Event Guide

Sustainable Event Planning: 23 Green Ideas

May 1, 2024
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In our bustling world of glitzy events and grand spectacles, there's a profound realization among event planners and attendees alike: our events, as magnificent as they might be, leave a sizable carbon footprint on our planet.

While the charm of events is undeniable, the environmental toll, from heaps of waste to exorbitant energy consumption, is becoming harder to ignore. But here's the silver lining: Sustainable Events.

Sustainable event planning is about intertwining core principles like the triple bottom line (People, Planet, Profit) with the heart of every event. It's about taking those thoughtful steps that not only enhance the event experience but also show attendees that you care about Mother Earth.

As we navigate through this guide, we'll explore the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) tailored for events. We’ll also dive deep into sustainable event ideas to craft occasions that are as green as they are grand. Because, in today's event industry, sustainability isn't just a buzzword—it's the future.

Sustainable Event Ideas

Let's skip the jargon and jump straight into what’s important. We've got 23 simple yet impactful ideas that'll make your event shine, all while being kind to our planet. Let's dive in!

Eco-Friendly Invitations

Eco-friendly invitations have surged to the forefront of sustainable events, and it's clear to see why: Traditional paper invites, despite their aesthetic charm, carry a hefty environmental price tag. Many conventional printing methods utilize chemical-laden inks, which, when discarded, release harmful substances into the environment.

The production process also devours forests and expends energy which isn’t too kind to Mother Earth. Not to mention, once the event's done, these paper details often head straight for landfills.

Digitally Interactive Invites

However, the digital age has brought us some excellent alternatives. Platforms like Evite, Paperless Post, and Greenvelope allow event organizers to send interactive invites that not only slash paper waste but also provide fluidity; changes in event details, like venue shifts or time updates, can be communicated instantly.

This not only ensures guests are always in the know but also negates the need for reprinting and redistribution, emphasizing efficiency in communication while championing sustainability.

Post-Consumer Recycled Paper

For those who still value the touch and feel of a physical invite, fear not! Using post-consumer recycled paper or ones crafted from alternative fibers is an eco-friendly workaround. This choice doesn't just look good; it actively reduces landfill contributions, conserves precious energy, and curbs greenhouse gas emissions.

Seed Paper

But perhaps the most enchanting of eco-invites is seed paper. Imagine an invitation that, post-event, becomes the birthplace for wildflowers or herbs. These invitations don't end up as waste; they reintroduce life, adding a touch of green wonder to any garden. Talk about turning event reminders into lasting, blooming memories!

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Eco-Friendly Venue Selection

Different event venues cast varying ecological shadows; some might be lavish palaces of excess energy consumption, while others champion eco-friendly principles. When selecting your next event space, consider the environmental implications, from the energy it guzzles to its approach to waste.

Opting for sustainable event venues ensures you're treading lightly on the environment. Take location, for instance. A centrally-located venue can significantly reduce attendee travel, resulting in fewer emissions.

A venue situated at a central spot also makes it more accessible for a majority of your attendees. This centralization means that attendees might be able to walk, cycle, or use public transportation, thereby slashing the need for multiple individual car rides or long-distance travel.

Furthermore, ensuring accessibility via public transport can drastically lower individual car usage, minimizing the event's carbon footprint.

But the commitment to green doesn't stop at the venue's doors. On-site, it's crucial to have robust recycling and composting solutions, turning potential waste into resources.

And remember, the alliance with your venue is a partnership. Collaborate with them to minimize the invasion of single-use items, and together, champion a waste-reduction manifesto. 

Conduct Events in a Virtual or Hybrid Setting

Navigating the future of event planning has ushered in a digital revolution, reducing our carbon footprint significantly. By shifting to virtual event platforms, we cut back on the environmental tolls of transportation, catering, and physical setups.

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Virtual Events

Events held virtually not only slashes the carbon emissions associated with transportation but also reduces other environmental impacts, such as hotel stays, venue energy consumption, and even the incidental litter that large crowds can produce.

Furthermore, the absence of physical venues means no excessive use of electricity for lighting, air conditioning, or sound systems. Catering, a substantial aspect of most events, often results in massive food wastage and single-use cutlery and dishware; going virtual sidesteps this issue entirely.

Platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Eventify event app software or Cisco Webex have made the transition smoother, offering features tailor-made for virtual gatherings

 

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Hybrid Events

For those not willing to go entirely digital, there's the hybrid event model: a blend of in-person and virtual. This format not only retains the warmth of human interaction but also caters to a wider, global audience. 

