Think Big, Go Green: Powering Your Events with Sustainable Strategies
Written by: Stephen Fernandez, Vice President of Operations, East Coast at 360DG
These days, sustainability is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Just look at the Super Bowl. In the past two years, there have been more ads for EV or hybrid than traditional vehicles aired during the US’ biggest game. With this much national attention on a topic, it can be hard to see past the hype and buzzwords and figure out how to take action. Well, I’m here to help you become the next sustainable events superstar!
Kickstart Your Green Game
So, where should planners go when looking to incorporate sustainable event strategies?
There are several industry publications that are a great place for initial research:
- The Events Industry Council (EIC) is jam-packed with green advice, and it’s presented in a variety of formats from articles, to webinars, to infographics and more!
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides a wealth of information; as does Cvent.
- Most hotel brands, like Marriott, have developed environmental programs as well.
When you’re ready to take things to the next level, there are a variety of ways to expand your eco-education:
- In addition to being a great foundational resource The Events Industry Council (EIC) also offers an online Sustainable Event Professional Certificate Programme. Plus, you can earn 12 hours of Continuing Education credits (CEs) towards CMP application or recertification by completing this 16 module course.
- Want to go all-in with sustainable event strategies? One of our 360DG partners, MPI, offers a Sustainable Event Strategist program that will have you ready to not just participate in, but lead the conversation on best practices for your organization.
Green is the New Black: Why Sustainability is Rocking the Event World
Sustainability in the events industry isn’t just a flash in the pan. Green meetings were a hot topic a few decades ago, and they’re getting a renewed sense of focus today. Most event planners make a conscientious effort to consider sustainability as a contributing factor in their decision making. The small steps of eliminating paper handouts, implementing reusable signage and water bottles, and even offering meatless alternatives, all make an impact.
Well, we think this renewed interest in being kind to our planet is here to stay! Just look at the changes happening in the community at-large. There are curbside compost services that use electronic vans to pick up and drop off compost bins weekly. It’s only a matter of time before similar services are scaled up and adapted for the event industry and we can’t wait to take advantage of them!
Past Green Wins to Inspire Your Next Event
A few years ago, we had a request for tabletop décor for a multi-day business meeting and they didn’t want to use cut floral. Our design team came up with unique looks that all paid it forward to our local community! First, we used containers of lavender as well as aloe and jade plants that we later gifted to a medical center and blind assistance agency for smell and touch programs. Another day, we filled apothecary jars with over 1,200 fresh oranges, limes and lemons. Post-event, we donated the citrus to an area learning center for adult students to sort and then use to make their meals.
Recently, we had a group of 750 that wanted to offer two offsite evening events within walking distance of the hotel. We not only provided two unique venues within a 10-minute walk, we went the extra mile and staffed every intersection with crossing guards. We’re always happy to brainstorm ways to make your programs safer and more sustainable!
Green Thinking In Your Larger Events Strategy
Green events aren’t just an opportunity to meet CSR requirements but a chance to incorporate thinking green into your broader event strategy. Always ask: How can I benefit the planet? For that same group of 750, we provided airport return shuttles to efficiently get the attendees back to the airport. With 15 buses, we moved the amount of people it would have taken hundreds of Ubers and cabs to accommodate.
Looking to cut down on excess food waste? Implementing chef-manned stations where dishes are prepared in front of guests means everyone can control their options and portion sizes more efficiently.
Don’t forget to think big! Recently, one of our clients arranged a Build-a-Bike & Bubbly CSR activity for their attendees on the morning of departure. In exchange for mimosas and bellinis, teams played games to win parts and tools used to assemble bikes. This helped us to make environmentally friendly modes of transport available to those in the community who might not otherwise have access.
Tackling the Challenges of Crafting Eco-Conscious Events
Planning sustainable events comes with challenges. Sometimes moving the needle will take extra effort. Often, this also means it’ll take more budget as well. Be realistic in your expectations, but don’t get discouraged either. You may have a wish list of 15 items but only get approval for 7…well that’s more than the previous year, so don’t stop there! Your company and your planet will thank you for being positive and persistent.
Making your organization more eco-conscious may also take some convincing. Budget concerns aside, some leaders may be resistant to fully embracing sustainable event strategies. You may need to go the extra mile to prove that what you’re doing is important and impactful. Before your next event, define your metrics for success. These can be as simple as reducing the amount of waste per event or as complex as offsetting each event’s carbon footprint by a certain percentage. Interview some of your leaders (including your biggest eyebrow raisers) and find out what their concerns are as well as some of their broader business goals. If you can report back on what you’ve accomplished in a meaningful way and tie your work back to the organization’s vision and objectives, you’ll be sure to get boardroom buy-in!