How to create a green, glorious and sustainable event
In recent years, an incredible number of environmentally-friendly options have become available to events managers – long gone are the days of a printed handout for every event. Many of these sustainable options are now genuinely price competitive too, and we are seeing a fantastic cultural shift, as more event planners start to ask questions, look to sustainable alternatives, and benefit from fresh thinking and ideas for their events.
Creating a sustainable event has always been something of a challenge, given that an event often requires a huge amount of collateral and investment in tangible and physical entities – from delegate packs and handouts, to branded gifts and goodies. Not great for the planet, and yet somehow ‘the norm’ for so long!
The truth is that the events industry has been slow in accepting their collective responsibility for creating not only cracking events, but also championing environmentally responsible ones. A lot of this has to do with cost, as keeping event budgets low can prove tremendously difficult, and environmental credentials are often the last things on your mind when the pressure is on!
This month we partnered with the fantastic Teresa O’Brien and Bex Bolland who have both made huge contributions to this growing field, to see what more we could all be doing to improve our events.
As any stellar event planner will know, a great event starts well before the first attendee arrives on the day. Frankly, a huge amount of work goes into getting them through the door and on time, and most corporate events will offer suggestions on methods of transportation and how to find the venue. So, why not integrate environmentally friendly options as part of the invitation process? Make sure your event is near a cycling dock, as well as a walking route and public transport options. You could even advise on low pollution routes, that encourage individuals to walk, and which also offer attractive and pleasant journeys. Instead of the usual traffic jams, that are so notorious in our beloved city, why not encourage delegates to arrive having had some gentle exercise and some fresh air – that way they’re already in a better mental place than screeching in, emotionally frazzled, from their journey.
- Giveaways and branded items: do you really need them?
Giveaways are undoubtedly a useful marketing tool that goes hand in hand with increasing brand awareness and can be a talking point at many events. However, we recommend taking some time to consider if you really need them – at all. Are they actually adding anything, or is their inclusion just an old habit, ‘expected’ rather than valued? Increasingly content is king, over branded ‘stuff’. Guests are increasingly searching for a memorable experience and new connections, not events clobber to carry home with them.
Consider if your giveaway is truly beneficial, or if it’s likely to end up in the rubbish. The range of branded and promotion options now available include a huge range of environmentally friendly items, and not necessarily at a premium. Pester your suppliers, pick their brains, and ask more questions – they will often have truly innovative ideas, but nobody ever asks them for their advice! Start your planning earlier, and you’ll have more time to up your green credentials.
Think a bit harder about your target audience – what will be truly useful/memorable/beneficial to them? (Because, really, who needs another pen?). When speaking with Bex, we were hugely impressed with her ideas – past items she has ordered include water bottles and pedometers for an event promoting active travel, or pens for organisations like the NHS, where there is something of a pen shortage (OK, maybe some people need a pen, after all!). So think more strategically about your giveaways; better for the environment, your audience and for your marketing budget.
If every ‘ying’ has its ‘yang’, then every non-recyclable option has an alternative these days. Looking into options like recyclable plates and paper – such as this fantastic initiative, which works with women living in the Indian slums to create environmentally friendly paper – can help ensure your event is far more focused on sustainability, as well as bring a lovely glow to your heart.
This may not always be possible, but offering a fully vegetarian or vegan menu is always a more environmentally-friendly option than serving meat or fish. Not only that, but in contemporary society where there is a huge pressure to cater to a vast array of diets, it can also prove to be a cost-effective option too.
- The building
Last but by no means least, is the building itself. Try to work with a building that is geared towards caring for the environment. Some fantastic examples of these are 15 Hatfields or The Crystal in London; both of which were built with environmental concerns at their forefront.
Bex Bolland is Head of Air Quality at Global Action Plan. Bex leads the Air Quality delivery portfolio, helping people reduce emissions and their exposure to air pollution.
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