On one hand, there's the tangible ambiance: the thrill of live performances, the buzz of real-time networking, and the irreplaceable energy of a live audience. This captures the essence of what many cherish about events. Yet, by integrating a digital component, it becomes vastly more inclusive. 

People from across the globe, who might be hindered by travel restrictions, budget constraints, or other commitments, can participate from the comfort of their homes. This widens the event's reach and can dramatically increase participation and engagement.

However, the real win is in the balance it strikes: keeping the environmental benefits of virtual events while catering to those who value traditional settings.

In essence, both virtual and hybrid models serve different needs but converge on a common goal - crafting sustainable, memorable events that tread lightly on our planet. You can use hybrid event platform to manage everything for you.

Green Transportation

Each mode of travel, be it by car, plane, or train, leaves a carbon footprint, contributing to a significant portion of the event's total emissions. The different modes of travel vary greatly in their carbon footprint, with air travel often being the largest offender.

In the quest for a sustainable event, understanding and reducing transportation-related emissions becomes paramount. One effective way is to promote public transportation.

By encouraging attendees to use buses, trains, and subways, event organizers can make a substantial cut in the event's overall environmental impact since every car or plane journey adds to the greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming.

You can collaborate with local transit agencies and offer discounts or promotions to attendees. This not only minimizes the carbon footprint but also adds a community-centric approach to the event — aligning it with broader sustainable development goals. It's a win-win solution that is both environmentally responsible and attendee-friendly.

Solar-Powered Stages

Every event, especially grand ones with flashing lights and thumping music, can leave behind a substantial energy footprint. Traditional stages powered by non-renewable energy sources are not just an environmental concern; they also represent a missed opportunity to showcase commitment to sustainability. Enter the solution: solar-powered stages.

Unlike conventional energy that leans heavily on fossil fuels, solar power harnesses the sun's energy. Solar energy reduces greenhouse gas emissions and our dependence on rapidly depleting resources.

Conventional methods, while effective, come at an environmental cost, emitting greenhouse gasses which contribute to global warming. Relying on such energy sources sends a subtle message about an organization's priorities, especially in an age of increasing environmental awareness. 

On the other hand, by opting for solar panels to power event stages, organizers are tapping into a clean and inexhaustible energy source: the sun. Instead of extracting and burning finite resources, solar panels capture sunlight and convert it directly into electricity without any harmful emissions.

Beyond just the environmental advantages, there's also a financial upside: While the initial investment might be higher, the cost-saving potential in the long run is significant. Plus, a solar-powered stage can elevate an event's reputation, spotlighting a commitment to green initiatives.

Photo by Globelet Reusable on Unsplash

LED Lighting

Lighting has undergone a transformative evolution in the events industry, moving from the flicker of candles and lanterns to the hum of fluorescent bulbs. Today, LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology shines brightest among the available options, rapidly gaining traction in the event space.

One of the foremost reasons for its rise in popularity is its commendable energy efficiency. Compared to traditional bulbs, LEDs consume significantly less power, translating to noticeable cost savings on electricity bills over time.

Furthermore, the longevity and durability of LED lights mean fewer replacements, leading to reduced waste and further cost savings. But the benefits don't stop at sustainability and savings. The adaptability of LED technology is unparalleled, offering event planners a diverse palette of colors, intensities, and dynamic effects.

Whether it's a soft, romantic glow for a wedding or pulsating beats at a concert, LED lights can morph to set the perfect mood, ensuring that events aren’t just sustainable, but also spectacular.

Digital Check-In

In the modern event landscape, the advent of digital check-in has revolutionized the way we welcome attendees. Moving away from cumbersome manual processes, digital check-in represents a seamless and eco-friendly method to record and manage guest arrivals.

By harnessing event technology, organizers can utilize tablets, smartphones, or specialized devices to swiftly register attendees.

QR codes and e-tickets can be scanned in seconds, and any required changes like updating guest details can be done on-the-spot, without the need for reprinting. This not only enhances the guest experience by reducing wait times and human error but also significantly cuts down on paper and plastic waste.

The immediate advantage? A drastic reduction in paper waste and resource consumption. Gone are the days of piles of paper lists and printed badges; with digital check-ins, you can do all that at the tap of a screen.

Additionally, by eliminating the need for sprawling registration booths, you further reduce material waste and the event's physical footprint. Attendees also reap the rewards of this shift, with swifter check-in processes translating to shorter lines and minimized waiting times.

Plus, you can gain real-time insights into attendee numbers, demographics, and other vital data, ensuring a more efficient and responsive event management software experience.

