavily frequented areas. Make sure that the site will properly dispose of all recyclables and compostable waste and constantly remind people of recycling bin locations. Take it a step further and have volunteers help with directing people to proper locations and collecting trash from around the event area.
Décor: Reuse! A good idea for décor is to use items that the hotel or restaurant already has on hand. Other great options are rentals and live plants or flowers.
Gifts and Amenities: Give the gift of green! Give your guests a re-useable water bottle or ceramic coffee mug. This will also encourage the use of water coolers during your event. Another great option is to give away a branded USB drive to all attendees at check-in. Pre-load it with conference materials such as the agenda, speaker bios, handouts, post-event surveys, etc.
Some other earth-friendly options include giving out a plant-able card, or a reusable tote bag.
Ask sponsors and exhibitors to keep the green initiative in mind and keep printed materials and promo gifts to a minimum. You can also provide them with a list of items and vendors that would be good low-waste options for promo items that are green and provide them with a list of ideas to help them to stay within the green parameters.
Name badges: This is a great place to cut out waste. Most events provide a name badge to each attendee (including a plastic name badge holder and paper badge) which is promptly thrown in the trash upon completion of the event. A good way to improve sustainability with badges is to use recycled paper (for badges) and plastic substitutes (for badge holders) if possible. To take it a step further, request that attendees return their badges at a specified location upon completion of the event and re-use or recycle. This will also help cut costs for the next event.
Leftovers: Many times there is plenty of leftover food at events. Donate to a local food bank or shelter. This not only cuts down on waste but makes someone else’s day a little brighter! As for leftover centerpieces and plants, bring them to a local nursing home.
Offset: For the things you can’t avoid (such as flights to and from the event) make a donation to a charity with a green initiative or plant trees to help off-set the pollution created. The purchase of carbon credits is another great option for offsetting what you can’t reduce.
The world of sustainability is constantly evolving. It’s becoming more important now than ever before to incorporate a green initiative into your event. With our green events expertise, Paragon Events brings our signature standard of excellence to your event, while adding an eco-friendly spotlight.
Contact Paragon Events today to discuss your current events, green goals, and eco-friendly solutions that will work for you!