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Event orchestration | 6 June 2016

Four Tips To Save The Planet And Your Budget

Cheryl Lim

A startling statistic by MeetGreen shows that a typical five day conference with 2,500 attendees consumes up to 62,500 disposable plates, 87,500 napkins, 75,000 cups and 90,000 cans or bottles. Given the extensive amount of logistics used for event planning, it is no surprise that the event planning industry has a huge impact on the environment.

In light of the negative impact that events can have on the environment, some organizers are interested in producing sustainable events. Not only can this help to lessen the negative environmental impact of an event, but it can also serve to inspire event attendees who are made aware of the innovative techniques used to create an environmentally friendly gathering.This article will show provide readers with sustainable event planning tips to create a stunning and environmentally friendly experience. 

1. Devise A Sustainability Strategy

As with every event, articulating goals to key players involved is a prerequisite for a successful event. It is important that vendors, caterers, venue managers, exhibitors, speakers and sponsors understand your intentions well from the very start of the process. Having all aspects of event management aligned with your goals will make it easier for implement an eco-friendly strategy.

If you are new to organizing a sustainable event, a useful framework to find sustainable event planning tips is the APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Event Standards. The purpose of the Standards is intended to help event organizers create more measurable goals. A good example to refer to is IMEX America, a global tradeshow which has made it a priority to integrate environmentally friendly practices by tracking their efforts using the APEX/ASTM standards.

It is always important to keep track of the impact of your efforts, especially if you are new to organizing a sustainable event. For example, by not printing invitation programmes for the International AIDS Conference, the International AIDS Society realized that they were able to save up about $15,000, while also reducing the event’s environmental footprint.

Since the organizers of the AIDS Conference were data-driven, they were able to quantify the positive impact sustainability efforts had on the event.

2. Select A Green-Certified Venue

Site selection plays an important role for event organizers in going green. With the endless tasks you have as an event planner, sourcing for facilities that already adopt sustainable practices has a great influence in achieving your goals more efficiently. Some sustainability credentials organizers can look out for include LEED, ISO, Green Key and Green Seal.

Before choosing a site, review some of these questions:

Is the venue accessible?

As one of the largest environmental impacts of any event tends to be delegate travel, having your venue centrally located will greatly reduce the carbon footprint of the gathering. Encourage attendees to travel by public transport by incentivizing them with discounted public transport tickets. If public transport is not available, you can also organize a shuttle service or a car-share scheme for travel between the airport, venue and accommodations.

How is the food sourced?

Green-certified venues often partner with environmentally responsible catering companies to ensure that food is locally and responsibly sourced. This saves you the trouble in sourcing for external catering companies and selecting a menu that best fits your goals!

Does the venue hold supplies on site?

Transportation of equipment and furniture for an event can considerably impact the environment. Venues offering in-house technical equipment and support, like staging and AV can reduce the need for such trips. Other supplies to consider are eco-friendly event materials such as recycling bins, recyclable plates and glasses. If you have to outsource such tasks, try to use a locally based company to reduce travel footprint.

Is meeting in person necessary?

Video conferencing and virtual events are less labor intensive and can achieve wider distribution through the Internet. For example, Cisco Live, an event which provides their attendees with a virtual option to attend, avoided generating 7,550 million tons of carbon dioxide by hosting 3,200 virtual-only attendees at a recent event. If you are hosting an event with few participants, a virtual event could be preferable to an in-person event, at least as far as the environment is concerned.

3. Cater Responsibly

Event planners pride themselves on providing more than sufficient food for event attendees. It is however, an inconvenient truth that on average, half or more of the snacks and food left ends up in the trash.

To reduce food waste, here are some best practices event planners can adopt:

  • Start by reviewing data from previous events to determine what types and quantities of food to order. Avoid over-ordering and instead aim to provide just the right amount.

  • Choose in-season food that can be easily sourced from local vendors to lessen the carbon footprint. As vegetarian diets have a 30% lower environmental footprint than non-vegetarian diets, incorporating a higher ratio of vegetarian meals can take your sustainability efforts to the next level. 

  • Replace disposables with reusable crockery, glassware, and cutlery where possible. 

  • Use water refill stations instead of purchasing bottled water. Making the switch from 500,000 bottles of water allowed Oracle to save $1.5 million.

  • Do not forget that your event attendees can potentially affect your sustainability goals. To gauge the amount of food you should order for your attendees, it would be good to send them a reminder to update their attendance a week prior to your event. 

4. Reduce waste when creating event materials  

One of the main pitfalls of event organizers is wasting resources on printing event related materials. Many times such materials can either be recycled from previous events or recreated from available resources.

Eliminate excess usage of paper: Opt to communicate with your attendees electronically. Develop digital assets, such as emails, websites, virtual invitations, agenda and announcements to promote your event and to inform event attendees.

You can also offer admission through e-tickets or identification cards to save the hassle of your attendees having to print their tickets.

Event Design: Good event design is the key to every event and hosting a sustainable event can definitely go hand in hand with event aesthetics.

When thinking of how to enhance the artistic flair of your event, begin by looking into environmentally friendly sources for your supplies. From recycled paper to vegetable dyes to biodegradable balloons to living plants, your event can be environmentally friendly and look just as eye-catching.

LED light bulbs also require much lesser energy to run and thus have a longer life; choosing energy-efficient LED light bulbs can help you to achieve your event lighting goals at a lower ecological and economical cost.


Instead of approaching sustainability as an afterthought to planning a memorable event, event planners should focus on sustainability practices from pre-production to post-production. Though it is difficult to give an entire event an eco-friendly overhaul, integrating some sustainable event planning tips as outlined above is sufficient to highlight your eco-friendly efforts as a company and leave a positive impression on your attendees.

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