By Araceli Gallego
With the world facing an environmental crisis, the way we produce and consume is at the forefront of discussions. The event industry is no exception to this rule. We want our events to be sustainable and responsible, but how do we do that? Well, it starts with looking at the different impacts your particular event might have. Below are some simple tips that will help you take small steps toward making your next event eco-friendlier.
First of all, there are different kinds of events. From your children’s birthday celebration to corporate events, trade shows, markets, concerts, weddings, and the list could go on and on. There are though some basics behind each of them. Let's dig in!
Revise your event's impact
When you're planning your next event, take a step back and think about what the repercussions of your event will be on the environment. Normally we can categorize them as impacts on Water, Energy, Waste, Pollution, or Emissions. Once you've considered that, we can think of ways to minimize the impact and to even revert it. The objective would be to reach the famous carbon- neutrality.
But, what is carbon neutrality?
Carbon neutrality refers to the idea that a person or organization doesn’t produce more greenhouse gas emissions than they can offset. This means that you won’t be contributing anymore to warming the planet with your event.
To achieve carbon neutrality, you need to look at all aspects of your event—from venue selection and transportation to food preparation and waste management—and find ways to reduce the impact on the environment.
For example: if you choose a local venue instead of flying in guests from across the world; serve local food sourced from sustainable farms; compost leftover food scraps instead of sending them to landfills; encourage guests to carpool or take public transport instead. This will significantly reduce emissions from your event as well as its carbon footprint!
Depending on the event, you might want to measure your carbon footprint. To calculate your carbon footprint, you can use this calculator from our website. It is free and although all the activities might not be listed, just the exercise of listing all the impacts is a good beginning.
No matter the numbers, once you know how much CO2 you're emitting we can start implementing ideas for reducing or eliminating that number. Whatever you cannot minimize you might want to offset. TerraPass or Carbonfund could help cover those emissions.
Let's Reduce Waste
Events generate an insane amount of waste. These are some ideas and tips to reduce it:
Switch to paperless registration forms. At Fashion Revolution UAE we always use Eventbrite and it is great but you can use any other digital tool you prefer even Excel!
Avoid plastic like the plague. You can do this by using reusable, biodegradable, or compostable materials whenever possible. For example, if you serve food at your event, try using reusable plates, cutlery, and cups instead of disposable ones. This will help reduce waste in landfills and oceans! Balloons are also terrible. Use banderoles instead.
Plastic is a big problem. It's estimated that in the UAE 24% of what is in our landfills is plastic. There it will sit for the next 200 to 500 years.
Make sure guests know what they’re getting into before they arrive at your event: let them know that the event is going to be free of single-use plastics like straws, bags, and bottles. You may want to ask attendees to bring their own reusable water bottles or use the opportunity to give a memorable giveaway. Like a cute mug or branded water bottle!
Use fewer paper products like napkins, place cards, table numbers, and name tags. Instead use cloth napkins, and consider having someone pick up these items during cleanup. If it is a corporate event and people will need to take notes, try to use FSC paper. That means that for every tree they cut down to do the paper, they are replanting new ones.
Donate unused supplies or foodstuffs instead of throwing them away. Food is a tricky one and if a wedding it can translate into a huge impact. If the food is in good condition, allow your guests to take some leftovers along, or donate them to a charity. If not, consider composting it. Check The Waste Lab and their compost programs.
If you are attending a trade show or a fair, you might want to consider your marketing collaterals. There are eco-friendly alternatives for pretty much everything! From bamboo pen drives to organic cotton or R-pet lanyards, to cork or bioplastic pens, jute or recycled cotton bags. Check Corporate Goshopia for more info.
Borrow, Rent and Reuse materials. This also means you’ll need fewer supplies, which means less waste and less money!
Have a recycling point at the event. So whatever waste is generated on-site, can be properly recycled. We always use Ree in our events for the Sustainable Souk and Fashion Revolution. They provide the bins and help visitors and vendors understand how to better recycle. Every opportunity is a touch point to educate and inspire others. You would be surprised how much misinformation about recycling exists! Use Code Goshopia25 to avail a special discount during the first 2 months when signing up with Ree.
Let's Preserve Water & be efficient with Energy
Offer water or drink fountains instead of bottled beverages.
Use LED lights or do your events outdoors- weather permitting!
Did you know...?
LED lights are more efficient than traditional lighting, and they are cheaper to run.
LEDs are more sustainable than regular bulbs and last longer.
LEDs can be recycled in a way that’s not possible with other types of lightbulbs. Why? Well, they do not contain mercury. Also, they don't emit UV radiation that is harmful to humans and animals alike!
Yep! So, if you need lights, try to make them LED. Another great solution would be to save it all together and do it outdoors, using natural daylight.
Use locally sourced ingredients for food and drinks. Transportation -if planes are involved- has a huge impact.
Hire local staff. In addition to ensuring that your event is more environmentally friendly, hiring local staff has a positive impact on the local economy. Hiring from within the community means that all of your money stays in the area and goes towards supporting existing vendors and businesses. This is especially important if you’re trying to save money as you reduce transportation and accommodation expenses.
Consider having virtual or hybrid events. Covid-19 showed us that we can quite literally join super interesting conferences across the Globe from the comfort of our home or office. Think of that possibility to increase your reach!
Let’s Reduce Pollution & Emissions
See if you can find an eco-venue. A place that holds the values you want to share with our audience. Many hotels and restaurants are embracing sustainability within their operations. In Dubai, we have Boca for example. Not only their food is delicious, but they are supporting local suppliers, and monitoring very closely their waste.
To keep your event eco-friendly, it’s also important to consider how your guests are getting there—particularly if they’re traveling long distances or will be driving their own cars to the venue. Try to have public transportation close by and remind them the possibility to carpool.
If your event will require food offer Fair Trade and vegan options. Veganism helps reduce greenhouse emissions, but some people don't know that vegan food can be very tasty. Make your event a discovery journey for their tastebuds while reducing your impact.
Circularity is the understanding that everything we use has a limited life span, and it's important to think about how we can prolong it as much as possible.
One way to do this is by renting the props and decoration for example. Another way to promote circular thinking is by repurposing materials from previous events. The key here is to reuse, recycle, rent, compost, refuse and reduce whatever is not necessary.
In conclusion, events can be eco-friendly!
Making your next event eco-friendly can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be, these tips will help you start making a difference.