A welcome trend among organisations and people today, is a focus on being environmentally responsible. In fact, at Reed Exhibitions, we are committed to creating successful events in South Africa and we are constantly exploring ways to reduce the environmental impact of our events. This includes the choice of venue and location, managing various aspects such as communication, suppliers, caterers, waste management and transportation, and more.
It makes good business sense to go green with events, besides making for a better experience for all stakeholders involved.
Every industry has a role in supporting sustainability in all their activity and specifically in the event industry, where an increasing number of people prefer to attend events that are conscious about their environmental impact.
Let us look at a few practical reasons for hosting greener events, and why it makes good business sense.
Enhanced participant experience
Environmentally responsible practices improve the experience of attendees. In any event, transportation of people and goods to and from the venue is unavoidable. This results in traffic congestion and the emission of greenhouse gases. Besides, events can also generate huge amounts of waste via promotional activities and food consumption, all of which go to the landfill. Being conscious about these and finding greener alternatives can enhance participant experience. For example, choosing accessible public transport instead of organising fossil-fuel intensive private transport can usually cut down on travel time, helping to avoid traffic congestions and save on parking hassles.
Position the event organiser as a thought leader
Greener events highlight your commitment to the environment, strengthening relationships with staff, suppliers, customers and other stakeholders. It builds your brand and promotes credibility.
Increase profitability and save money
Green initiatives can significantly reduce the costs and save money. For example, it can minimize waste disposal, energy and water expenses, all of which go into better ROI.
Create a legacy
As an influencer in green practices, event greening helps you raise participant awareness and inspire a positive change in behaviour, while encouraging suppliers to consider greener initiatives.
Conserve the environment and support local communities
By consciously reducing the use of natural resources such as water and energy, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emission and waste, green events conserve the environment and lift local economies.
These benefits are well worth setting as goals.
How can businesses get started on the path to organising greener conferences and events?
To begin with, here are some initial steps we follow at Reed Exhibitions.
The first step towards event greening is setting intentions, followed by making a commitment to reduce environment impact. The next step is making a statement of key objectives. Now is a good time to take stock of existing initiatives and evaluate where to focus your efforts for maximum benefit.
Create an action plan
This must include objectives, targets if any, actions to accomplish these objectives, stakeholders’ involvement, roles and accountability, a plan for monitoring and evaluating success, budget required and cost estimates. Make this plan as detailed as possible. For example, if your objective is to reduce waste, your target might be “x” percentage of waste to be diverted from the landfill. Your action plan would focus on a waste awareness campaign for the event, serving food and beverages in eco-friendly recyclable packaging, setting up recycling stations and so on.
Measure and evaluate
Measuring and evaluating helps to assess the effectiveness with which goals and targets have been met. It also helps to improve while learning important lessons and setting an example for green events. Depending on the size of the event, targets and objectives will vary, along with quantum of savings. Don’t forget to invite feedback from attendees about their experience.
Now that we have a plan in place, here are some tips to manage the environmental impact of your green event at the event planning stage.
Let everyone involved know about your greening objectives since you will need their support to make it successful. This includes event managers, planners, publicity agents, suppliers and contractors, venue coordinators, sponsors, guest invitees, volunteers and attendees. Each one has a role to play in your success.
Use a variety of communication methods including social media, your website, signage, offline announcements and via your green ambassadors.
Let people know about your achievements in relation to green events on your website. Train your staff to support and promote your green objectives
Choice of venue
Consider the proximity of your location to public transport and other areas of interest, accommodation, shopping areas and facilities such as banks.
While shortlisting venues, ask for its waste management plans, energy and water efficiency and saving methods and trained staff. Accessibility to the venue will give you an idea of transportation needs, extent of greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency.
Suppliers and caterers
Food and beverages are an integral part of events. However, they often generate a large amount of waste and can have a significant impact on environmental impact.
While choosing suppliers, let them know about your green goals, and ask for sustainable products and services that minimise environmental impact. Ask them what their own greening initiatives are and evaluate ways to minimise waste by avoiding unwanted packaging, recycle.
Source food from local providers to support the local economy and use certified sustainable products. Food wastage can be reduced to a large extent by asking attendees to book meals in advance.
Waste has the biggest impact on the environment at events. It can be expensive to dispose of and detrimental to the environment when it reaches the landfills. Look for ways to minimise waste by controlling what is allowed at the venue and by managing output via bins labelled “compostable” and “recycling”. Have volunteers to guide attendees. Other ways to manage waste are:
- Reducing paper wastage and printing costs through electronic communication, asking attendees to register online, storing and updating participant data online, implementing an online event marketing campaign
- Minimise packaging costs by using biodegradable options
- Creating reusable or recyclable materials for signage, handouts and printing with non-toxic inks
As mentioned earlier, accessibility of venue plays a crucial role. Consider public transport or shuttle vans to encourage sharing rides to and from the venue to reduce carbon monoxide emissions and encourage participant interaction in the process.
Event greening can improve resource efficiency for the entire event and the supply chain management, while increasing economic, social and environmental benefits.
What initiatives are you implementing to go green with your events? Do share with us on Facebook and Twitter.