With environmental concerns becoming increasingly urgent, the event planning industry has the unique opportunity to shift how we think of events and lead the way toward sustainable practices. Think about it: As an event professional, you hold the power to create memorable experiences for attendees while minimizing your event’s carbon footprint.
Sustainable event planning isn’t just a trend; it’s a responsibility that organizers can embrace to make a positive impact on the environment, the community, and the overall experience. Here’s how to plan greener events for a more sustainable future.
Reduce waste in your planning process with Planning Pod by streamlining communication, reducing paper waste, and effectively managing events.
How do you plan a sustainable event?
When it comes to event planning, sustainability goes beyond recycling printed materials or reducing single-use plastics. It encompasses a holistic approach that considers the social, economic, and environmental aspects of an event.
By incorporating eco-friendly practices into every stage of event planning, professionals can effectively create memorable events that are good for the planet and good for the people. If you’re not sure where to start, comprehensive event planning software like Planning Pod empowers event organizers to make more sustainable choices for a seamless, eco-friendly planning process.
The four principles of event sustainability
On average, events create nearly 2.5 pounds of landfill waste, per person, per day. Fortunately, following the four principles of event sustainability, also known as the “event sustainability wheel,” can help event organizers understand the key areas to focus on when planning and organizing sustainable events.
These principles guide event professionals in considering various aspects of sustainability to create positive impacts on the environment, society, and the economy. The four principles are:
- Shared responsibility
Environmental responsibility focuses on the ecological impact of an event. According to the Events Industry Council, event organizers and suppliers share the responsibility of implementing and communicating sustainable practices to their stakeholders to plan eco-friendly events.
- Environmental sustainability
This principle focuses on minimizing the use of resources, reducing waste, and protecting natural environments. When it comes to sustainable event planning, it’s essential to consider your event’s energy efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable transportation options, its contribution to carbon emissions, and the conservation of water resources.
- Social and cultural integration
This principle emphasizes the social and cultural aspects of your sustainability efforts. It involves integrating events into the local community, respecting cultural heritage, and fostering inclusivity. Engaging with local communities, supporting local businesses, and protecting the safety and well-being of event attendees.
- Economic viability
Economic sustainability involves ensuring events are financially viable and contribute positively to the local economy. This principle encourages responsible financial practices, optimizing cost management, and generating economic benefits for the host community and stakeholders.
Waste management strategies
Waste management can make a huge difference in your environmental impacts. Fortunately, implementing sustainable waste management strategies can help contribute to a healthier planet.
- Rethink single-use products
It’s no secret that single-use cups, plates, and cutlery can create a significant amount of waste at events. Consider swapping them out for compostable or reusable options. If reusable isn’t feasible, provide clear signage for recycling and composting so attendees know exactly where to toss their waste.
- Reduce food waste
Food waste is a major issue at events. Work with catering companies to plan portion sizes carefully, and consider partnering with local food banks or charities to donate excess food. Compost leftover food scraps to close the loop and create nutrient-rich soil.
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle
Prioritize reducing waste at the source by choosing products with minimal packaging and discourage vendors from handing out excessive promotional materials. Reuse whenever possible—decor, signage, and even leftover event items can find new life. Finally, make recycling accessible by placing recycling bins throughout the event venue.
Sustainable event swag
Everyone loves event swag, but you don’t need to be wasteful to make an impact on your attendees. With some creativity, eco-friendly swag can leave a lasting impression on attendees and the environment.
- Prioritize quality over quantity
It’s time to break the cycle of tossing aside piles of cheap, low-quality swag. Invest in fewer, but higher-quality items that attendees will use (think: reusable water bottles). Think about swag that aligns with your event’s theme or purpose—bonus points for items that have a longer shelf life.
- Choose eco-friendly materials
Swap out conventional materials for sustainable alternatives. Opt for items made from recycled materials, organic fabrics, or bamboo. This way, you’ll send a clear message that your event values both style and sustainability.
- Create interactive experiences
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and create swag experiences. DIY kits, crafting stations, or even live customization at the event can engage attendees and make their experience more interactive.
Although we’re living in a digital age, there’s something magical about well-designed print materials that can’t be replaced. Here’s how to craft print and signage strategies that capture attention, reflect your event’s vibe, and keep sustainability in mind.
- Use digital communication
Go paperless by embracing digital invitations, event websites, and mobile apps. Providing event information, updates, and materials digitally can make a huge difference in waste management, especially for large events.
