Have you been asked to plan an eco-friendly event but aren’t sure where to start? More and more clients are requesting events with lower carbon footprints, but it’s not always easy to parse out the eco-friendly strategies that truly make a difference, and which ones are just for show.
Events, whether they’re personal celebrations or corporate meetings, tend to be wasteful and leave a high carbon footprint. That’s because people are coming from all over, food is often wasted, and the pressure to provide swag or gifts lead to a lot of items that just end up in a landfill.
So how can you start to plan events that are more eco-friendly? Read on for our top six tips for planning events that are less wasteful, more sustainable, and overall better for the environment.
The label “eco-friendly” has transformed from an environmental necessity to a popular buzzword. Companies love to tout sustainable initiatives as a way of gaining positive publicity. As a result, there are many “green” products that aren’t actually eco-friendly at all.
For example, event coordinators might choose bamboo cutlery advertised as biodegradable. The truth is that unless an item says “certified compostable,” it just ends up in the landfill with everything else. Bypass the guesswork and try a certified product like VerTerra that makes it easy to compost items like flatware and cutlery.
Choosing an eco-friendly venue starts with considering the location. One of the most negative impacts an event can have on the environment is a result of transportation. Of course, if guests and staff are coming from across the country or world, you can’t avoid the majority of the resulting carbon emissions. One step you can take for long distance events is to minimize the amount of local transportation needed by choosing a venue close to hotels, or close to the airport.
If people are only coming from across town to the event, you can still reduce carbon emissions by choosing a venue near public transportation. You can further discourage personal vehicle use by choosing a venue without parking, therefore encouraging the use of public transportation and carpooling.
Once you’ve chosen a location, look for venues that are dedicated to reducing their carbon footprints. Features you can look for are the use of renewable energy sources (like solar panels), the use of LED lights, and a commitment to eco-friendly waste management like recycling and composting.
Everybody needs to be on the same page in order to plan an event that is truly eco-friendly. That means choosing vendors that either already have eco-friendly options in place, or vendors that will work with you to create a more sustainable event.
From the caterer to the AV system to the photographers, look for vendors that have the ability to choose environmentally friendly options. For example, can the spotlights illuminating the stage at a conference be LED lights? Is the photo booth creating unnecessary waste with single-use plastic props?
An important part of any eco-friendly event is waste management, and it’s important that all vendors are on the same page about what materials go to recycling, compost, and trash.
Pro tip: Keep all of your waste bins bundled together in every location you have waste bins. If recycling is across the room from composting, guests will just throw out whatever they have in the nearest bin. Keeping bins together — and clearly labeled — helps guests sort their waste correctly.
Food waste is a huge issue for events, because it can be difficult to gauge how many guests will attend and how much food they will eat. To minimize food waste, opt for finger foods and small plated portions. If you are going with a buffet, talk to your caterer about minimizing the amount of times food is refilled.
Vegetarian and vegan options are a great way to reduce the carbon footprint of your event, because meat is very resource-intensive. The bonus is that your menu will also be more cost effective.
Leftover food is inevitable at the end of any event. Work with your caterer to ensure that there is a plan in place for donating leftover food. This is also a great opportunity to highlight any partnerships your client might have with local organizations.
Just as important as the menu itself is what it’s served on. Single-use plastic is an obvious bad choice for an eco-friendly event, because plastic can stay in landfills for years. Because of this, some caterers opt for ceramic dinner plates and metal silverware, but the resources needed to transport and clean reusable flatware and silverware can also be detrimental to the environment.
The best option for reducing the carbon footprint of your event’s menu is to use certified compostable flatware like VerTerra Fallen Leaf dinnerware. Using compostable serving ware means that guests can simply compost plates along with food scraps in the same bin.
The big ticket items like catering and waste management will make a big difference in creating an eco-friendly event, but the small details can add up:
People love to feel like they are making a difference, so why not highlight your sustainability efforts at the event? For example, a wedding can include signs highlighting the recycled elements of the event, or a conference can include sustainability in the event’s mission statement.
Even waste management can be a learning opportunity, with signs educating guests on why it’s important to segment waste. Highlighting sustainability in your event increases buy-in from everyone, encouraging every guest to think about how they can reduce their carbon footprint at the event.
Looking for a stylish and eco-friendly alternative to plastic plates? VerTerra’s stylish serving platters and dinnerware fit in with every decor, and help create an eco-friendly event. Click here to view our catalog!
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