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environment

Going green to keep delegates keen

Will Richardson, founder of environmental management consultancy Green Element and CompareYourFootprint.com, on how you can make savings going green 

Events are highly visible to the public, typically involve large quantities of materials, energy and waste, and are loaded with logistical pitfalls. The number one aim for planners is an impressive and smooth-running event that meets the high expectations of the delegates.

So, one might think adding environmental standards to the list of the manager’s obligations could seem like just one more thing to worry about. 

In our experience the opposite can be the case – here’s how embedding sustainability into three stages of your events can actually make life easier for you and reduce costs as well as reducing your environmental impacts and enhancing your image.

Begin with what you’re bringing in

Delegate to your suppliers and contractors by developing a procurement policy that includes a simple supplier questionnaire asking questions such as where the materials have been sourced from, is timber FSC, is plastic/paper recycled, is packaging kept to a minimum etc, and score your suppliers against these criteria as well as costs. At the bidding stage ask catering companies to use local food producers and re-usable, recyclable or compostable materials such as Vegware. 

At your next electricity renewal date procure a 100% renewable REGO-back contract – with help from a good broker this should cost the same as or little more than the standard ‘brown’ fuel mix – and reduces your Scope 2 (electricity) carbon emissions to zero.

Make environmental choices that work for your event-goers

Ditch the diesel - hire or buy renewable electric portable generators. Use clearly-signed restricted-opening designated recycling bins with transparent bags. Use electronic ticketing and offer discounted reusable water bottles at the point of sale – to be collected on arrival. Provide free drinking water fountains. Finally, offer 5% discounts on hot drinks for customers with their own cups.

End with what you’re sending out

Use the local infrastructure and charities to run re-use projects – for example at Green Element we coordinated a huge re-use project at the Ryder Cup for Arena Group,
in which astroturf, vinyl and carpet were distributed through the Community Resource Network
for Scotland to scores of charities and social projects in the area. 

This resulted in a third of the material being re-used and positive feedback for Arena Partner. 

A food re-use charity such as FareShare can take leftover food from your event and distribute it to local charities who turn it into meals to help tackle food poverty. 

Ask your waste contractor for a full breakdown of waste streams and destinations and ask for their expertise on improving recycling rates for your next event.

After the Event

Send out an e-questionnaire asking event-goers for feedback about the facilities and ease of recycling - with offer of a discount on their next event if they submit. Close the loop: Set up a meeting with your suppliers, caterers and waste contractors to explore what worked and what can be improved, e.g. did the compostable food containers actually go to composting? Was the timber reclaimed as requested? Feed this information into your next event. 

Build relationships and get your contractors excited about breaking frontiers in sustainable event management.