First, an admission: crafting a 100% zero-impact gathering is almost impossible. However, there are plenty of ways to tackle the environmental and social issues that afflict our planet. I’ve been mulling over these issues for years. Especially now when there’s no way back. #timetotalk
From the landfills and oceans, the animals and back to our cities, living and working spaces, and tables, the amount of environmental havoc is shocking in scale. As event organizers and meeting planners, we can make a contribution to more sustainable practices.
When we organize an event, a meeting, or a conference, we need to be aware that any material we create, use, and distribute –catering, promotional materials, etc.– end up somewhere after we’ve used it. How often has a lanyard you had brought home from a seminar ended up in a drawer piled up over some passes from previous events? How many pens have you accumulated this past year from work events and shows? It often feels like every event aliments a relentless cycle of consumerism.
Fortunately, there are some other ways to approach capitalism purposefully while making a positive impact.
Excellent eco-friendly practices to consider
1. Ditch Paper for Digital Supports
Many events still produce enormous amounts of paper waste, despite the fantastic digital solutions available for communications, sponsorship, and programming. Go digital, and if printing is still necessary, at least make sure to use recycled paper.
2. Serve Just Enough Food
If you have worked in a supermarket, at a restaurant or for a catering company like I did, you know well enough how much food goes to waste at the end of the day. Hence, order just enough food for the number of your guests and work with caterers who share your philosophy. Also, if you ask your guests in advance about their allergies and intolerances you can prepare food accordingly. Finally, if there’s any food waste, don’t throw it in the trash, but donate it to a local charity.
3. Choose Recycled Materials
Pens, lanyards, cutleries, bottles are usually all made of plastic. If there a way for you to switch to recycled materials, do so. Objects made of recycled cardboard, graphite or bamboo are not just more eco-friendly but also a good promotion for your brand. Plus they can always be customized to your taste and corporate needs.
5. Give Away Reusable Objects
MAD Symposium, the renowned culinary event organized by NOMA, opts for a sustainable approach to hydration, meaning no plastic bottles. Instead, all participants receive glass bottles, which they can fill from water stations placed on site. MAD Symposium deserves a thumbs-up for the plastic cut. It’s a smart move from a branding perspective as well. Considering how often people are going to use bottles every day, giving away a glass bottle is a way to promote your brand for a long time after the event has ended.
5. Go Local
As we know, conferences and events produce tons of waste. If you want to start a conversation about sustainable practices, make sure to include your local community. For example, why not commission some custom-made objects to local artists or design a menu together with local eateries? If you know that you have international guests, this approach will help you promote the local design, art, food, and hospitality scene to the world, while reaching your sustainability goal.
6. Walk the Talk
I once attended a conference about social design that didn’t excel in anything but the volume of plastic packages and giveaways. Running a zero-impact event is nearly impossible but if you call yourself “sustainable” make sure to walk the talk.
“You will positively influence others’ actions through living your values congruently.”
Those are a few ways to improve your standard practice. If you’ve implemented any of those, let’s continue the conversation on social media.
Disclaimer: I’m not affiliated in any way with the brands mentioned above.
You’ve reached the end of this blog post, and there’s no lead magnet. However, if you thought this article was useful and you want to keep receiving new content from me in your inbox, then you’re very welcome to subscribe to my newsletter below.