Online or On-site: Make Your Events Sustainable

“Sustainability is not a goal to be reached but a way of thinking, a way of being, a principle we must be guided by”

April 22 is celebrated around the world as Earth Day, but shouldn’t every day be Earth Day? When it comes to planning and producing events, C.KAY International views every day and every event as an opportunity to maximize sustainability. We keep our eye on an event’s impact to the environment and community in addition to a client’s business goals and bottom line in every event we produce. That goes for online, hybrid, and the in-person events we are happily starting to work on once again.

Here’s a snapshot of the guidance we give our clients to make their events as sustainable as possible. We emphasize that sustainability is not only good for the planet, it’s good for your bottom line.

Keep going virtual. Online and hybrid events are here to stay, even when big in-person events are possible again. And that’s good news for the environment. Reduced travel means reduced carbon footprint. Online events mean less paper, fewer “trash and trinkets,” reduced energy consumption, and no refreshments left on platters and wasted. Online and hybrid events offer great possibilities for effective, highly sustainable meetings.

Laptop for virtual events

Photo Credit ~ Samantha Borges at Unsplash

Make sustainability integral to the event. When planning the event, consider all elements through the lens of sustainability. Include sustainability as an agenda item of event planning meetings. How can you make each aspect of the event more sustainable? What are the sustainability needs and practices of your clients, vendors, and sponsors? Consider offering event content such as featured speakers and education tracks that tie to sustainability.

Involve attendees in sustainability. In your event communications, highlight what you’re doing to make the event more sustainable and enlist attendees to support the work. You might utilize technology to provide attendee portal to reward sustainable attendee behaviors. Philosopher Marshall McLuhan says it well: “There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.” Engage your attendees as sustainability crew.

Choose sustainable venues. When planning an in-person event, look for venues that incorporate sustainable practices in their space. Examine the venue’s recycling program and how it works to reduce and manage food waste. Consider what meaningful certifications the venue has such as LEED, Green Business, and the ISO 14001:2004 environmental certification.

Avoid throw-away materials. Work with suppliers who have sustainable options for giveaways like swag and name badges. Think about swag from a sustainable point of view. Will it be just another trinket that gets tossed after the event? What might be retained and will further your goals for the event? Make the swag useful. For example, offer water bottles that attendees can refill onsite and continue to use after the event. Corporate or event branding messages and sustainability information can be provided on the label.

Lady waiting for the train with a reusable water bottle

Photo Credit: quokkabottles at Unsplash

Minimize paper usage. Put as much event information online as possible to reduce printing resources and paper consumption. Instead of daily printed schedules, can you offer a QR code to direct guests online for event details? If you’re running an expo as part of the event, encourage your exhibitors to put product/service info online rather than provide reams of product brochures that often end up in the trash rather than someone’s files.

Support local. Work with locally owned and operated suppliers whenever possible. If attendees are coming from out of town, encourage them to stay in locally owned hotels, B&B’s, Airbnb spots, etc. Look for local vendors such as caterers, A/V teams, and transportation suppliers who focus on sustainability practices.

Get sustainability guidance. C.KAY International can advise on a variety of strategies, tactics, and resources to make your event more sustainable. Sustainability and industry organizations, such as the Sustainability Event Alliance and the Events Industry Council offer excellent resources and many local Visitor and Convention Bureaus can point you to suppliers that focus on sustainability.

If you’re interested pursuing innovative, affordable, and effective ways to make your next event more sustainable, we would love to discuss your event goals and ideas.

“Sustainability is not a goal to be reached but a way of thinking, a way of being, a principle we must be guided by.”
— Giulio Bonazzi, Chairman, Aquafil Group

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