sustainable event

Going green? Six tips for a more sustainable event

Topic: Insight / / by Kate Denny

Events are the perfect way to engage, inform and entertain your clients, colleagues and wider networks. But how great are they for the planet?

Sustainability is a hot topic and making it a focal point of your event offers benefits for both the environment and your PR. It may even help to cut costs, too.

While many may think that “going green” requires a complete overhaul of their current event logistics, the truth is that even the smallest of steps in the right direction can make a big difference. From coffee cups to renewable power, here are six cost-effective changes that can have a big impact on your event’s sustainability.


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    Concentrate on coffee

    Each day, the UK disposes of up to 7m paper cups – fewer than 1% of which are recycled. Scale this up globally, and coffee waste is a major environmental problem. Cups dumped in landfill could take up to 30 years to break down – and as anyone who’s sat through a particularly arduous keynote will attest to, caffeine is the fuel for many an event.This is one area where event organisers can significantly minimise waste. You could use 100% recyclable or compostable cups from a company such as Frugalpac (ensuring that they are recycled), or consider recycling your event’s cups with a service such as that offered by Simply Cups, who reprocess them into second-life materials.Alternatively, branded, reusable KeepCups will serve a dual purpose: they’ll help to reduce this coffee cup mountain and act as a branded souvenir that delegates will continue to use long after they have left.Work with your event organiser to understand the recycling facilities at the venue, first. This will determine which approach will work best for your stand.

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    Team up with a renewable energy supplier

    Events require a great deal of power; so why not team up with a renewable energy supplier? It’s a tactic that will ensure great press for both parties. If the venue has no sustainable energy supply, hire solar or other renewable generators instead – particularly useful for outdoor events. You’ll know that you’re doing your bit for sustainability, and should guarantee some positive sentiment from attendees too, even before the event takes place.

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    Choose sustainable suppliers

    Suppliers chosen with sustainability in mind need not cost the earth. Search out an events organiser with the ISO 20121 standard, which shows that they have an accredited Event Sustainability Management System in place, and consider a venue close to public transport to encourage delegates to ditch their cars. This will be more likely if you highlight its accessibility on your event’s communications, as well as detailing walking and cycle routes to the venue.For a truly sustainable event, work with an event agency with a good local supply network. This will cut your carbon footprint and help support local communities simultaneously. Where possible, opt for suppliers that have ISO 20121 in place or, if not possible, those for whom sustainability is key. You might also consider recycling your stand components locally at the end of the event – thereby reducing travel emissions even further. Many charities accept stand components as donations.Encourage exhibitors to work with sustainable suppliers too: eco-flooring options, recyclable fibres, and reusable stand elements, for example, as well as focusing on digital rather than paper-based content.

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    Keep an eye on your carbon footprint

    Set carbon goals before the event. At the start of planning, make yourself accountable; this will make you more likely to stick to your plans.But just what should the scope of your footprint calculations be? It could simply be the energy used by the event itself – including mobile generators, fuel used by the company’s vehicles, and emissions that will be created by the waste from the event. It could go a step further and include mains electricity and fuel at the event venue.Or, it could go further still, and take into account transport used by employees – both for passengers and for products and equipment, emissions embodied in the creation of products for the event, and even delegate travel emissions. The scope is up to you – and will determine your event planning from the outset.It’s a case of looking at on-site emissions versus total emissions. While targets can easily be set – and met – for elements such as build work, waste management and staff and crew travel, total emissions from other elements such as long haul delegate flights and high delegate numbers may take more work to control.If you’re finding it difficult to set targets for your event, seek help. Rapiergroup offers a benchmark reporting service for clients seeking to measure and improve their carbon impact.

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    Focus on food, too

    Keeping delegates, exhibitors and employees well fed and watered is a must for any event. Various degrees of sustainability are possible here; both the production and transportation of food and drink have a considerable impact on the environment.Sustainable food is not just about the distance that the food has to travel; it can also impact on the local economy, and on health. Choose local suppliers who use local ingredients, where possible, as fresh, local and seasonal ingredients will require less energy to produce and fewer food miles to transport.Organic and Fairtrade choices can cement your sustainable credentials still further, while a 100% vegetarian event will help to reduce carbon emissions. Consider also choosing suppliers who will avoid disposable packaging, and eliminate bottled water for water dispensers to save on transport and resources. Food waste is a significant problem of itself. Some event organisers even build worm farms to deal with theirs!

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    Review your performance

    Finally, it’s important to recognise that event sustainability is an ongoing process. By measuring and recording your sustainability performance after each event, you can commit to improving your efforts at the next. Doing so provides positive PR opportunities on an ongoing basis, and needn’t be difficult. Rapiergroup works with MeetGreen to offer our clients a sustainability calculator for all events – making benchmarking and measurements simple.“Going green” doesn’t need you to make wholesale changes to the way in which your event is run. Simply choosing suppliers with the relevant ISO standards and focusing on making small but significant changes where possible will make a real difference. These small changes can serve as a bedrock for future events – and the gateway to even more shifts towards ongoing sustainability.

Looking for award-winning design, strategy and management for your event or exhibition – and with sustainable credentials too? Take a look at the quality standards to which Rapiergroup adheres.

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About the author

Kate Denny
With over a decade of experience within the marketing and events industry, qualified with a BA Hons in Public Relations, Kate has a strong background of integrated B2B and B2C projects for high profile blue chip clients. Kate plays a key role in strategy planning, client development, event management, video production, content and creative generation, speaker coaching, and ROI measurement. Kate is a strategic thinker who makes impact within her role, with broad-based sector experience (including Automotive, Finance, FMCG and Telecoms) which has included working with clients such as Barclays, Whitbread, UBS, Cadbury and Peugeot.

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