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Helpful answers from the Attendease team
May 1, 2019
Events can be a great way to expand brand awareness, educate an audience on a given topic or even form important connections within your industry. But if you aren’t careful when planning your event, it can also lead to unanticipated environmental harm.
According to MeetGreen, the average conference produces 4.17 lbs of waste per attendee, per day (3.53 lbs of which will go to a landfill). Compounded across a three-day event with 1,000 attendees, this adds up to just over 12,500 lbs of waste – roughly equivalent to the weight of four compact cars.
With attention to detail and an open mind, it is possible to run a more sustainable event without blowing your budget on pricey “green” alternatives. Here’s how to do it.
Before you can figure out where to make eco-conscious swaps, it’s important to understand the types of waste events produce. As Shawna McKinley notes in an article for the Event Manager Blog, “Even with a good composting and recycling program at the venue, a mid-sized corporate trade show with around 5,000 attendees will still go through tons of waste.”
McKinley also suggests becoming aware of the carbon footprint generated by event-specific activities, writing, “Using the same mid-sized national association conference tradeshow with around 5,000 attendees we can see the breakdown contributing to an event carbon footprint.”
Keeping these distributions in mind as you plan your event will open up opportunities to select more environmentally-friendly alternatives at every stage.
Use the graphics above as a guide for making changes. For example, if you know that most event waste is sent to landfills, any of the following strategies could enable you to divert event items to more sustainable alternatives:
Similar choices can be made in order to reduce your event’s greenhouse gas emissions:
Not only will many of these steps help make your events as environmentally-friendly as possible, they can also help keep your costs low.
Of course, as noted above, you can take all the steps in the world to make your event as environmentally-friendly as possible, but if your attendees aren’t aware of their role in making the event sustainable, they may unintentionally hinder your efforts.
That’s why running a green event requires a commitment not just to sustainability best practices, but to attendee education as well. The following tips may help:
If you’re trying to reduce waste, it may be advantageous to limit the number of places where trash can be disposed of versus recycled and to staff a team member near the receptacles to help remind guests of your goals (paper signage doing the same would be undesirable for obvious reasons!).
Having said that, it’s worth keeping in mind that there are no waste-free or perfectly sustainable events. Attendees will toss items into the trash and forget to turn off the lights in meeting rooms not out of malicious intent, but out of habit or because environmental consciousness may be the last thing on their minds in hectic event environments.
Trying to make environmental friendliness fun can help. Vicky Martín of ACCIONA Producciones y Diseño shares one example of having done so at a past event with the Active Sustainability website. “For the ‘Día de la Música’ festival, we encouraged the audience to exchange used plastic cups for books and magazines under the slogan ‘turn your waste into culture.’” She also writes about using, at a different event, “an iPad application which enabled guests to know about their carbon footprint or C02 emitted according to the means of transport they had used to go to the event.”
If all else fails, you can estimate the total carbon emissions produced by your event and purchase carbon offset credits through companies like Terrapass. Not only will doing so help to mitigate the damage associated with conferences and other events, it may allow you to advertise your event as being “carbon neutral.”
You may not be able to make all of these changes at once. But every step made in the direction of environmental-friendliness matters.
Take a look at your upcoming events, and see which swaps will be the easiest to make. Talk to your venue and vendors about the green options they offer. As your sustainability program grows in sophistication, add more and more of these practices until you’ve created a truly green event.
What steps have you taken to create environmentally-friendly events? Leave us a note sharing your experiences in the comments section below:
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