15 top tips for more sustainable events

The luxury travel and events industries may be facing unprecedented new challenges due to the global coronavirus crisis, but it’s crucial that the focus on sustainability is not forgotten when recovery comes.

Sustainability and CSR remain a key focus for inVOYAGE, and as part of our recent Annual Report, we featured the following contributed article by BCD Meetings & Events Senior Director, Marketing EMEA, John Kelly, which features lots of simple ideas for how inVOYAGERs can make their events more sustainable….

There can be no doubt that incentive trips, meetings, events and travel all have an impact on the environment, but that impact doesn’t always have to be negative. By understanding what that impact is and mitigating and reducing it or engaging in CSR-led activities that make a positive impact during and after our events, we will be heading in the right direction.

I am utterly passionate  about sustainability, but I want to make it clear that I’m not a tree-hugger, eco activist or scientist. What I am is someone that cares about the planet and how the meetings and incentives industry can make a tangible, positive contribution in this area. I also firmly believe that what we need is a million people making small changes, rather than a handful of people making big changes.

So, it’s with that in mind that the overarching theme of my 15 ‘Top’ Tips is that education is key. That can be through the pre-event material you send out (bring your own water bottles as we’ll not be providing anything etc.), to being onsite and advising why, for example, there is no red meat on the menu. People like to feel they are part of a solution so will buy in to this – I promise you.

At BCD Meetings & Events, we’re regularly being asked by our clients for case studies, best practices and advice on how to make their events more sustainable and we’re in the process of building even more content on our website that backs up our 2018 Green White Paper. It’s encouraging that we’re seen as pioneers in this area. However, we fully appreciate that this is far too big a topic for us to handle alone, so we’re really encouraged and proud to be part of the knowledge sharing initiatives that are being driven by inVOYAGE and other organisations.

It’s vitally important to remember that our entire industry is built around engagement and meeting face-to-face. It’s at the heart of everything we do, and we know good things happen when people meet. Here are a few tips to get you started with planning more sustainable events.

*Take a walk through of your entire event when planning and look at every single aspect of it. Ask yourself what aspects of the event can be done in  an eco-friendlier manner. That could be not having single use bottles of water, paper on tables or getting your set built locally rather than shipping it in. Once you start with that mindset then you’ll be in a good place.

*While your event content should be customised to your audience, increase the life cycle of discarded materials by reducing customisation and event-specific branding, such as date and location. Additionally, look at using electronic noticeboards and signage that has an infinite shelf life.

*Educate delegates and attendees in advance that elements of your event are going to be green. That could include a meat-free day in catering, no single use plastics allowed (just remember to advise delegates to bring their own reusable water bottles), or no paper being used. You’ll be amazed at the adoption by delegates once they understand what personal impact they can make.

*Create an App that ensures no paper is used and gives green tips throughout the lifecycle of an event.

*Advise delegates to use public transport or car share to get to and from an event. You could set up your App to allow for a forum on the best travel methods and to share ride options.

*Support the environment and safe working conditions by buying fair-trade products for your programme, such as coffee and tea.

*Work with your venue to reduce food waste. Ensure your delegate numbers and dietary requirements are confirmed as close to the event as possible and the caterers are aware and plan accordingly. Wherever possible produce food that can be donated to delegates to take home or given to local charities. Explain to your delegates about the massive amount of food waste created during an event and get them to be part of the solution.

*Investigate what food and resources are available locally and in season to reduce the food and transportation miles.

*Help reduce emissions of C02 and other harmful chemicals by selecting programme venues that are walkable or accessible by public transport and promote alternatives to single-occupant car trips.

*Select chicken or plant-based food to serve at mealtime. 628,000 litres of water can be saved by opting to serve chicken instead of beef for a 500 person banquet.

*Plan eco-friendly exhibits by providing a list of green tips for exhibitors and an opportunity for them to donate used or excess items for repurposing.

*Choose accommodation that has a sustainability credential, such as LEED or ISO Certification. This confirms their use of green features that encourage energy and resource efficiency. Work with your venue to ensure they know that this is high on your agenda and ask them to be part of the solution.

*Speak with your venue about any similar events that they have going on before or after yours, there may be a chance to share AV or other equipment reducing the need to bring it in twice, this can save money and a lot of waste.

*Introduce a grading system that shows how green your event is. Gold, Silver and Bronze are really simple and you know people will always be striving to push for better results – evaluate and share the results regularly.

*Do something. We can all be part of the solution, but equally we’re part of the problem if we do nothing!

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