Event Sustainability: 6 Most Easy & Effective Practices To Use in 2023

As the world becomes more aware of the impact of its actions on the planet, businesses globally strive to be more sustainable and environment-friendly. Audiences today prioritize environmental impact when choosing brands they want to support. Hence, sustainable events have been growing in popularity across the globe.

While 90% of business executives say sustainability is essential, only 60% of companies have a developed sustainability strategy. 

Read on for sustainable event ideas and insights on developing an event sustainability strategy to reduce environmental impact, save cost, improve brand reputation, and have a positive social impact.

Decoding Event Footprint

Hosting in-person events incur an enormous carbon cost. Local and regional travel is by far the largest contributing factor, especially when traveling by air. Other factors with a significant carbon footprint in events include

  • Venue usage
  • Heating or cooling the venue, especially large event rooms
  • Tech and lighting (large projectors, advanced lighting/AV equipment, electrified exhibits, etc.)
  • Catering (mainly higher-impact foods like beef and cheese)
  • Disposable packaging
  • Waste generated from materials used at the event (decorations, paper printouts, giveaways)

Here are some ways to help event organizers and planners efficiently minimize their environmental impact and implement event sustainability.

Essential Practices To Get Started With Event Sustainability

1. Assess And Reduce Your Event’s Environmental Impact 

It is essential to identify, measure, and minimize the environmental impact at every stage of the event’s life cycle. Consider the following elements-

Sustainable Events Infographic

2. Opt For a Venue With Green Credentials

A 2023 research found that over 97% of media marketers consider in-person events to be crucial.
Thus, the responsibility of finding accredited venues that adhere to sustainability concepts has fallen on the event planners’ shoulders.

Unquestionably, in-person event venues are the biggest consumers of resources, be it energy, food, or water. Hence, you must take time to research venues that implement sustainability concepts like

  • Recycling sorting stations in all meeting spacesGreen venue recycle
  • Clearly labeled or color-coded bins for different waste types
  • Composting toilets
  • Filtered water dispensers and water-efficient appliances
  • LED lighting
  • Solar energy systems
  • Recycled toilet paper and eco-friendly toiletries
  • Policies for recycling and energy efficiency 

If the venue is in a conducive and cost-optimum geographic location but doesn’t have accreditation, you can explicitly include precise sustainability requirements in your RFPs and contracts and even send them in advance for better negotiations.

3. Shun Single-Use Plastic

Roughly 5 trillion plastic bags are produced annually worldwide, and a single bag can take nearly 1000 years to disintegrate completely. In 2021, over 51m tons of plastic waste (especially wrappers, bottles, and bags) was generated in America, of which only 5% was recycled, while the remaining 95% ended up in landfills and oceans!sustainable utensils

In-person events have long been bashed by environmentalists worldwide for being large producers of plastic waste, be it plastic utensils, Styrofoam cups, or even drinking straws. To prevent this at your future events, you can

  • Ensure that food and beverage come in recyclable containers or packaging
  • Avoid using single packets of salt, sugar, coffee, etc.
  • Choose biodegradable tableware made from renewable raw materials like starch, corn oil, plants, orange peel, etc.
  • Offer water stations instead of providing plastic water bottles
  • Focus on using easily-recyclable materials like glass, cardboard, etc. to save landfill gate fees and taxes
  • Completely ban single-use plastic event décor, cutlery, signages, etc., and replace them with reusable alternatives 
  • Consider providing attendees with name badges that can be reused in future events and offer a discount or benefit to those who return the badges post-event

Besides reducing ecological impact, such practices will also help reduce the cost of future events by preventing repeat purchases. Additionally, you can share recycling success stories on your event website to inform and encourage visitors to adopt event sustainability practices.

