Do we really need it?
The first and easiest rule of sustainable planning is this: Less is more. As a result, we should question everything: Do smaller meetings need nametags? Does every meeting need signage? Does this meeting need coffee breaks as part of the overall F&B? Incorporating into your guidelines which size meetings require these and other items will not only simplify the decision-making process but also reduce meeting costs.
One example: 54 event planners gathered recently at the inaugural Sustainable Events Forum in Toronto, where they had the host hotel’s general manager rethink all elements of the standard catering package to prevent food waste. Further, they had ecoRIDES, a transportation company that uses only electric cars, provide their transportation. In every area of planning, always look for green vendors—they are out there!
If we do need it, where does it come from?
To put it another way, “how was this made and what material was used to make it?” This goes for anything you are using for an event; many of us “go electronic” with registration and programs, but what about other essential items? Ask the host venue if it uses recycled or renewable sources. For example, under the guidance of its sustainability manager, Melissa Radu, the Edmonton Convention Centre has purchasing preferences for paper products from vendors that follow Forestry Stewardship Council guidelines.
If we use it, what happens to it next?
Considering how things are produced is important to the planet’s health, but knowing how they are disposed of is just as important. For example, the T-shirts we buy for event staff to wear too often end up in landfill. A few years ago Niagara Falls Tourism procured high-quality, locally sourced scarves and ties for members hosting incoming events in order to reduce the use of disposable wearables. Think about the lifecycle of an item before buying it, and make plans for how it will travel through its lifecycle and then into the waste stream. Two years ago, a corporate client of ours that hosted a Mexican-themed event donated the décor to a local microbrewery, which used it for a Cinco De Mayo event and is still using the lanterns for weddings.
Here are a couple of other things you can do to get a better understanding of the critical nature of sustainability within our business:
Stay educated on climate change. Follow climate scientists on social media, like Katherine Hayhoe on Twitter (@khayhoe). A UN 2019 Champion of the Earth, Hayhoe has a YouTube channel called “Global Weirding,” which is fun and scientifically sound. The website has great information as well.
Talk about climate change with vendors, attendees, and planner colleagues. Groups like Positive Impact allow you to sign up to be an ambassador, or connect with us on The Sustainable Event Forum on Facebook.
Finally, a holiday gift for you: A simple checklist of the 5 R’s to audit and determine how to improve the sustainability of your event. They are: Refuse to use, Replace, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. You can download the 5 R template in Excel and customize it for your needs.
Natalie Lowe is chief disruptor at The Sustainable Planner