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Eco-Smart Events: 10 Ideas to Transform Your Gathering

July 09, 2024

Every event has goals- maybe it’s to debut a new product, raise funds or awareness, or execute a business meeting. But the goals don’t have to stop at the main function of the event. Companies and organizations are becoming increasingly committed to green initiatives that help make our world a better place. And while creating separate campaigns and products in this arena is certainly helpful, being an eco-friendly company can happen in small ways too. When an event is being planned there are lots of ways that adjustments can be made to create an eco-smart event. Let’s take a look!

Sages & Scientists Conference at Crystal Bridges Museum

Eco-Friendly Venues

One of the first tasks any event planner has to cross off the list is selecting the venue. Choosing a site that is eco-friendly includes considering its accessibility by public transportation and determining its energy sources and usage. The ISO (International Standardization Organization) has an event sustainability standard called ISO 20121– check to see if a potential venue meets the standard. Also check for other certifications like LEED. These are well researched and proven standards that allow you to be confident that you have made a sustainable venue choice.

Sustainable Transportation

Once you’ve selected a venue, spend a little time on how your participants will travel to and from the event. Consider providing shuttle services from a central location and/or carpooling incentives. Access to public transportation is hopefully convenient and should be encouraged as well. Prioritize making the event’s physical setup walkable and utilize efficient transportation options when possible. Make sure you communicate with your attendees that these choices are purposeful and in line with the eco-friendly goals of the event.

Light Display Tunnel at Walmart Marketplace Seller Summit at Caesar’s Forum in Las Vegas

Waste Reduction Strategies

Every event will generate waste. A two-part approach can minimize an event waste’s environmental impact. First, work with vendors to use reusable and biodegradable products as much as possible. Consider replacing paper or plastic decor with intricate lighting or LED Wall displays. Request that they recycle when feasible and inquire with caterers about composting. Then during the event, ensure that waste management includes easily accessible recycling options for attendees and encourage their use. If guests see the event being consistent with sustainability priorities they will be much more likely to participate themselves.

Energy Efficiency

After selecting a venue that provides efficient energy, turn your attention to your vendors’ energy use. Talk with your production company about using energy-efficient lighting such as LED and Energy Star-certified electronics. Create a plan to optimize the use of AC, heating, and lighting so that your guests will be comfortable without wasting energy unnecessarily. Be efficient with your space use, and if the outside temperature is extreme minimize movement between buildings as much as possible.

Digital Integration

It’s easier than ever to reduce and minimize paper use. Incorporate digital tools as much as possible for event planning and marketing. For guests and organizers, consider creating an event app that will provide digital access to the event materials, like itinerary, venue map, Q&A submissions, and more. Not only are these apps sustainable, they are much more streamlined and easy to use than a sheaf of pamphlets and papers. We also recommend using digital signage for wayfinding and other useful information for your attendees! Your guests AND the environment will thank you!

Stream Deck used to stream to hundreds of virtual conference goers.

Hybrid Event Formats

Increasingly popular, hybrid events have the dual benefit of being more convenient for attendees and more eco-friendly. Hybrid events have a fully functional in-person option but also provide guests the opportunity to join and participate virtually from anywhere. New technologies allow the experience to be truly interactive, and even in-person attendees benefit from the inclusion of a wider range of participants. Fewer in person attendees means an overall smaller carbon footprint for your event. Talk with your production company about using studio-produced setups, regional hubs, and other tech options to make the experience effective and memorable for everyone.

Eco-Friendly Marketing

As with many other areas related to events, we’ve seen marketing trend toward digital avenues- a great thing for sustainability efforts. You can take it a step further by using recycled and biodegradable materials when physical items are required and relying on digital downloads as much as possible. Work with your vendors and marketing department to ensure that single-use plastics aren’t used and that unnecessary printed materials are minimized or eliminated altogether.

Breakout room at Caesar’s Forum in Las Vegas for Walmart Marketplace Seller Summit.

Educational Breakouts & Branding

If you’ve made the commitment for your event to be sustainable and eco-friendly, you have an opportunity to use your event to educate your guests about why this is important and how they can be included. Integrate information about your sustainable event choices into the branding, and promote awareness through your event materials. Consider hosting a workshop or breakout session to let attendees learn more about sustainability efforts.

Carbon Offsetting & Donations

Even with the best efforts of planners and vendors, there will likely be some measure of waste and carbon emissions as the result of any event. Research ways to offset these through donations to renewable energy or carbon reduction projects. Consider donating as an organization but also present the information to attendees and encourage them to make donations themselves, perhaps even offering real time incentives during the event for donations.

There is no question that we have an impact on the world around us. Event creators have more options than ever before to customize their events to be sustainable and eco-friendly, ensuring that harm is minimized and guests experience a well run, impactful event that is also sustainable. If you’re looking for guidance on how to make your event more sustainable, let’s chat! We would love to help you make your high impact event have a lower environmental impact. 

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