- Keep signage minimal
Whenever possible, event planners should avoid information overload. Design print materials with a clear focus on the essentials. Keep it sleek, simple, and impactful to make the best use of your resources.
Eco-friendly event location
Choosing a venue is one of the most important aspects of your event, and planning a green event requires researching different venue options. If you’re planning virtual events, in-person event, or hybrid events that incorporate both, here’s how to make the best choice.
- Choose a sustainable venue
Research different venue options and choose a venue that values sustainability. Look for LEED-certified buildings, outdoor spaces with minimal ecological impact, or venues that offer eco-friendly amenities. If you’re setting up your own space or utilizing tents, look for renewable energy sources that reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
- Use venue management software
Staying organized doesn’t have to involve physical invoices, checklists, and event orders. When you use venue management software, you can easily communicate with vendors digitally, build event orders, and collect online payments for a smoother (and greener) planning process. You can even use a digital event floor planning tool to quickly create to-scale layouts and diagrams while eliminating physical copies. You can even share digital copies with the on-site setup staff.
- Make it virtual or hybrid
Skip the event space altogether with virtual and hybrid events. Virtual events minimize waste by cutting out the need for paper materials, food and beverage, and emissions caused by attendees traveling to the event. It can also help to significantly cut costs that you can redistribute to other parts of your budget and open your event to a much larger audience!
If you’re striving to plan greener events, it’s important to keep attendee engagement in mind. While reducing your event’s negative impact on the environment, you’ll also need to create a memorable experience for your attendees.
- Educate and engage attendees
Want to take your sustainability efforts to the next level? Educate and inspire attendees about sustainability during the event. Set up interactive displays, workshops, or speakers on different eco-friendly topics.
- Opt for digital marketing
Go digital with your marketing efforts and swap out printed flyers and posters for digital screens and online marketing tools, like social media, email, and pay-per-click ads. Digital marketing not only reduces paper waste but also helps you reach a wider audience online.
- Use paperless registrations
Event registration processes can go completely paperless with online registration forms and ticket management systems. Attendees can register digitally, receive e-tickets, and have event details sent directly to their email.
Green vendor choices
By selecting vendors who align with your sustainability goals, you can significantly reduce the environmental impact of your event. Here’s how vendor choices can help you plan more sustainable events.
- Partner with local vendors
Work with local vendors, suppliers, and artisans to reduce transportation emissions and support the local economy. In addition, choose local caterers who offer organic food, source ingredients locally, and minimize food waste through careful planning.
- Choose renting over buying
Consider renting items like furniture, decor, and equipment instead of purchasing new ones. Rental services reduce the demand for new products and minimize waste.
Strategic event transportation
Simple transportation practices can help you make a positive impact on both your event and the environment while making life easier for your attendees.
- Minimize the transportation impact
Encourage attendees to use public transportation and other alternatives, such as carpooling, biking, or walking to the event. Whenever possible, take steps to provide clear information about transportation options and offer incentives for eco-friendly travel choices.
- Offer shuttle services
If your event is far from public transportation, consider providing shuttle services. Shuttles not only reduce individual car usage but also make transportation more convenient for attendees.
- Choose accessible venues
To effectively minimize your event’s transportation impact, consider transportation logistics from the get-go. Choose event locations that are easily accessible by public transportation. This not only reduces emissions but also makes attending your event more convenient for attendees.
Whether you’re going zero waste or looking to minimize your event’s impact, your attendee’s contributions matter. Highlighting their contributions can create a sense of community—and recognizing what attendees bring to the event can enhance their experience and foster a deeper connection.
- Track waste reduction metrics
Some event planning solutions include features that track waste reduction efforts. This way, you can provide attendees with quantifiable data on how your sustainability initiatives are impacting your event’s ecological footprint.
- Send digital thank-you cards
Express appreciation for attendees’ contributions and sustainability-focused practices through personalized digital thank-you notes.
You can follow these guidelines and others, such as the ISO 20121 event sustainability standards, to look for tips, tricks, and inspirations on how to make your events better for the earth and the people who live on it.
Solutions for streamlined, sustainable event management
Intuitive event planning software is a powerful tool for event organizers to drive positive change and make a significant impact on the sustainability of events. With Planning Pod as your event management toolkit, you’ll be able to save time and resources on running the backend of your business so you can focus on the things that matter—like making your events more eco-friendly.
Ready to see Planning Pod in action? Learn more about our efficient event planning platform to plan more sustainable events.