Corporate events are useful for lots of reasons. They provide information or training; increase brand visibility and engagement; and strengthen relationships with those on your guest list, whether they’re employees, clients, or business contacts. But there’s a problem with corporate events that’s increasingly important to understand and mitigate.
Events in general can be a major source of waste, and many end up with a substantial carbon footprint. Fortunately, there’s a lot your organization can do to make its events more sustainable. What’s known as “event greening” is all about making decisions—large and small—that reduce an event’s environmental impact and carbon footprint. Use this green events guide as a springboard to help you with the planning process for your next event.
Why Are Green Events Important?
Environmental issues like climate change and the depletion of natural resources are increasingly on people’s minds. While there’s a lot that individuals can do to help improve the situation, it’s vital that organizations of all sizes do as much as they can too.
Environmental stewardship hasn’t traditionally been a core value of many businesses and organizations. But because environmental sustainability is a vital common-good issue that’s very much in the public consciousness, many companies are beginning to embrace it as part of their ethos and culture. And in terms of company culture, it’s important that the one you build in the workplace is reflected in your extracurricular events and activities. If your company’s culture values sustainability, any events you hold should too!
Because going green is important to more and more people and companies, it’s important to an increasing number of potential event sponsors. If you’re taking steps to make your event sustainable, outline those steps in the information you send to sponsors. Those who are on the same page will likely resonate with your efforts.
Holding green events can have another benefit too. Make sure to publicize the fact that your organization is interested in event greening. Add some information on your event website or in the emails you send out to guests. You raise awareness about your event, your organization’s sustainability efforts, and environmental issues all at the same time!
From Little Things to the Big Picture: Making the Switch to Green Events
Want to make your event’s carbon footprint as small as possible? The most effective strategy is to build your entire event with sustainability in mind. Start from the ground up with that as a focus, making sustainability a priority with each major decision.
Your event budget might not stretch to making your entire event sustainable, but don’t let that stop you. There’s no change you can make that’s too small to be worth making! All the little things you do to “green” your event add up and help reduce the environmental footprint of the event as a whole. For instance, if your organization can eliminate paper or plastic (or both!) in some capacity, that’s a significant improvement. You might not be able to make your next event zero waste, but it’s a great goal to work towards. And there are lots of sustainable event ideas you can put to work to reduce the environmental footprint of your next event or meeting.
Venue and Suppliers
Your choice of venue makes a big impact on your green event’s level of sustainability. One of the simplest ways to make sure your venue fits the bill is to choose one with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Venues with this certification meet strict standards of energy-efficiency and waste-reduction that help offset the building’s carbon footprint. They have additions like solar-powered technology and water-management systems that reduce waste and improve energy efficiency. Choosing a LEED-certified venue means your event is more sustainable from the outset.
Another simple but effective green option is to choose a local venue. It should be close to where people live or easy to access via public transport. This will cut down on the energy output from all your guests who need to travel to you.
Along with the venue you choose, suppliers and service providers are some of the most important considerations. Choose providers that work with the environment in mind. Speak with them about what you want for the event to make sure you’re on the same page. If you work with an event manager, make sure they’re on the same page and choose the green option whenever possible.
Food, Drink, and Serving
Hiring a caterer? Choose one that makes sustainable food from local organic ingredients. Opt for a vegetarian and vegan menu, and organic or carbon-neutral beverages.
When you’re planning your event, don’t forget what you’re serving your food and beverages on! It’s tempting to go for paper or plastic plates, glasses, cutlery, and straws, but it all adds up to a lot of waste at the end of the event. Make your night more sustainable by swapping them out for non-disposable items. Or choose disposable items that don’t contribute to landfills, such as compostable cups and plates.
Consider donating any leftover food to a local shelter. You’ll avoid making it food waste, and you’ll help the community at the same time.
Signage and décor are big sources of waste at corporate events, as items are often made specifically for the event and then discarded afterwards. Sustainable event design may require a little more creativity than conventional methods, but choosing the green option can produce great results!
- If you’re having a themed event, think about ways you can use existing items as décor, rather than having new ones designed and made. For instance, at a Western-themed event, items like barrels and wooden trestles can be put to use in a variety of ways.
- Opt for signage and décor made using recycled or recyclable materials.
- Instead of buying cut flowers to decorate a room, use living plants that guests and employees can take home.
Corporate events often use large amounts of paper products and various other sundries, but there’s a lot you can do to minimize event waste. There’s not just eating and drinking utensils to consider! Your green event might adopt an online booking system and an online RSVP option, issue electronic tickets, and use only electronic forms of communication.
When you need to circulate information about the event, send out an email blast. Better yet, set up a temporary event website and point your guests there for information. Setting up a website also gives you a place to discuss the sustainability aspects of your event. During your event, an event app may be in your attendees’ best interests in more ways than just sustainability. Learn about them here.
If you need to have items printed, make your printing double-sided when possible. There are also sustainable printers that use vegetable inks and low-volatility organic compounds, as well as recycled paper. If you do require printing, there are still ways to make it green!
When you choose a local venue, it means your guests have options besides plane travel for getting there. Depending on the kind of corporate event you’re holding, guests may be able to:
- Use public transport, like trains or buses
- Opt for a rideshare
All of these release a lot less carbon dioxide than airplanes.
You can make public transport and ridesharing especially appealing by offering passes or discount codes to Uber or Lyft! Of course, some options aren’t appropriate for all green events—your guests won’t want to cycle to a black-tie reception—so keep the context in mind.
Whatever the nature of your event, provide guests with information about appropriate ways for them to get there. Encourage people to carpool, or use a rideshare, rather than using personal vehicles. You may even consider setting up group transportation, such as shuttles or buses.
Handling Waste and Clean-Up
The bigger the event, the more waste it will generate. Even the most sustainable events will generate waste. When developing a green event, consider what kinds of waste will be generated, then opt for the items that can be disposed of via recycling and composting. For instance, paper and plastics can be recycled, and some items may be reusable or compostable. Food and certain other organic materials can be composted or donated to a local shelter.
Another way to reduce the environmental impact of your event is with carbon offsetting. It’s the practice of investing in environmental projects that lower carbon emissions in order to reduce your company’s overall carbon footprint. For instance, if you’re having an event that will result in unavoidable waste, counterbalance it by donating to a tree-planting group like One Tree Planted. If you’re having trouble coming up with an appropriate place to invest or donate, consider the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a starting point. An organization that furthers one or more of those goals is a great choice!
Find Your Path to Sustainability
Building sustainability-focused green events is rewarding, but there are potential pitfalls. A few sustainability practices may add to your event costs or make some aspects a little more difficult to implement. Your organization may not be ready to incorporate sustainability into every aspect of an event, but that’s okay! If each new event is an improvement on the previous one—even in small ways— then you’re putting sustainability in action.