If sustainable event planning was easy everyone would be doing it. What are the big issues you need to think about?
Event sustainability is the goal of every event planner but there some issues that trip everyone up. We’ve identified five big ones we think event planners need to confront when thinking about their sustainable event planning;
1. Visible vs invisible
Some event planners love to focus on lanyards, badge holders and plastic drinks bottles, all the stuff you and your clients and visitors and guests can see. And you should. But in reality these can add up to less than 1% of an event footprint, often much smaller. Sweat the small stuff but give significant time to the big things that make a much bigger difference.
Instead of designing an event and then thinking “How can I deliver this more sustainably?” The most effective approach is: “How can I design a sustainable event?” Elements such as flights and accommodation, organised far in advance of delegates arriving on site, will have a far higher impact overall than those small tactical elements at the venue. The issue is, we don’t see them during the event, so they can attract less feedback and plaudits.
2. The travel problem
In-person events need travel, yet the sad truth is that travel is generally not yet sustainable. With one airline group (IAG ) predicting air travel rising by a third between now and 2050, it seems that the appetite for travel is not going anywhere but up (pardon the pun). It follows that international travel for events will fit within this trend. With event emissions averaging between 60-90% of the total event carbon footprint, event planners need to be more savvy when it comes to event destination and global vs. regional event models, to help other industries mitigate their impact. The location, destination and venue can be the single most important decision any event planner makes in designing a more sustainable event.
3. Local food is best?
It’s true that buying local is best when it comes to supporting local communities and economies. But, that’s not necessarily for emissions. For example, UK tomatoes grown in heated greenhouses may actually have a higher carbon footprint than tomatoes imported from hotter countries – even including the extra transport. And, whether we like it or not, vegetarian fare is not for everyone, which can lead to increased food waste if you plan a vegetarian menu to enhance event sustainability.
4. Plastic – the enemy?
Plastic has had a really bad rap over the past decade. But many recycling centres are really good at reclaiming plastic from events, be it bottles, cutlery or other. The main issue is sorting at source. Dumping full drinks into recycling bins (it happens, you know it does) can render then entire contents un-recyclable – soggy paper cups and wooden cutlery generally cannot be reclaimed. Clear and polite signage on-site can help the right bits go in the right bins.
We don’t have a clear-cut answer to this one.
20sqm of carpet can have lifetime emissions of a whole tonne of CO2 associated. But for large exhibitions, omitting carpet completely causes issues of area delineation, ugly convention floors and issues for anyone with a hearing disability. If you do go for carpet, the recycling centres are few and far between, which can add significant truck miles. And yes, manufacturers will claim decomposition rates, but these can be 100 years+, far longer than the product has been in existence. We’re seeing a good number of expos trying out both options, with or without carpet covering, and so far the view is ‘undecided’.
None of the issues make an event planner’s life easier. But you can measure the effect of your decisions, at planning stage and post-event with our sustainable event planning tool – track – which can calculate your event’s projected and actual carbon footprint. Please get in touch, we can give you a demo and show you some more sample reports to illustrate just what it could do for you.