It Isn’t Easy Being Green: How to Make Your Conference More Sustainable

It Isn’t Easy Being Green: How to Make Your Conference More Sustainable

The sustainability movement has gotten seriously trendy over the past few years – so much so that we sometimes forget there’s more to it than buying bamboo shoes or Uber-ing a hybrid. Properly applied, sustainability strategies can have a big impact, both in terms of reducing your event’s carbon footprint and raising awareness among attendees. Read on for four great ways to help make your conference a little – or a lot – greener.

Event Production Blog: Use Recyclable Paper at Events

Do Away with Disposables

Among the biggest sources of waste at large-scale conferences is the sheer volume of paper that gets used, from invitations to nametags, signs, printed programs, and more. Luckily, we live in an age when technology offers an easy solution for paper-free events. For example, you can replace invitations with e-vites, employ reusable nametags, and use an app for the meeting’s agenda rather than printing it on handouts – or you can simply email the info out ahead of time. Sometimes, of course, handouts are unavoidable. In that case, you can take a few measures to reduce your paper waste. For example, use recycled paper for your handouts, print information on both sides, and don’t pre-stuff bags – allow attendees to choose which print-outs they need. Best case scenario, though, you’re able to cut out 99% of your paper use. After all, everyone has smart phones these days – why not put them to use?

Event Production Blog: Green Conferences airplanes

Location, Location, Location

Another great way to reduce the carbon footprint of your event is minimizing the amount of travel required for your attendees. We know, we know – you’d love to book your next conference in Hawaii, but Mother Nature will thank you for making a more practical choice. Aim to hold your event in a city that is relatively central for the majority of your attendees and served by direct flights. And don’t forget local travel – arrange for hotels nearby the event space so that attendees have the option to either walk there back every day or take public transportation. For longer commutes, consider providing hybrid cars or other low-/non-polluting vehicles to shuttles your guests to and fro.

Event Production Blog: Educate Conference Attendees

Educate Your Attendees

If any of this is going to work in the first place, you’ll need to lay the groundwork by raising awareness among your attendees that this is a specifically green conference. This isn’t just good PR – it’ll help you accomplish your sustainability goals by getting everyone on the same page as to what you’re doing and how they can help. In your communications with attendees, make sure to emphasize a few specific measures that you’re taking and enlist their help. For instance, set up an electronic registration and check-in system to avoid paper waste; get people to download agendas ahead of time to reduce the need for printouts; draw guests’ attention to recycling bins, and encourage them to opt for reusable drinking containers rather than water bottles; offer rewards for carpooling or taking public transportation rather than driving. You get the idea.


Reduce Food Waste – From Beginning to End

We’re all guilty of it: overloading our plates just because, taking two bites of something and then leaving it to languish. While you can’t always control how much food people pile on their plates, you can make them aware of food waste as an issue by mentioning it as a focus in your sustainability goals and providing composting bins alongside the trash and recycling. Beforehand, take a look at the data from past events to try and gauge how much food you should order, and have a list of local charities or food banks where you can donate leftovers. And don’t forget the logistics! Further reduce your carbon footprint by ordering from caterers who provide seasonal, locally produced menus and using reusable plates and silverware rather than disposable.

David Sonntag
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