In essence, the modernization of the check-in process not only advocates for environmental consciousness but also greatly enhances the user experience, setting a positive tone right from the event's onset.

Reusable Decor

When we talk about reusable decor, we're referring to event embellishments designed for multiple uses, rather than being discarded post-event.

Single-use, disposable decor has long been the norm, but its environmental costs are staggering—overflowing landfills, significant carbon footprints, and the exhaustive consumption of resources. Transitioning to reusable decor addresses these concerns head-on. Not only does it considerably reduce waste, but it also cuts down carbon emissions and resource use.

From an economic standpoint, it's a win-win; investing in long-lasting decor pays off over time, eliminating the continuous expenses of purchasing new items for every event. Plus, there's the added advantage of dodging those pesky waste disposal fees. With reusable decor, events can be breathtaking, budget-friendly, and environmentally responsible.

Sustainable Water Stations

No one can downplay the importance of hydration, especially at events where attendees are engaged for extended periods. Historically, event planners would stockpile single-use plastic water bottles to ensure guests stayed hydrated.

Sustainable water stations present a proactive solution, drastically slashing the use of single-use plastics. By setting up refill points where attendees can conveniently refill their reusable bottles, events take a stride towards ecological responsibility.

Beyond the evident environmental benefits, there's a clear economic advantage too. When compared to the ongoing costs of supplying endless plastic water bottles, water stations prove to be more cost-efficient in the long run.

The logistical benefits are undeniable as well. Instead of managing the procurement, storage, distribution, and eventual waste disposal of thousands of plastic bottles, organizers have a centralized system. This means less clutter, more space, and a tidier venue, enhancing the overall aesthetic and experience for attendees.

Plus, by reducing plastic waste, events can also sidestep hefty waste management fees. Embracing sustainable water stations thus reflects not just environmental consciousness but fiscal prudence as well.

Photo by Globelet Reusable on Unsplash

Serve Sustainable Food & Beverages

Our food choices echo beyond our plates, profoundly impacting the environment. Every morsel we eat has a carbon footprint, rooted in its production, transportation, and preparation. For instance, buffet options, while tempting in their abundance, often lead to significant food wastage when compared to carefully portioned plated options.

A solution emerging in the sustainable event planning arena is the pivot to plant-based diets. So, what's all the chatter about plant-based? At its core, it's a diet that emphasizes foods derived from plants, shunning or reducing the consumption of animal products.

As vegan and vegetarian lifestyles continue to surge in popularity, they're not just trendy but a testament to heightened eco-awareness.

Adopting a plant-based diet massively trims down our carbon footprint, conserves water and land, and curtails the need for fertilizers, pesticides, and antibiotics. Beyond the Earth-friendly credentials, it’s a boon for our health too.

Such diets pack nutritional punches, reducing risks tied to heart diseases, certain cancers, and obesity. Plus, many attest to feeling more energetic, with improved digestive health. So, the next time you're planning an event menu, remember: sustainability is the best seasoning!

Locally-Sourced Catering

When we talk about sustainable foods, an important aspect of it is locally sourced food, i.e., food that is grown, harvested, or produced not too far from where it will be consumed.

Over recent years, there's been a palpable shift in event catering, with many planners leaning away from global imports and embracing local produce instead. Why? Well, sourcing food from close quarters means we're dramatically slashing the carbon footprint associated with transportation and shipping.

Plus, local produce doesn’t need as many preservatives or layers of packaging, given the shorter distance it travels. But the benefits are not just environmental. Choosing locally-sourced catering directly uplifts local farmers and businesses, strengthening community ties and boosting regional economies.

On the financial front, event planners might find a welcome relief on their budget, as sidestepping hefty shipping and transportation costs can lead to substantial savings. In essence, with locally-sourced catering, we're not just serving food; we're serving a purpose.

Bulk Dispensers

In the landscape of sustainable event planning, bulk dispensers have risen to the forefront. These handy dispensers offer anything from snacks to soaps and stand as a testament to the evolving consciousness of event organizers.

The benefits of this shift are manifold: Firstly, there's a tangible reduction in waste. By sidestepping individual packages, we're slashing our plastic consumption, a move that's kinder to our planet given the detrimental effects of plastic waste. Moreover, when we cut down on packaging, we're also conserving the resources that go into making it.

From a financial angle, purchasing in bulk typically comes at a lower per-unit cost than buying individually wrapped items. Couple that with reduced disposal costs due to less waste generation, and we've got a winning formula that marries eco-friendliness with economic prudence.

Simply put, bulk dispensers aren't just a trend; they're a testament to thoughtful and sustainable event planning.

