Being ‘green’ has always been a consideration in the events industry with venues and agencies alike keen to demonstrate evidence of their Corporate Social Responsibility, but the topic took a backseat while the economy struggled.
However, sustainability is firmly back on the agenda: Olympia London is issuing sustainability reports for live events, Royal College of Physicians and Church House Conference Centre have been recognised for their commitment to sustainable practice by the International Association of Conference Centres’ (IACC) Green Star certification programme, and more and more organisations are aiming to become ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) certified.
The Eden Project has revealed plans for a new £6 million hotel with 115 bedrooms on its site near St Austell, Cornwall, to help sustain business all year round and unlock the potential of the estate beyond its famous biomes. However, if you can’t all hotfoot it to Cornwall for your next event what can you do to ensure you run an eco-friendly event?
Here are some of our top tips for event planners:
Utilise Conference Care’s Venue Sustainability Rating (VSR)
Conference Care’s green venues rating is the first and only system of its type in the UK, and measures criteria ranging from recycling and waste, to energy and efficiency and the venues’ contribution to the local community.
Venues commit to sustainability in different ways. For example; The Olde Bell in Hurley has created a Summer Kitchen by congregating a rotisserie, kamado oven and a grill all outside in their grounds so that their varied menu includes many ingredients grown on site.
Kew Gardens is committed to the conservation and preservation of plants, and Farncombe Conference Centre only use Ecover ecological cleaning products, which are composed of fully bio-degradable natural extracts that have no negative impact on the environment – in strong contrast to their petrochemical counterparts.
Final year Events Management students at the University of Gloucestershire argue in their blog that choosing a ‘green’ venue ‘is a very visible demonstration of your organisation’s commitment to sustainability.’ Conference Care’s VSR rating is included on every proposal to aid you in your decision making process.
Location, location, location…
It may sound obvious, but as well as the venue, consider the geographical location of your event carefully; you can reduce your impact on the environment considerably. For example, if the majority of your delegates are based in Scotland, question why you are holding your event in London and making them all fly, train or drive South! Hold your event in Scotland and offset the carbon footprint of the few travelling North.
Similarly, if large groups of delegates will be arriving from similar locations, organise a coach to pick them up, rather than leaving them to take a taxi on their own. You’ll increase efficiency, reduce emissions and also provide peace of mind for your delegates who won’t have to worry about logistics.
Look for Carbon Neutral Companies
While there are a number of things you can do to reduce your event’s carbon emissions, some elements may be out of your control. By choosing suppliers for your event which are carbon neutral you reduce your events impact on the environment.
Conference Care is a carbon neutral organisation, funding sustainable energy projects through Carbon Clear to offset our emissions each year. This year we are supporting a Geothermal Project in Java, Indonesia which reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
You may even want to consider funding carbon saving activities outside of your organisation for each event – allowing you to apply the resulting reductions against your footprint.
Use less trees!
In a so-called paperless society we still use a great deal of the stuff; 12.5 million tonnes of paper and cardboard are still used annually in the UK (www.recyclingguide.org.uk) – that’s around 300 million trees!
By using an online delegate registration system for your event you can communicate with your delegates electronically: maps, directions, joining instructions etc – ensuring the run up to your event is virtually paper free. By registering delegates online, event planners can also download up to date reports with ease.
On the day of the event, consider using a delegate app instead of the traditional paper delegate pack – speaker handouts/profiles, presentations, maps, timetables, etc can all be stored in one place, without using endless reams of paper. An event app enables the event planner to amend information should the agenda change at the last minute, and can also be a handy tool for delegates when networking.
Waste not – the three R’s
Finally, when making any environmental decisions remember the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Give some thought to how you can avoid wasting any precious resources. For example a total of 3,415,000 tonnes of food waste is disposed of in the food sector every year, of which 41% of the waste from pubs, restaurants, hotels and quick service restaurants tinyurl.com/nneczj9.
Try to carefully plan your refreshments to ensure waste is kept to a minimum; the NEC in Birmingham, use their food waste help power a local sewage treatment works as part of a deal with Severn Trent Water.
Lastly – consider your AV. Does the conference need a huge set with multiple screens and lights? Can the event have an element outside to make the most of natural daylight? It may be that an all singing all dancing set is essential, but bear in mind there are other ways to make an impact.