4. Order Food for Individuals, Not Groups

As per the UN, over 17% of the world’s total food production gets wasted. When piled up in landfills,sustainable food practices this enormous waste leads to greenhouse gas production. To prevent food waste at your events, you can

  • Plan the menu and the quantity of food as per the estimated number of attendees coming
  • Leverage smart buffet service styles to limit food waste while keeping the attendees satisfied
  • Tie up with food donation programs or connect with a shelter or local food bank to donate leftover food 
  • Consider options like composting food waste and using leftover food for livestock feeding
  • Engage local food vendors that have a sustainable approach 

5. Offer Eco-Friendly Swag Bags

Key chains, pens, bottles, t-shirts, and other standard promotional merchandise given in event swag bags often end up in landfills. Consider replacing these with eco-friendly options to reduce your event’s carbon footprint. Some interesting ideas includesustainable swag bag options

  • Reusable tumblers and mugs
  • Recycled backpacks and cotton pouches
  • Reusable tote bags
  • Seed packets or plant kits
  • Bamboo cutlery kits
  • Eco-friendly USBs
  • Recycled journals and notebooks

If you want to give out branded clothing, consider procuring from companies that sustainably and ethically source items rather than choosing fast fashion. Also, check if they print using environment-friendly inks.

Recent statistics indicate that nearly 23% of all event swag ends up in landfills worsening the environmental impact of in-person events. Thus, it is a great strategy to arrive at a realistic number of swag bags that would be given away in accordance to the number of participants to avoid wasting the unused swag bags.

6. Minimize Paper Waste by Going Digital

Nobody wants to hold on to a paper ticket or find a way to print it out to attend an event. It is best to leverage e-tickets with QR codes that are easy to scan. It is one of the easiest and most impactful steps towards successfully implementing event sustainability as it reduces the amount of paper waste at the event. 

go digital sustainabilityReduce the number of leaflets or brochures exhibitors might want to distribute at your event. Consider levying an additional waste management charge or ‘green charge’ in the contract agreement. Contactless check-ins, digital notepads, white screens, and electronic signages instead of vinyl banners can also significantly minimize unnecessary paper waste.

With 6Connex’s mobile event apps like Eventory Check-in you can seamlessly manage attendee check-ins (on and off-site) and their registration info with QR scanning. 

Furthermore, through the Eventory event management platform, you can take advantage of an intuitive, fully-integrated, quick, and easy-to-use ticketing and registration system, which allows you to manage your event’s ticketing, coupons, orders, and discounts, all from one dashboard! It can also help you digitize your promotion and campaign functionalities before, during, and after the event.

Bonus Tips!

Reconsider your event design: An effective event sustainability practice is opting for an event format that can meet the required outcome with the least carbon intensity. Consider hosting virtual or hybrid events

2021 American study found that transitioning from in-person to virtual events can help reducesustainable event design carbon footprint by over 94% and energy consumption by 90%, and that’s a lot of footprints! Statistics further indicate that organizing a one-day international conference with 5000+ virtual attendees can reduce the event’s carbon emissions equivalent to the annual emissions of over 158 American households. 

Instill carbon-friendly practices: While virtual events are incredibly sustainable, internet usage and the uploading and downloading of data (streaming, video calls, etc.) can still emit some greenhouse gases. You can shrink your event’s environmental impact further by instilling the following carbon-friendly practices:

  • Having attendees turn off their webcams when not needed. A study by MIT indicates that this can save up to 96% of an attendee’s footprint.
  • Encouraging them to watch videos in SD instead of HD.
  • Encouraging text-based communication. 6Connex offers you an open universe event technology to provide full bring-your-own-solution (BYOS) flexibility. You can sync your virtual environment with your favorite tech seamlessly. You can use 6Connex’s live text chat and messaging opportunities along with third-party event tech integrations with JotCast, Scoot, etc.
  • Compressing media files before sharing them.
  • Reminding your attendees to delete unnecessary files and emails post-event.

Moreover, in case of a large-scale international event, consider having regional hubs rather than bringing in people from all over to one location. It can largely reduce the carbon emissions caused by air travel while allowing the benefits from in-person participation.

Case Study: How Eventory Helped ELLEgirl Japan Create Engaging Virtual Events

ELLEgirl Japan needed a virtual environment technology to host engaging events, attract a broad audience, capture and report user behaviors, and streamline event-related operations. Although they considered Zoom, YouTube, and Instagram LIVE, these platforms lacked the features and functionality to encourage interactivity and provide a centralized solution for marketing, managing, and reporting on events.

Eventory by 6Connex helped ELLEgirl Japan create engaging, ongoing events that transformed attendees' perceptions through memorable connections and experiences. Eventory provided the ELLEgirl team with robust virtual environment technology to facilitate engagement with content and interactions between attendees while seamlessly capturing and reporting user behaviors. 
Read the full case study here.