Compost Stations

When we think of events, few of us consider the waste left behind, especially the organic matter that could have been transformed rather than trashed. This is where compost stations (that break down organic materials into nutrient-rich soil) shine in the world of sustainable events.

These dedicated areas drastically cut down on waste and offer a tangible solution to landfills brimming with organic matter. If it weren’t for compost stations, the waste would decompose anaerobically, producing methane – a potent greenhouse gas.

By composting, we enrich our soils, contribute to the circular economy, and take a positive step against climate change.

But having compost stations isn’t enough.  You need to strategically place them where attendees can easily find and use them and encourage participation. Depending on the magnitude of your event, scaling the number and size of your compost stations is also vital to handle the waste effectively.

In essence, compost stations aren't just bins; they're a commitment to a greener future, one event at a time.

Eco-Friendly Event Kits

At its core, an eco-friendly event kit is a collection of sustainable items provided to attendees, ensuring that the event leaves a minimal ecological footprint. Forget single-use plastics; the trend is now leaning heavily towards materials that last.

Imagine toting around a stylish bag made from recycled or sustainable fabrics, scribbling notes with a pen crafted from recycled materials, or sipping from a refillable water bottle instead of a disposable one. And if you're grabbing a bite? Expect biodegradable or reusable utensils and straws to come as standard.

Even the humble notepad hasn't escaped the green makeover, with many now crafted from recycled or sustainable sources. Such kits don't just minimize waste; they amplify the message of sustainability, making every attendee an ambassador of eco-friendly practices.

Carbon Offsetting

At its core, carbon offsetting is about compensating for the carbon emissions you produce by funding an equivalent carbon dioxide saving elsewhere. Think of it as a balancing act for the environment.

With every event or activity, there's an inevitable release of carbon emissions. It can be   from transportation, energy consumption, or other sources. These emissions, when accumulated, play a notorious role in accelerating climate change, leading to rising temperatures and drastic ecological consequences. Carbon offsetting steps in as a countermeasure.

By investing in projects that reduce or capture greenhouse gas emissions—such as reforestation or renewable energy initiatives—event organizers can effectively "neutralize" the carbon footprint of their event.

In essence, it's a way to take full responsibility for our environmental impact, ensuring that for every carbon ounce emitted, an equal amount is offset, making events a part of the climate solution, not the problem.

Waste Reduction Goals

Events, big or small, have historically been synonymous with significant waste generation, from disposable cutlery to banners and brochures. But as we become more attuned to our environmental responsibilities, the call to minimize event-related waste has never been louder.

Embracing the SMART approach is crucial in this journey. Your goals should be:

  • Specific, pinpointing the exact areas of waste reduction;
  • Measurable, allowing organizers to quantify their achievements;
  • Achievable, ensuring they're realistic and not out of reach;
  • Relevant to the event's nature and scale; and
  • Time-bound, giving a clear timeframe to achieve these targets.

By setting and adhering to these waste reduction objectives, event organizers not only take a step towards a greener event but also set a benchmark for others to follow.

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Recyclable Event Badges

In the bustling world of events, badges have become an integral identity tool, traditionally crafted from materials like plastic or laminates. However, post-event, many badges find their way to landfills, contributing to environmental degradation and amplifying the problem of single-use plastics.

Transitioning to recyclable event badges represents a conscious decision to reduce this environmental footprint. Not only do they help conserve resources and reduce waste, but their adoption also reflects a company's commitment to sustainability.

This forward-thinking approach elevates your brand's sustainable image, showcasing corporate responsibility in tangible terms.

Moreover, while the initial investment in recyclable materials might seem higher, the long-term gains—both in terms of cost savings from reduced waste disposal and the invaluable positive public perception—make it a cost-effective and prudent choice.

Digital Feedback

In the age of technology, digital feedback has emerged as a pivotal tool in event management, revolutionizing the way organizers perceive and analyze attendee experiences.

At its core, digital feedback refers to collecting attendees' responses and opinions electronically, a significant leap from the conventional paper surveys or feedback cards. This shift isn't just an upgrade in technology; it's a sustainable choice.

Beyond its eco-friendly benefits, the efficiency of digital feedback is unmatched. Organizers can swiftly gather insights and analyze data in real-time, allowing for more informed event improvements.

The inherent flexibility of digital platforms means questions can be tweaked or tailored in the midst of an event, catering to live dynamics.

Furthermore, attendees, accustomed to digital interfaces, often find it more convenient to share feedback electronically, leading to increased response rates. In essence, digital feedback is not only green but also a smart, agile approach to understanding event efficacy.

