Sustainable Event Management: A Guide to Creating Greener Gatherings

As an events specialist for a digital marketing and events agency, I’ve had the opportunity to plan and execute a wide range of events, from live music festivals, corporate conferences, sporting events, and brand activations, to private functions.

Over the years sustainability has played a big factor in how we implement our events, as they have a significant impact on the environment. If you follow our blogs closely, you’ll remember that I said in my 10 tips for managing your events blog that I will elaborate on sustainability – here it is. 

Think about the carbon footprint of events – the amount of waste that is generated and the level of energy consumed to keep the lights and sound on. As someone who is energy conscious, and do (what I know is) my part in reducing, reusing, and recycling, I share my passion for sustainable event management and helping clients create eco-friendlier events and conferences. 

Below are 5 areas you can focus on to play your part to reduce your event or function’s carbon footprint and make it more sustainable: 

1| Reduce Waste

Waste is one of the most significant contributors to an event’s carbon footprint. To reduce waste, go digital. Start small by using digital invitations instead of paper invitations – ensure it is the kind of invitation your guests can RSVP on, and that there is little to no need for them to print it out. Take this a step further and use an RSVP app (or if budget allows, build one). 

Catering is also a fundamental area you can reduce waste. If the theme or setup of your event or festival allows, use compostable or recyclable packaging. One up from this is to use reusable plates, cups and utensils. 

2| Choose Eco-Friendly Vendors

Consider the environmental impact your vendors have when you select them for your next event. Choose vendors (where possible) who have a sustainability policy or who use eco-friendly products and services. When it comes to décor, we always opt for a florist who sources locally grown (or grows their own) flowers. 

If you make use of a rental company, choose the one that uses energy-efficient equipment. We often ask our vendors to provide us with a sustainability report that outlines their environmental impact and how they plan to reduce it. You could even use the statistics as part of marketing your event (I mean, who doesn’t like to “do good” or “do their part”. Everyone enjoys a party, but what makes it even better is hosting an eco-friendly party).

3| Incorporate Sustainable Practices into Event Planning and Execution

Most of us prefer to drive ourselves to events, dinners or gatherings. We don’t always realise the impact this has on the environment. Where and when possible, encourage carpools, public transport or shuttles. We have used multiple transport companies in the past, and there is always a solution for every budget. Some events may not even allow guests to drive themselves or are limited in terms of parking space. Ensure you communicate this in your event comms/marketing. 

You can also make use of energy-efficient lighting and appliances, and make sure to turn off all electronics when not in use. If your event is outdoors, or the indoor venue has ample space outside, consider using solar-powered generators or renewable energy sources.

4| Donate. Donate. Donate. 

After your event, consider donating any unused items. According to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in South Africa, 10 million tonnes of food go to waste every year. This accounts for around one third of the 31 million tonnes that are produced annually in South Africa. 

We partner with various organisations to whom we donate food. Speak to your supplier and find out what their waste plan is for each event. Declaration and equipment can be donated to local charities, or you can find non-profit organisations to donate to. Not only does this reduce waste but also helps those in need.

5| Measure and Monitor Your Environmental Impact

It is essential that you measure and monitor your event’s environmental impact. Through the aforementioned reports, smart meters (smart meters provide detailed energy consumption in real-time without a technician’s services), and various environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) tools, you can keep track of your energy consumption, waste generation, and carbon emissions. This information can be used to identify areas for improvement and can be used set goals for future events. Again, this is great content to use for post-event marketing.

In conclusion, creating sustainable events requires a conscious effort. You have to commit to reducing your event’s carbon footprint. If you are interested and/ or conscious, get in touch with us. We’d love to work with you in reducing your carbon footprint for your next event.

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