A lot of event planners dream of “going green” with an event but never go through with it. We don’t blame them- event planning is already an almost around-the-clock job, so adding sustainability to already overflowing the list feels daunting. But we’re here to show how you can make your green dream a reality without breaking the bank or running over schedule. If we want to make sustainable events a norm in the industry, we’ve got to make them practical for event planners. We’ve come a long way in this regard, but we have a long way to go. We want to do our part to integrate sustainability into the event world, so we’ve done some extensive research into the topic. Here are some of the best (and easiest!) ways to throw a high-quality sustainable event your attendees will remember for years to come.
How to Choose a Sustainable Venue
Since your entire event will be planned within the fundamental structure of your venue, let’s start by helping you choose an ideal venue for sustainable events. For the most tangible proof that your venue fits your values and your audience, do a little simple investigating. Does this venue have any sustainability certifications? There are myriad types of certifications a venue can be awarded. Look for certifications that relate to accomplishments in environmental management, corporate social responsibility, and leadership in sustainability for hospitality industries.
Some certifications- and a few thoughtful questions for the owner- will tell you whether the venue in question has been consistent in sustainable efforts. Does the venue continuously invest in educating their employees about sustainable practices? If you answered “yes” to these questions, there’s a good chance you’ve picked a winner.
How does you venue manage waste so that it doesn’t end up in a landfill? Your venue should have an effective waste diversion system that allows for recycling and composting as much as possible.
Sustainable waste management relies heavily on eco-friendly accommodations. Does your venue use (or support the use of) electronic signage to avoid paper materials? Does it use (or show a willingness to use) small paper napkins instead of larger ones? For larger events, such as corporate conferences at large industrial hotels, you can encourage sustainable practices among your guests. A few calls to local hotels or major industrial venues will tell you who is most committed to preserving the environment and supporting sustainable accommodations.
Now that we’re getting into the nitty-gritty, let’s talk about how you can best set up green accommodations at your live event.
Get Practical- Without Getting Your Hands Dirty
One of the fantastic things about technology is that we can afford to be eco-friendly without getting our hands dirty. Going green for your next event could mean something as simple as reducing the amount of resources you use, and choosing reusable products. Reusable cookware, glasses, utensils, and swag bags can be acquired easily at reasonable prices. And of course, all disposable products can be recycled at no added expense to you.
When it comes to your decor, more and more event planners- and attendees- are deciding that eco-friendly is best. Buying decorations made from 100% recycled goods can actually be easier on your budget, especially if you purchase these goods from Etsy stores, where creative quality comes at low costs. Also, there’s always the option to donate some reusable products or one-time-use products leftover from your event.
Are you hosting an outdoor event- or an indoor event meant to replicate an outdoor setting? For just a few fun examples, an outdoor concert or indoor Cinco de Mayo party could benefit aesthetically from natural products such as lush flowers, potted plants, and whole fruits and vegetables. Potted plants, flowered necklaces, and other pretty flourishes can double as party favors. After all, a huge part of sustainability for party planners involves using products that will outlive your event. Not to mention the power of sustainable edibles! As health awareness rises, people are making better food choices, even at live events.
Source Your Event Locally
Also on the food/decor topic, invest in energy-conscious lighting, heating/cooling, and grilling options. If you’re not sure quite how to do all this on a limited budget, consider going locally green. (In fact, consider going local either way because it’s a great way to support your community and make it more sustainable). Get started by sourcing locally-raised meat products, purchasing locally-grown produce, and drinking locally-produced beverages at your event. An extra incentive for you: Keeping food and drinks local reduces shipping and packaging costs and is overall less expensive. It’s also an eco-friendly choice because it reduces the amount of gasoline used in the transportation process. Plus, you’re boosting your local economy.
And remember, as an event planner, hosting sustainable events helps your brand. According to a recent study, 66% of global respondents will pay more to work with eco-friendly brands!
Greenlight Eco-Friendly Entertainment
Entertainment for eco-friendly events is becoming much more popular on small and larger scales. At Coachella, one of the biggest, star-studded festivals of the present day, there were raver-powered DJs who engaged the crowd in energizing their sets. (Now, we’re hardly trying to sell Coachella as a sustainable festival, but the point is that sustainability is a growing trend that is catching on with even big industry names). At these Coachella performances, energy was generated by a playground with an adult-sized seesaw, swings, bicycles, and hand cranks- all of which fed into a lithium-ion battery! Lithium-ion batteries are commonly used for electrically powered vehicles and portable electronics. They are expensive, but interestingly, with better production technology, the price has decreased exponentially over the last decade. These days, we’re looking at about $176 per kWh- which is still a lot, but this article is for event planners with all types of budgets. If you’ve got the means, sustainable live music is worth it!