Reusable Tableware

In today's eco-conscious world, reusable tableware stands as a beacon for sustainable event planning. Contrasting the fleeting lifespan of single-use items, reusable tableware is designed to be used time and again.

Their importance is magnified when we consider the staggering statistics: billions of disposable plates, cups, and utensils find their way into landfills each year, many of which don't degrade and end up wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems.

The long-term effects on our environment are concerning, with single-use items consuming vast amounts of resources to produce and lingering in our environment for centuries.

By opting for reusable tableware, events can significantly cut down waste, leading to a lower carbon footprint. Financially, while the upfront investment might be higher, the long-term cost savings are substantial, as the need for continual repurchases diminishes.

Beyond the numbers, reusable tableware offers a touch of class. They enhance the aesthetics of the event setup and provide an elevated dining experience for attendees. In essence, it's a win-win: for the planet, the pocket, and the palette.

Use Natural Lighting

Tapping into the sun's radiant beams, natural lighting means harnessing sunlight to illuminate indoor spaces. This simple yet transformative choice plays a pivotal role in sustainable event planning.

By choosing venues that favor abundant windows or open spaces, planners can significantly cut down on artificial lighting, leading to commendable energy conservation. The resultant reduced carbon footprint makes events kinder to our planet.

Beyond sustainability, there's a holistic charm to sunlight. It showers attendees with health benefits, from elevating moods and reducing eye strain to granting a dose of vitamin D.

Moreover, the golden hues of natural light enhance the aesthetics of any venue, casting a warm, welcoming glow that can't be replicated. In essence, using natural lighting is not just about being eco-friendly; it's about creating an ambiance that resonates with authenticity and warmth.

Sustainable Post-Event Clean-Up

Often, it's the aftermath of events that leaves the most significant ecological mark, with heaps of waste overshadowing the earlier eco-friendly efforts. Leaving behind waste or improperly disposing of it exacerbates landfills, contributes to pollution, and negates other green initiatives.

By emphasizing on efficient and sustainable clean-up, you can minimize environmental impact and carve a reputation of responsibility and awareness.

A well-executed clean-up presents ample opportunities: recyclables find their way back into the production cycle, organic waste can be composted, and certain items might find a second life through repurposing. In the world of sustainable events, it's crucial to remember that a greener ending note resonates just as profoundly as the event's opening act.

Eco-friendly Event Merchandise

When we reminisce about events, the merchandise often stands out: t-shirts, caps, mugs, and countless other tokens. But, these memorabilia, often produced en masse with little regard for environmental sustainability, can leave a hefty ecological debt.

The typical event merchandise contributes significantly to waste, resource overconsumption, and an often underestimated carbon footprint. Enter the age of eco-friendly event merchandise. By embracing sustainable practices, events can transition from conventional trinkets to items that mirror eco-conscious values.

The advantages are threefold: a marked reduction in waste, a significant dip in carbon emissions, and a brand image that resonates with the increasing environmental consciousness of today's world. It's not just about giving attendees a keepsake anymore; it's about giving them memories that don't cost the Earth.

Green Event Branding

Event branding isn't just about logos, colors, or themes—it's an immersive experience that defines the event's essence and communicates its core values to attendees. Over the years, there's been a significant shift in branding practices with a strong drift towards eco-conscious branding.

Traditional branding materials, which often relied heavily on plastic banners, non-recyclable signage, and excessive printed matter, carried with them a not-so-subtle environmental cost. By contrast, green event branding not only reduces these environmental footprints but also brings with it a slew of benefits.

When a brand chooses to portray itself as environmentally responsible, it strikes a chord with an audience increasingly concerned about sustainability. This doesn't just enhance the event's public relations—it deeply embeds a positive perception and a value-driven image in the minds of attendees.

In this age, branding isn't just about being seen; it's about being recognized as a force for positive change.

Conclusion

Each choice we make when planning an event, no matter how small, has an impact on our lovely planet.

Armed with all these sustainable event ideas, you've got the playbook to throw not just any event, but a sustainable shindig that Mother Earth would RSVP 'yes' to. So, why wait? Dive right in, give these ideas a whirl, and let's make our gatherings a little greener, one event at a time.

Eventify is playing a crucial role in making events Sustainable with its technology. You can request demo to learn more about it.

About the Author
Hussain Fakhruddin, tech visionary and founder of an award-winning multinational firm. With 15+ years' experience, Hussain leads a team that's crafted 1500+ top-ranking web, API, and mobile apps, earning acclaim from Adobe and GMASA. Specializing in scalable backends, ensures client apps stand out with an 80% top-ranking success rate.

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