In honor of Earth Day, we wanted to use a post to share some ideas on how to make your events a bit more environmentally friendly. A four-day national tradeshow can cause 1,874 pounds of emissions per in-person participant. That's equivalent to burning two barrels of oil. The average conference participant produces 1.41.lbs of landfill at event venues each day.
There is a wide range of things you can do to make your event more "green." Below are a couple of tips that range from incredibly involved (likely needing a dedicated staff to manage) to more basic. In looking at these options you need to decide what is feasible given your event, attendees, and budget as well as which would make the biggest impression on attendees.
Reducing the massive amounts of paper generated by events is probably the most obvious move and may be the easiest. As we have highlighted in past posts, more and more attendees are coming armed with tablets to events. With a wired (or....well....wireless) audience, many formerly printed materials such as speaker bios, schedules, sponsor ads, etc., could be distributed electronically. Can you create an app or even just a specific section of the website that houses all of this information? Maybe provide a tent card with a QR code attendees can scan. Think about your sponsorship packages and how can you take more of the signage and ad benefits online not only to reduce paper, but to provide a direct link to sponsor websites and online materials.
Choosing Environmentally Sound Locations
While most event organizers do not have the resources of Oracle to measure and reduce carbon emissions (their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint are detailed in the linked article), there are some common sense steps you can take to reduce carbon use.
Look for LEED certified venues and hotels. There are many options here in DC as well as close-by. Did you know that the Atlantic City Convention Center has the largest single roof-mounted solar array in the United States? These solar panels help power the gigantic facility.
If your audience is based in the western U.S., California venues not only provide great weather, but have strict emissions regulations. Meetings here will inherently be lower in carbon emissions to comply with the state mandates.
No matter where your event is based, choose conference housing that is walkable to your event venue. Provide details on public transport to any non-walkable locations.
Going (Partially) Virtual
Can you convert in-person attendees to virtual attendees? Can you draw in a new audience (without having to increase your physical footprint) by streaming certain sessions? A virtual participant may emit fewer than 2.5K of emissions as compared to the in-person stat of 850K.
Food waste makes up 40% of an event's waste stream. Work with food vendors and venues that have a plan for composting and/or use recycled materials. If your vendor is not able to help in these areas, consider setting up the trash in the food areas with different receptacles for trash, compost, and recycling (see your nearest Whole Foods store for a great example). Make sure the sanitation vendor can handle this multi-stream disposal.
Not only are banners, table covers, and paper materials left behind for trash, many of these items are produced using toxic materials. Consider partnering with an environmentally-friendly printer or related vendor and encourage exhibitors to use their services to produce event materials. How about the cleaning crew - are they using environmentally friendly cleaning products? Think about providing greener alternatives for them to use in caring for your event.
What eco-friendly steps have you done to make your events more green (both environmentally and on the bottom line)?
Image from: www.greeninbklyn.com