Enhance Your Next Sustainable Event with 6Connex

With virtual event platforms like 6Connex, you can seamlessly plan and host a sustainable event while reducing costs and driving event ROI. They also offer mobile event apps that facilitate features like-

  • Virtual attendee participation,
  • Digital marketing materials,
  • In-app badging
  • Scanning QR codes
  • Built-in ticketing and event registration
  • Digital program schedule

Such features not only enhance the event experience but also promote event sustainability.

If going fully virtual is not viable for your event, hybrid events are the next best thing. As per research conducted by the University of Cambridge, hybrid events can reduce carbon emissions by over 90%, especially if the attendees from far away join the event online and the ones attending in-person travel by land. Request your free virtual event platform demo today to learn more about how you can improve your event sustainability and how 6Connex can assist you with the process.

6Connex request a demo

Now on-demand!

"Embracing AI in Events: Navigating Opportunities and Challenges"

Dive into the future of events with our insightful webinar, "Embracing AI in Events: Navigating Opportunities and Challenges," Join our esteemed speakers: Dahlia El Gazzar - Founder of DAHLIA+ Agency, Stephen Kaufman - Chief Product Officer at Inriver, and Henry Tran - CTO at 6Connex

Explore the transformative potential of AI in event planning, and engagement, and the challenges it may bring. Stay informed and inspired as we navigate the thrilling opportunities and challenges that AI brings to the dynamic world of events. 

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FAQs

1. How can businesses assess the progress of their event sustainability goals?

To measure where your business stands in terms of its event sustainability goals, consider the following key questions:

  • What is your company trying to achieve?
  • Do you have a well-developed event sustainability strategy?
  • Have you defined essential sustainability KPIs (like carbon and water footprint, energy consumption, recycling rates, etc.)?
  • Are you analyzing and reporting results?
  • Are you collecting data to measure the performance? 
  • Are you comparing your performance to industry benchmarks?

2. What KPIs does one need to track to measure event sustainability?

When planning a sustainable event, you must have essential KPIs in place to measure the progress of your sustainability events and track any potential for future improvements. Some key KPIs to track include

  • Carbon and water footprints
  • Waste reduction and recycling rates
  • Energy consumption
  • Product recycling rates
  • Supplier Environmental Sustainability Index
  • Supply chain miles

 

3. What are some measurement tools to track event sustainability?

Using carbon footprint calculators is a standard way for businesses to measure and report the environmental impacts their events are having. Some of the most widely-used carbon calculators include-

  • SAM
  • TRACE
  • Proseed
  • SAP’s product carbon footprint analytics
  • CO2 AI by BCG
  • GaBi by Sphera
  • Climatiq API

Besides these tools, you can also use Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards to measure sustainability issues. ISO 20121 is a standard that offers a framework to identify and address sustainability issues.

 

4. What are examples of sustainability events?

Sustainability events can include seminars, trade shows, conferences, etc. They can have an eco-friendly approach and offer free bike parking and shuttle service to reduce the number of car commuters and their CO2 emissions, serve foods and drinks in biodegradable containers that won’t pile up in landfills, and more.

 

5. What are the characteristics of a sustainable event?

Sustainability events help reduce negative environmental and social impact, represent cost and resource efficiency, inspire innovative and creative use of resources, and help create links between the organization, community, and the environment. They enable brands and companies to spread awareness about environmental protection and social growth while generating a better image of themselves.

References

https://www.thedrum.com/news/2021/09/14/green-shoots-how-wean-the-events-industry-unsustainable-practices

https://ocs.umich.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Virtual-Event-Footprint.pdf

https://www.eventcombo.com/a/929/6-ideas-to-start-making-your-events-sustainable-in-2023

https://www.exordo.com/blog/sustainable-event-ideas/

https://www.cvent.com/uk/blog/events/10-green-event-ideas-can-make-huge-difference

https://www.eventimpacts.com/impact-types/environmental

https://www.eventbrite.com/blog/event-sustainability-ds00/

https://www.splento.com/blog/events/top-5-ideas-for-sustainable-event-planning-in-2023/

https://blog.swapcard.com/sustainable-event-ideas

https://eventee.co/en/blog/ideas-for-a-more-sustainable-event-actionable-tips/




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