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10 Tips for running sustainable events

Interested in more eco-friendly, zero-waste, sustainable events?

Debbie from Tabitha Eve recently asked me to write a blog about how sustainable the events industry is…initially I winced! I have spent years saddened by the amount of waste in events. HOWEVER, the industry and all the passionate people who work within it have been working insanely hard to ensure the events industry has as little impact on the environment as possible.  Here is a snapshot and our top ten tips for running eco-friendly, ethical and sustainable events:

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The Venue

Most venues are passionate about their own Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies and will happily shout about it!  They often have great recycling initiatives onsite, use renewable energy, source their food and drink from local suppliers, and ensure their supply chain meets their standards.  Just make sure you are asking about it… 

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Goodie bags

    Having a plastic bag stuffed with paper leaflets is (thankfully) becoming a thing of the past. A great plastic-free and zero-waste alternative is to go digital.  Almost everyone has a smart phone and can access event apps, there is a lot of tech out there to support attendees in accessing relevant information.

    If you are used to giving your attendees a gift, make sure it’s relevant and useful.  There are lots of companies offering eco-friendly, plasticgreen alternatives – keep cups, pens made from disused rubber tyres. Some companies have wiped the gift altogether and instead donate the money to a charity.

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    Name badges/lanyards

    These don’t need to be single use.  As a plastic-free, zero-waste alternative there are event apps which allow you to have your badge on your smart phone (scannable access control etc).  Or you can look into using wearable tech.  Check out Blendology for an awesome, sustainable and truly interactive badge.

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     The Showguide

    Go digital! Nobody needs or wants to carry around an event bible. Include it within the app, or allow people to download or access it from your website.  You can include interactive maps and way finders in various places around the venue to help attendees navigate the floorplan and conference sessions.  Also… if it’s digital you’re able to UPDATE it and make changes… squeeze in that last minute sponsor for some extra revenue!

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    Exhibition stand design

    Shell scheme is eco-friendly and sustainable as it’s a modular system which can be adapted (within reason!) to fit within a set space and can be reused time and time again.  For those building their own stands (free design), please consider how you can reuse it all or certain elements.  We saw an amazing stand built entirely out of giant Lego bricks.  Not only did it look striking, it could be repurposed for almost any size and shape.

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    Pull the plug! On power, not the entire event (thanks Boris!)

    Ensure that the venue entirely powers down over night to save electricity and reduce light pollution (make sure it is safe to do so, and give everyone proper warning of this and within set times).  A venue full of kit on stand-by still draws down power and is wasteful.

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    Know your suppliers and their supply chains

    Make sure that sustainability and ethics forms a vital part of the tender process. They need to demonstrate their own CSR policy and have the fire and passion regarding the environment.

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    Roll out the red carpet and pave the way...

    Just make sure it’s recyclable.  Similarly with signage and banners, ensure they can either be reused again and again (avoid printing a year/date on signage if at all possible), repurposed or made from fully recyclable, plastic-free materials – cardboard is great (indoor use!) and you can also get some great flat pack cardboard furniture too.

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     Catering

    Catering forms such a large part of an event and often can make or break an event (always try a venue’s coffee before signing the contract!) but often grabbing a quick bite to eat or a coffee significantly impacts landfull.  Ensure all catering outlets are using zero-waste, plastic-free, compostable items. Does the venue have water fountains so you can refill your own reusable water bottle? Can you buy a reusable “keep-a-cup” for your coffee or tea?

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     DONATE! One (wo)man’s waste is another (wo)man’s treasure! 

    We actively encourage, have seen and heard of, some wonderful initiatives to pay it forward. Donating carpet to community initiatives (Homeless initiatives/Beaver/Scout halls), taking any left over food or edible items from goodie bags to food banks, donating drapes (which have to be fire treated to be used at an event) to not-for-profit theatre companies.  Furniture being donated to schools.  The list is endless.  If it looks too good to throw in a skip then it most likely IS.  Engage with local groups and communities and support them.

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    We could go on and on about how we can continually improve and we continue to do so by asking the right questions. The biggest factor is that everyone is accountable, not just the organiser.  I’ll just summarise using Tabitha Eve’s awesome strapline… "If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito" #bethemosquito.

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