By Caroline Ginnane
As the world’s population booms and western-style consumerism continues to spread to the farthest corners of the globe, protecting our natural environment and resources has never been as important as it is now. Our global future rests on our ability and willingness to make sustainable choices.
Stay at the forefront of society by making small changes to your corporate events that will have long-lasting positive effects on the environment while ultimately saving money and branding your company in an ethical way.
1. Venue and transport
When looking for a venue, first see if you can find a charitable social enterprise local to the area and either use it as your venue or try to incorporate it in the catering or procurement process.
Social enterprises are businesses that operate for the purpose of solving some aspects of society’s problems and reinvesting profits earned on the open market back into the local community. As such, they are fantastically sustainable!
Cut down on harmful fossil fuel emissions by choosing an event location that is as close as possible to where the majority of guests will be coming from. For example, if your event is on a weekday evening, find a venue that’s close to your office building.
If the event is taking place in a central city area or near to a train station, provide guests with walking directions. If it’s further afield, encourage car sharing and consider the benefits (especially if serving alcohol) of providing buses or minivans to transport guests.
Also, try to use suppliers and equipment companies that are located near the event venue to reduce material transport costs.
Whatever option you choose to transport guests, make sure that some parking is available to ensure that the venue is completely handicapped accessible.
Nearly any event you throw will feature hot beverages, many of which are sourced from developing countries. Let your event planning agency or caterer know that you only want Fair Trade teas, coffees and sugar served. Fair-trade options are well priced, widely available and benefit the communities they come from.
Here in the U.K. we have access to a wonderful supply of clean drinking water. Save a huge amount of money annually by taking advantage of this and serve tap water instead of bottled water. You’ll use fewer resources while eliminating waste and transport costs.
Likewise, encourage your caterer to use seasonal, British-grown and food items whenever possible. By doing this you’ll be able to support local flowers, produce growers.
Use ethical suppliers and look for food manufacturers that use biodegradable food packaging when possible. There is lots of information out there about sustainable catering.
3. Eliminate paper
Much of our personal and professional communication is already done via email, texting and social media.
That being the case, there’s little reason to continue sending out paper invitations, flyers, event programs or information booklets. Use e-invites to make first contact with guests and email the event program to guests a few days ahead of time. This gives them the opportunity to print it out if they’d like. Whilst saving paper, most people will opt to keep the program in digital form on their phone, laptop or tablet. Online booking and ticketing systems also save paper and time. If you must print, print double-sided and use 100 percent recycled paper.
When guests arrive at the event, advertise its sustainability by presenting them fully compostable cornstarch badges and take the place of traditional paper and plastic ones. Bamboo is a fast-growing and easily sustainable crop – use bamboo lanyards as a fantastic alternative to plastic or synthetic material ones.
4. Litter and waste
Waste management for events is really important. If your event is outdoors, speak with the venue owner ahead of time about the best options for disposing of waste. Ask if they normally recycle – if not, don’t trust they’ll change their practices for your event. Instead, employ a local company to pick up your waste after the event.
Make sure plants and habitats on the venue site itself aren’t damaged. Create walkways around gardens and plants and place rubbish bins and other litter receptacles strategically, to encourage guests not leave rubbish on the ground where animals could be harmed.
5. Materials and gifts
When looking for manufacturers and suppliers, don’t be afraid to ask to see their sustainability policies and inquire as to where they source their products. It’s best to use local suppliers (who source their materials locally). If a product needs to be printed, cut down on fuel emissions and transport costs. See if you can have it done at the same location it’s manufactured.
Don’t brand any items manufactured for the event (unless you know that you’ll be able to pass them all out) with a date or any other specifics – leave the door open for their future use so that unused items aren’t wasted.
Also, choose useful merchandise that will be reused by guests (this will also enhance your branding strategy) rather than eccentric items and avoid anything which requires electricity. Instead, use products made from 100% recycled materials whenever possible (such as notepads, pens and pencils).
Consider hosting a daytime, rather than an evening event. You’d be surprised how attractive the idea is to most people. It will give you the freedom to hold it in a lovely outdoor setting (if the weather allows) and it will save you an amazing amount of money. Aside from significantly reducing electricity bills, guests tend to drink much less alcohol in the daytime and they don’t usually expect full sit-down meals.
If it’s the wrong season for an outdoor setting or an evening event is unavoidable, look for a green energy supplier, such as Ecotricity or Good Energy.
Photo by epSos.de via Flickr
Caroline Ginnane currently works for Better Venues as the Senior Events Manager. Caroline has over 10 years of experience working within events and specialises in managing large scale conferences, high profile after show parties, graduation ceremonies and corporate events.