If you don’t have the means, which many of us don’t, there are other awesome options. Why not look into hiring an acoustic or walkabout band for your event? Acoustic sounds add ambience to outdoor events, weddings, wine festivals, and countless other kinds of events. Conjure to mind an art exhibit held on a sprawling lawn beneath the stars. These events are often interactive, so loud, pulsing music only serves to distract attendees from appreciating art and mingling with the artists. Jazzy, bluesy walkabout bands are another option for an event like this- and of course they work for louder, wilder parties, too. Walkabout bands make music feel more interactive, especially when we’re talking about rock or alternative music experiences, which are supposed to feel intense and engaging.
And let’s not forget the sustainable value of consuming music digitally. Doing so reduces the CO2 footprint of music by 40-80-%. Also, consider the economics here. In economics, it is understood that some activities create negative effects for unrelated third parties. For example, when CDs were still popular, the trade disadvantaged consumers because transportation taxes did not raise enough money to reverse the effects of the CO2 output. Playing music electronically at sustainable events virtually eliminated that particular problem.
Also, think about music festivals and other outdoor events. If enough of us, as event planners, adopt more sustainable entertainment practices, the overall effect could be a reduction in catastrophic weather events. Considering the fact that a vast majority of Americans are now afraid to purchase homes near the beach due to dramatic increases in dangerous storms and severe flooding, it’s easy to see how weather can influence outdoor events. People are much more likely to buy tickets to an outdoor music festival, carnival, or party by the beach if the weather consistently improved.
One international entertainment company for sustainable events, Scarlett Entertainment, provides walkabout and acoustic bands that play anything from classical to jazz to Top 40 hits. Some examples of their inspiring creations: 100% biodegradable latex balloon installations in Switzerland, a Recycling Fashion Art Show in Portugal, and a walkabout wooden couple in the Netherlands clad in costumes of 100% Eco-certificate wood!
If you prefer much more conventional entertainment at your sustainable events, Scarlett Entertainment also has digitized versions of these- and you can follow in their footsteps. For example, having photo booths and featuring GIFS at entertainment and corporate parties is a fun way to add sentimental value. Instead of printing the photos on the spot, all content can be instantly emailed to guests.
A stroll down any crowded boardwalk in the summertime will tell you that people haven’t left their love of caricature drawings in the 80s. Well, now they’re available in digital form, which eliminates the use of paper. These beloved silly renditions of yourself and your loved ones can also be emailed to guests immediately.
When planning sustainable events, never underestimate the power of the great outdoors. In the summer months, take advantage of the fresh air, natural lighting, and scenic views in your area. (Bonus: Outdoor events hold ample opportunities for Instagrammable photo ops your attendees will like, share, and tag you in). At nightfall, light an ambient fire or use power-saving lights.
Partner Up with a Transportation Service- or Organize Your Own!
It’s a well-known fact in the event industry: Ridesharing is an invaluable asset to events, and that includes sustainable ones. Part of the reason ridesharing has become so popular is that it’s a more environmentally friendly option. As a whole, millennials and Gen Z’s care about the environment. You can drastically reduce the number of individual cars on the road to your event by partnering up with ridesharing companies like Uber or Lyft. Both Uber and Lyft make it easy to set up an official drop-off/pick-up spot. Guests simply use a promo code or click on a link to request a ride within minutes.
If you want to take it a step further and reduce the number of cars coming and going at your event altogether, we applaud you! Whether your event is large or small, you can organize your own transportation. Why not rent a few vans for your team to transport attendees from local airports or hotels? Doing so could largely reduce the strain on the environment caused by carbon emissions.
Promoting Sustainable Events
Every event planner knows that even the best events would be nothing if no one knew about them! Marketing strategies and promotions can make or break an event, so if your event is sustainable, make sure your audience knows it. Briefly summarize your sustainable values on your event page and incorporate them into your brand’s mission statement. But don’t stop there- unless you keep the conversation going, very few people will remember that your brand and event practices sustainability. We recommend holding interactive conversations on social media about what sustainability means to you, and how you plan to incorporate it into your next event.
Want to be heard on a larger scale? You should. Engaging in a large-scale discussion about sustainable events across multiple social media pages doesn’t only help your brand, but encourages eco-friendly practices as a whole. To expand your audience, reach out to an influencer who promotes sustainability, operates a sustainable brand, or has sponsored other sustainable events or products. This doesn’t have to be an individual who is sponsoring your next event or partnering up with you in business (although that’s an ideal situation that can be made a reality with enough perseverance and networking skills). It can simply be an influencer who could benefit from your promotion of their products or online personality. In return, they share your sustainable event, and consistently creatively incorporate it into some of their posts until your event goes live- and hopefully, long afterward!
We hope we’ve been able to provide you with some fun, practical ideas to get started with. If you’re still uneasy, take a deep breath and know that it’s normal. Planning sustainable events can be overwhelming even for beginners and seasoned pros alike. But you can do it, and your efforts will benefit both the environment and your brand. Our advice is to start slowly. If all you implement is a few simple ideas from this list, the contribution you’re making to the environment is no less important than any other! Restoring our eco-systems and reversing the effects of environmental damage takes a village, and no effort is too small. We wish you the very best of luck with your sustainable event!