Event Planning, Done Sustainably

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How many events have you been to with plastic water bottles and eating utensils? Have you thought about the impact of all that trash on the environment? A growing number of event planners are becoming aware of their ability to minimize the environmental impact of these grand gatherings. A recent webinar on sustainable practices for event planners shared some helpful tips on how to reduce an event’s environmental footprint, while publicizing the benefits.

The webinar was hosted by The Communications Network (ComNet), which says it will practice what it preaches at its own upcoming annual conference. And they are not alone. The Events Industry Council plans to release new event sustainability standards soon, including a checklist, tools, and roadmaps for planners. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has already demonstrated, in its successful LEED green building program, how to “walk the walk, take the incremental approach, and meet people where they’re at” in the words of Ryanne Waters, a content project manager with USGBC and one of the webinar presenters.

Other presenters from (r)evolve, an organization committed to zero-waste and a full-circle economy - spoke of the four principles of event sustainability:  

  1. Share responsibility for communicating sustainable practices

  2. Environmental practices: conserve energy, reduce waste, manage supply chain

  3. Labor practices, health and wellbeing

  4. Economic practices: partnerships, impact on local economy

In other words, a holistic approach to event planning. The webinar moved on to the nuts and bolts of staging a sustainable event, from pre-show discussions with the vendors (Vegan?  BYO water bottles? LEED hosting venue? Composting?), to implementation, and post-show tracking and evaluation. Often overlooked in the planning process, they pointed out, is the value of communicating the organizers’ sustainable values to the public. Many good questions were fielded in the Q&A portion of the webinar, which was recorded and posted online for all to see.

Donna LiuComment