When it comes to conserving resources and protecting our planet, conferences and trade shows have a bad rap. These events are known for having a large environmental footprint thanks to the considerable amount of waste they produce, as well as their typically high attendance numbers. The good news, though, is that it is possible to plan and produce sustainable events that have minimal impact on the environment and use up considerably fewer resources than conferences and trade shows have been known for in the past. By using the list that follows, event planners can ensure the conference or trade show they're producing is as green as possible, and attendees can ensure they're supporting sustainable events.
1. Choose a central location that can be easily accessed by public transportation or walking routes.
When you're choosing a venue for your event, it's important to make sure that you've chosen a location that is easily accessible. Encourage your attendees to walk or use public transportation to access your event. Offering incentives such as discounted admissions or extra swag to attendees who show their train or bus ticket or fare receipt is a great way to promote sustainability to your guests.
2. Provide attendees with a shuttle service from nearby hotels or other points of interest.
In addition to public transportation, providing attendees with a shuttle service to and from your event can help to promote sustainability and reduce the carbon footprint of your event. It's best to choose several nearby hotels or other points of interest as shuttle drop off or pick up zones so that your shuttle can be easily accessed by most attendees. Advertise your shuttle service well in advance by including information on your website and other advertising and provide detailed information such as pick up and drop off times and locations to all attendees.
3. Choose a venue that supports sustainable events and green living.
Look for a venue that encourages sustainability and supports your cause by using renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power and has green initiatives already in place. An environmentally friendly venue may offer attendees with bicycle parking and parking for electric and hybrid cars, as well as a recycling and compost program for waste.
4. Advertise your event digitally.
Social media is a powerful tool that can provide event planners with an excellent option for advertising their trade show or conference. When planning sustainable events, it's important to consider marketing methods and opt for digital advertising using platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter over paper advertising.
5. Choose sustainable products and recycled goods for gift bags.
Swag bags are one of the most exciting parts of attending trade shows and conferences, but unfortunately, these gift bags are often full of non-recyclable items and paper flyers that get tossed in the trash. Ensure you're promoting sustainable events by providing guests with swag bags that include useful and sustainable items. Some ideas include a branded stainless steel water bottle, notebooks made from recycled paper, or a travel coffee cup made from bamboo fibers or other sustainable materials.
While bottled water may seem like a luxurious option for your guests, the amount of waste created by plastic water bottles is astronomical. Instead, provide access to clean drinking water by offering plenty of water fountains or water-bottle filling stations. If you've chosen to provide your attendees with a stainless-steel water bottle in their swag bag, this will give them plenty of opportunities to use it.
7. Only provide attendees with paper goods that are recyclable.
Sustainable events need to be conscious of their paper usage, and that includes the materials that are provided to guests. Workbooks or reference guides should be made from recyclable paper. Events that are serving food should only provide napkins made from recycled paper and consider using glass or plastic plates and utensils that can be re-used and paper or stainless steel drinking straws.
8. Use tablets and computers instead of paper forms when asking attendees to provide information of any kind.
At trade shows and conferences, there is often a need to collect information from attendees. Sometimes this is in order to enter their name into a draw, other times it is to sign them up for continuing education courses or other programs. Instead of providing paper forms and ballots to attendees, choose to have attendees enter their information digitally using a tablet or a laptop.
9. Use double-sided printing on all paperwork and handouts.
When you're providing attendees with brochures or other information that can't be provided digitally, using double-sided printing cuts your paper usage in half and drastically reduces waste.
10. Provide attendees with easily accessible recycling and compost bins.
Planners of sustainable events need to make sure they're creating waste disposal programs that are as green as possible. When planning for waste disposal, make sure that you're providing attendees with recycling and compost bins next to every trash bin. Make sure to clearly label bins and educate guests and staff on which items are to be disposed of in each bin. If you are serving food at your event, make sure to provide ample space for compost.
11. Create a plan to remove and sort all waste when the event has concluded.
At the end of your event, ensure you have planned for enough staff to remove waste from the facility. In addition to waste removal, it's important to make sure that all waste has been discarded into the correct bins, which means you need assign staff to sort all waste at the end of the event to ensure items are recycled or composted whenever possible.
finally: Sustainable Event Certification
In this day and age, a lot of emphasis is placed upon the importance of sustainability and going green. Event planners need to focus on producing sustainable events, particularly in the conference and trade-show industry. Those of us at Convention Nation will soon be monitoring events for sustainability and certifying them as such when certain criteria are met. What events are up to the task?