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Eco Friendly Events: These 5 Tricks Will Make Your Conference More Sustainable

Posted by Veronica Morozova on

'Sustainability' and 'eco-consciousness' may sound like phony buzz-phrase at first (on par with 'paleo-veganism' and - our favourite - 'transcendental meditation'), but it goes much deeper than being a merely marketing-friendly hashtag. In fact, it is essential to the wellbeing and, well, actual survival of our entire planet. 

We're not going to go full-David Attenborough on you here and go on about the importance of sustainability: hopefully, you're already well-versed with them as it is (isn't that why you're reading this in the first place?) -- but what we will do is highlight the ways in which you can plan an eco friendly event. 

But first thing's first, we want to dispel a myth: being corporately responsible is not bad for business. In fact, following CSR principles is more likely to earn you extra brownie points with your clients in the long run. 

So, what can you do to make sure your next event is as eco-friendly as possible? Here are some ideas.

1. Bid farewell to disposable plates, cups, and cutlery. 

It may seem obvious, but sometimes, the obvious still has to be said. Plastics are a big, fat no-no. And even if, for whatever reason, you find yourself drawn to them (they do, after all, still appeal to a huge chunk of our population), think about the kind of message you want to carry across to your attendees. Plastics cheapen virtually every event's aesthetic. They simply don't look good. The only exception is if you're throwing a kids party and need unicorn-themed everything, but in all other cases: just say no. 

What to use instead:

Glass! You don't need to buy plates and wine glasses, you can always ask your caterers and venue to help supply them. And, if that fails, you can hire them. Not only will this add an air of class to your conference, but you'll also have peace of mind knowing that you're not contributing to the catastrophic littering of our oceans. 

2. Stop giving boring, 'no one has use for this anyway' gifts to your clients.

Think back to the last time you received a goodie bag at an event. Now, think back to the last time you remember what you got in that goodie bag and whether you still own said item. Event organisers seem to consistently make the same mistake over and over again: gifting stuff that nobody has any use for. So before you splash out the cash on appeasing your attendees, think twice, and then think some more. What value does your gift really add to the event experience? Will anyone really care if they leave empty handed?

What to gift instead:

If you feel that gifting is absolutely integral to your conference, make sure you think long and hard about the kind of thing your attendees will appreciate. What will they find genuinely useful? If you can help it, avoid plastics and opt for reusable and sustainable products. 

3. Plastic name badges? Forget it!

Think about it: if you're hosting an event for 200+ people and insist on plastic name badges, that's two hundred tiny pieces of plastic that will end up in the landfill. We won't dispute the importance of name badges for networking and ice-breaking purposes, but we will encourage you to think of more creative and modern substitutes.

What to do instead:

Alternatives to plastic name-badges are easier to find than you think! In fact, there are entire businesses dedicated solely to that mission. For example, companies like Menu Shop and Woodcard use wood to create name badges and the result is delightfully beautiful, reusable and sustainable. In fact, this can tie in quite nicely with point #2 (about gifts and goodie bags- in case you've forgotten). 

4. Ditch mega-chain catering.

Avoid the large-scale, supermarket-type catering options if you can. They might be the cheaper and more convenient option, but if you're set on improving your event's carbon footprint, they're definitely not the wisest option. In fact, businesses that are meeting demand for sustainable food options will be best placed to reap the rewards in the long-run.

What to do instead:

Local catering will not only provide you with delicious, locally-sourced food, but will also give you much-needed 'green-cred'. Try to cater for a range of diets -- trust us, you'll earn top marks for providing a locally grown vegetarian meal! Serve fair trade tea and coffee and reduce your plastics by serving tap water instead of bottled. 

5. Don't print handouts and reduce your materials.

Do you really need 500+ program printed summaries? Or physical notepads for checking in your attendees? By reducing the materials your provide your delegates, you'll be making a positive, greener impact. 


What to do instead:


Digitise it! Have your attendees check-in electronically. Send out program summaries by email. You can also hire LED screens around the venue to show key information such as the programme for the day, to reduce the need for delegates to have their own handouts.

Final note...

Money talks. Prior to organizing your event, you should make it clear to your venue that sustainability is important to you and so you will not be using them next year if they cannot show you an environmental policy that addresses their plastic waste. It sounds harsh, but trust us: by embracing a greener approach to event planning, you'll be seen as a leader in your field (while helping save our planet). Wouldn't that feel great?!


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