What is Sustainable Event Management?

Today, we’re sharing some tips on how to plan a greener, more sustainable event. This is an aspect of event planning that’s increased in importance in recent years, and we see that trend continuing as we move out of the COVID era, and in-person events return. 

Sustainable event management means incorporating environmental and social responsibilities in your event plan to support goals like reducing the impact of your event, and maximising the benefits to the community. 

 Let’s explore a few steps you can follow to plan a sustainable event. 

How To Plan a Sustainable Event 

Just as planning a COVID-safe event requires additional considerations, resources and precautions, the most sustainable events are carefully planned from end to end so each aspect of the event has minimal negative impacts. Here’s how you can do the same. 

 

Look For a Sustainable Venue 

One of the first tasks is to seek out a sustainable venue for your event. You can look for venues with sustainability certifications such as the LEED and BREEAM certifications, or the Green Building Council Australia’s Green Star. These certifications are only attainable if a building meets specific criteria as outlined in official standards such as ISO 9001:2015. 

If you’re unable to secure a certified venue for your event, you can still take proactive steps to reduce the event’s impact. For example, you could choose a location that’s easily accessible by public transport, or is within walking distance of the city centre. You could also provide incentives to attendants who walk or cycle to the event rather than drive. 

You should consult with the venue owner to discuss sustainability considerations before selecting your venue. Some sustainability considerations to discuss could include the venue’s energy sources and efficiency, catering and supplier choices, water supply, and waste disposal.  

Recycle and Reduce Waste  

Nothing is sure to rile up your event’s attendees like overflowing bins and poorly managed waste. You can avoid this by reducing the amount of single-use tableware and packaging. Consider swapping out that single-use swag bag or handout for something that’s reusable (such as a tote bag).  

Another way to reduce waste is to ensure people are aware of how and where they should recycle. This begins with your pre-event communications and should extend into signage, recycling infrastructure and comms during the event. 

Reduce Your Event’s Carbon Footprint 

Thinking about how to minimise your event’s environmental impacts in a holistic sense is one of the most powerful ways to create a sustainable event. Here are a few ways to reduce your event’s carbon footprint: 

  • Use renewable energy sources for power generation 
  • Choose a venue that’s easily accessible by public transport 
  • Reduce food waste by implementing composting or other systems for repurposing food 
  • Use biodegradable materials instead of plastic for packaging 
  • Implement clear recycling policies and infrastructure
  • Reduce paper usage by focusing on digital marketing 

 The biggest benefits will come when you are proactive and focus on sustainability as early as possible in the planning process. That can mean choosing to work with sustainable suppliers, and ensuring your event communications clearly outline your sustainability focuses and goals so that your guests know what to expect when they arrive. 

Examples of Green Events 

Planning a green event? There are many factors to consider, but the good news is, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. From intimate festivals to huge sporting events, forward-thinking event planners have led the way with planning and managing events with a clear focus on sustainability. Here are a few examples to take some cues from.  

1. A Path to Zero Carbon
In 2019, HESTA’s “Path to Zero Carbon” event was produced by Perfect Events. Former Vice President and guest speaker, Al Gore inspired the room with what a transition looks like to a low carbon future. Perfect Events ensured the event was sustainable through working with the client and the venue to have the event carbon offset, we certified all suppliers with environmental compliance and took on board all of the incredible insight that Al Gore provided during his key note. We were then able to further educate the Perfect Events team and work to make all of our other events as sustainable as possible.

Perfect Events’ CEO Liliana Sanelli & Head of Operations Rebecca Adams with “A Path to Zero Carbon”
event guest speaker Al Gore, 2019

2. Byron Bluesfest
 Byron Bay’s famous Bluesfest has been at the forefront of sustainability in Australian music events for more than a decade. The event has received multiple awards for championing sustainable initiatives such as recycling food and waste products via partnerships with local farmers, and ensuring the local wildlife (including koalas) are well protected.
 

3. Falls Festival
The multi-location Falls Festival is known for its innovative no-flush, no-water, chemical-free toilet systems. This is a huge step towards minimising water use, and the waste is also turned into usable compost. There’s also a strong communication strategy in place to inform attendees of sustainability initiatives. 

4. Oktoberfest
Munich’s world-famous beer festival welcomes millions of partygoers each year, and is a pioneer for sustainable large events. Oktoberfest banned disposable tableware all the way back in 1991, and today the event continues to search out the greenest solutions for energy, food and recycling. 

5. Burning Man
Burning Man’s ‘Leave No Trace’ policy is a good example of proactive communication prior to the event. Organisers instruct attendees to leave the location as they found it, and encourage proper planning so that only essential items are brought onto the site. 

6. London 2012 Olympic Games
Events don’t come much larger than the Olympics, and the 2012 edition hosted by London was a paragon of sustainable event planning and event management. The event received widespread praise for its efficient use of infrastructure, including legacy planning for newly built facilities, hiring rather than purchasing of equipment, and use of colour-coding to ensure compostable waste, recyclables and non-recyclables were properly organised and processed. 

 

Why Are Sustainable Events Important? 

Today, there’s a greater focus on the environment, climate, and social responsibility than there has been in prior generations. Modern research suggests that attendees, staff, and volunteers prefer to be associated with brands that take sustainability seriously. 

A 2019 study showed that two of the top three most important initiatives for music festival attendees in the UK were environment-based: waste reduction and eco-friendliness were voted for by 62% and 57% of respondents respectively. Other factors like increasing the variety of activities at an event or the number of places for photo opportunities received far fewer votes. 

Moreover, a 2021 survey by Deloitte states that nearly half of Millennial and Gen Z respondents had ‘made choices over the type of work they are prepared to do or organisations they’d work for based on personal ethics’. 

So the votes are in, and people—especially younger people—are siding with brands that take sustainability seriously. And if you aren’t already seriously looking at how your events can be more sustainable, it’s time to get started. Remember to start from the beginning of the planning process, and consider how you could include more sustainable practices both in your plan and during the event, every step of the way. 

 Want to learn more about hosting a perfect event? Explore more of the latest articles on our event planning blog. If you’re looking for someone to provide all the expertise and planning for your next sustainable event in Australia, get in touch with us today!