When it comes to green practices for your next meeting or event, it may be easier than you think to keep sustainability top of mind and implement many methods that move the eco-friendly dial. Simple swaps and sustainable requests can oftentimes be accommodated by your venue or vendors. These easily can be added to your contracts as clauses to not only lower your carbon footprint, but also save you money.
Venue, Food & Beverage
Consider onsite sourcing venues that already implement eco-friendly practices. They may run on solar or renewable energy, have LED light bulbs or lights on timers. Look for sophisticated waste management systems, including recycling and onsite composting or composting with a local partner. You can also source exclusively for green building certifications. This is a surefire way to know if venues are using eco-friendly practices (and someone else has already done the legwork for you). One of the most common certifications is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
The majority of waste from events comes from food and beverage. Food donations once mitigated some of this, but in a post-Covid world, food donations aren’t always viable options. Consider monitoring your food and beverage quantities consumed by attendees. If you regularly plan meetings for a similar group, take note of how much they consume to avoid over ordering. Notice which menu items are more popular than others. Additionally:
focus on seasonal and local ingredients
opt for a plated meal versus buffets
avoid single use items such as plastic water bottles plastic cutlery and plates
swap these for reusable glasses and water pictures, as well as silverware.
Meeting materials such as stationery, lanyards, name badges, signage and promo items are also a point of waste. It’s not always possible but try to reuse when you can. Internal meetings are a terrific opportunity. You can get strategic about it and try consistent themes or messaging so items can be used again. Or put on events for similar groups that encourage sustainability with unbranded water bottles or minimally branded tote bags, for example.
There are also creative ways to promote sustainability to your attendees. Encourage notes be taken on laptops, replace paper agendas and brochures with Apps. For smaller meetings, can personalized reusable cups and water station be an alternative to bottled water?
Virtual and Hybrid
The virtual and hybrid components of meetings are here to stay. If you provide attendees the option to attend virtually, obviously this saves on costs. As well, you carbon footprint for air travel, ground transportation, hotel accommodations, and food and beverage is drastically diminished.
Virtual and hybrid meetings have changed our industry tremendously, and virtual work may be stifling for some well-seasoned live event team members. Think about how you staff and allocate resources. Then be clear on expectations and team goals and get creative about team management and motivation. Maybe your live event teams double up on the show side. Virtual support can come from those with technical acumen who are also process orientated and drawn to data and reporting. Newer entrants to the industry may be inclined to choose hybrid support.
On a final note, while sustainability has typically been a show-by-show initiative, companies now are implementing sustainability policies. This is an opportunity for you to take on a strategic initiative and lead the way for your organization on a high-profile program.
Take all the parts above, craft a policy, and get suggestions and sign off from cross-department higher ups. Calculate potential savings and carbon footprint reductions. At the end of the day, you have a roadmap for more sustainable meetings and events, and you have a simplified and streamlined eco-friendly practice approach.
Importantly, you also have achieved a personal win by taking on and accomplishing a strategic goal that impacts company bottom line, satisfies stakeholders and contributes to the larger sustainability cause.