How to make your event more environmentally friendly
Events can be the largest producer of single-use plastic, and as organisers, we need to make sure that we are aware of the effect it’s having on the environment.
Since the Blue Planet II finale where Sir David Attenborough opened the world’s eyes to the damage plastics are causing to our oceans, the single-use plastic debate has been immense.
We at Completely Events have become increasingly aware of how the event industry contributes to single-use plastic waste. In 2018 we decided we have to set an example, so we became #ONELESS ambassadors and committed to reducing single-use plastics at all of our events. Many large-scale Exhibitions have since followed.
So how can you organise a sustainable event and still make it great?
We think you’ll agree that we should all try to reduce and ultimately eliminate single-use plastics from events; to help aid that we’ve put together a how-to guide on ways to make your next event more environmentally conscious.
Avoid single-use plastic items
A great place to start is an audit of all the plastics used at your events, split the plastics into single-use and reusable. The goal is to have as much of the plastic products at your event be reusable.
While some single-use plastics might take longer to eliminate as manufacturers switch to different materials, there are some easy targets to make the switch from single-use to reusable plastics.
In 2018 we decided to remove all single-use plastic bottles from our exhibitions; each delegate now gets a reusable water bottle on arrival at the event which they can use and keep. If you’re worried about the cost, you can team up with a sponsor to brand the reusable bottles, an instant win for everyone.
Try removing bottles altogether and replace for water coolers or jugs of water. You might have an even more original idea like these edible water bubbles.
Plastic straws have plenty of environmentally friendly alternatives; edible straws like Lolistraw made from seaweed, reusable Bamboo straws, then there are paper, metal, glass, silicone, or create your own from ice, there are so many choices there isn’t any reason to keep using plastic straws.
One often overlooked area is the plastic wrapping that comes on food items like biscuits and cakes, check with your supplier to see if they can provide goodies packed in cardboard or unpackaged instead of individually wrapped.
Reuse and recycle where you can.
Can your event signage be used again? Most signage is reusable if you avoid adding time-sensitive information like dates and times to them.
If you need signage that won’t be reusable make sure you get it from a printer that produces recyclable signage.
If using event carpet make sure it’s from a company that will take it away and recycle it! We recommend Reeds Carpets, who offer a collection service.
Place recycling bins throughout your event to reduce waste, especially if you have any printed event material.
Think about any other areas you can substitute a recyclable option and consider cutting down the number of paper handouts you provide; everyone has a smartphone so consider how you can offer event handouts digitally rather than physically.
Can you hire crockery and tableware?
A lot of single-use coffee cups are still not recyclable, and they are used at events more than many other places. If you have the chance to hire mugs, then it’s a beautiful option to offer instead of single-use cups. If you don’t like the idea of hiring then consider offering reusable coffee cups, another chance for sponsorship branding.
Think about the bags of potential
If giving out delegate bags, avoid plastic bags. Tote bags and hessian bags mean a lot more to delegates and it’s something that they will use again and again, which is yet another opportunity for sponsorship.
Set aside the extra budget for sustainability
Being plastic-free can come at an additional cost, 8,000 bottles of water can be cheaper than hiring 15 water coolers and cups for a two-day event.
However, the impact your event has on the environment could affect your reputation if someone picks up on how much waste you produce, and you can reduce the increased cost by maximising the sponsorship opportunities, you might even find your costs go down.
Any extra cost is worth it for your conscience, the respect of the industry and ultimately it is the responsible thing to do to ensure your children and their children get to enjoy the natural world.