It is our responsibility to make the changes we can to be more sustainable but naturally we cannot all chain ourselves to an oil rig and declare to stop flying places. We can however use the events industry to make small but significant changes. We can review our venue contracts and make conscious decisions to ask the questions about waste and sustainable resources.
Here are 5 easy changes that can be made today.
1. Food wastage
Think of the amount of food waste during any one event. Whether it is a corporate dinner, a lunch buffet or a mass participation sporting event.
Catering is greatly wasted and not only is it environmentally really bad it is ethically heartbreaking.
Ensure your venue has special measures in place for its food waste. Healthy and safety laws make it much more difficult now with food leaving premises but with the right disclaimers and pre planning you can have local food kitchens collect the unused food or at the very least packaged up for crew to take home.
2. Buy local
Wherever you are planning your event ask your venue to ensure they buy local food and drink product and wherever possible use local suppliers. We are able to dramatically reduce carbon emissions by reducing our import levels and more importantly we are supporting our local workers. This notion is true of whatever city you are in.
If you are buying wine in France, buy French wine.
I’m not saying you have to go paperless. Sometimes we just need things written down and all we really want is an agenda on a piece of paper! But make sure the venue has suitable recycling facilities available and put confidential recycling bins all around your event.
It is not the use of paper that causes the problems, it is the lack of correct disposal facilities meaning paper goes into the regular bin, then to the regular dump and then into good old regular landfill.
4. Reduce washing
Ask your venue what its policy is on towel and bedding washing. Then also explain to your delegates that this is the case. Most people know that a towel in the bath means wash me, but if people thought about the frivolous waste of detergents and water that washing towels and bedding once a day creates they might think twice. After all, do you wash your towels every day at home? Unlikely.
5. Utilise Students
Developing our future event professionals is key to ethical sustainability. Ask your venue what their policy is on work experience and graduates and if they don’t have something in place bring in your own! The University of Greenwich run a great placement programme for corporates and agencies looking for interns and event students. They may also be your most enthusiastic and dynamic employees and are perfect for registration and hospitality support.
6. Arrange arrival and departure transfers
Commuting accounts for a third of all car travel and events are a great opportunity to reduce that. Make sure you have provided in advance adequate group transport instructions and also utilise coaches to reduce individual cars. Organise arrival transfers from the station, from the office, from a convenient location. Just don’t leave it up to all attendees to “hop in a taxi.” It affects both carbon emissions and the amount of expense receipts coming through!
7. Save energy
Have your venue put in writing that they will turn off all lights and air conditioning when meeting spaces are not in use and make sure they stick to it. Have your event manager walk around the venue an hour after the meeting and turn off all switches and electricity outputs. If you are at an offsite dinner you do not need the air conditioning on in your meeting room!
Let your delegates know that you are making these changes. Do not just call your event “green” and hope that does the job. It is not enough and it will not resonate with people. Outline the exact changes you have made and what they can do. It also reduces resistance if they are prepared in advance that towels are not being washed daily!
Sustainability is not just about being “paperless” but it is easier than you think to bring sustainable measures into your programme. No event manager really wants to see food go to waste when someone is in need and every successful event professional was given their break by someone, so pay it forward and get event students on board!
Chances are your venue and suppliers are willing to make all these changes, they just need to be asked the right questions!
Hannah very kindly spoke at Assist Travel which took place in London on 9th September.