What does it take to plan a sustainable event? Well, let’s look at what planning a green event means, and how you can save money and the environment at the same time.
Green. Sustainable. Environmentally friendly. While each has its own nuance, these terms all basically mean the same thing – saving resources while not degrading the environment. The result is using less water, generating less waste, and using less energy, all while spending less and giving your attendees more.
Events use resources. That is a fact. But there are ways to use less. That doesn’t mean lowering your quality. Using less is not about trading in your two-ply for single-ply. It means taking the time to think about what you need for your event and making sure you get good value. By planning a green event you can help the environment, as well as probably save your client a bit of money. It just takes a little extra planning, which shouldn’t be a problem if you have proper event planning software.
1. Choose A Green Venue
A LEED-certified building can be a great place to hold your event. These buildings meet the highest standard for healthy environments and sustainability, taking into account energy usage, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and more. The majority of LEED-certified buildings are in the United States with almost 100,000, but there are about 25,000 more in the rest of the world. There is an easy search tool that you can use to see if your venue is certified, or use to search for one that is.
Another option is to hold your event outside. An outdoor space has better air quality and eliminates the need for heating or cooling. Also, having an event outdoors may reduce the need for decorations, since many outdoor spaces (especially those designed to host weddings) are beautiful on their own.
Related article: How To Find A Venue For Your Event
2. Use Reusable Items
For cocktail hours and catered meals, it is common practice to be served on dinnerware and barware that can be returned dirty for the company to clean and sanitize for future use. This is great. But lurking in the corner is a tea and coffee station that provides the guests styrofoam cups and plastic stirrers. This is not great.
When planning a green event, make sure you have real cups and spoons as well as a place for them to be returned (if necessary). Individual packages of creamer and sugar are fussy and create lots of garbage, however, this may be your only option due to sanitary restrictions. If so, make sure you have a well-marked place to dispose of the garbage and recycling (see below).
3. Make Recycling Easy (Especially If Single-use Items Are Necessary)
We know how to recycle, we have been separating our waste for years. I feel uncomfortable at events that only have one trash can. Actually, having none at all makes me feel better because often the staff is trained to separate the waste. This is because many municipalities impose fines on buildings for not sorting their garbage.
If you do supply your attendees with waste receptacles, make sure they are properly labeled. Make it clearer than clear where each type of waste goes.
An easy win in this category is plastic water bottles. I know you can buy bottled water for pennies a bottle, but a pitcher of water and some glasses will do the job just as well. And it’s so much better for the environment. A refillable water bottle station would do the trick as well. However, if you must have bottled water, make sure that there are clearly marked locations specifically for recycling the empty bottles.
Coordinate this with your venue beforehand. This should be a simple item that fits in with others on your event tasklist.
4. Decorate Wisely
Plants rather than flowers. Paper rather than plastic. There are many ways that you can use more sustainable items in the decorations. Some of these items may be a bit more expensive than the conventional type, but in the long run, purchasing something once will be a lot less expensive than regularly purchasing the reusable version. Plus, you can rent out the reusable items on hand rather than having to go buy them for every single event.
5. Consider Local Food When Planning A Green Event
Food that is produced locally generally has a lower environmental footprint because it doesn’t need to travel as far. And it is usually fresher because of this reduction in transport. Plus if it is in season it may cost less than more commercial alternatives.
Why having the same old fruit options of apples or bananas when you are in the middle of blueberry season? It is true that nowadays you can pretty much get whatever fruit you want at any time of the year, but keep in mind that fruit that is in season just tastes better.
Also, serving local food will impress your attendees. If you have guests coming from out of town, this is a great way to showcase the local traditional fare. Your guests will remember the mini hot dog appetizers at that wedding in Chicago or the fresh beignets served at the coffee break in New Orleans.
6. Skip The Paper
Everything is digital now. Including event planning. Suggest that the information that the host is providing be accessible over a variety of digital platforms. Keep in mind that the platforms should be the most appropriate ones. For a conference have a website where the material can be downloaded. Or at an expo make sure there are prominent QR codes; for a meeting make sure the participants have been emailed the material.
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