No one can do everything, but everyone can do something: what is the events industry doing to be more sustainable?

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Climate change is the greatest risk facing us all

The race to create a net-zero futureproof world is on. As countries begin to recover from the last 20 months in the Coronavirus pandemic, we must take the opportunity to tackle climate change at the same time. To keep the temperature of the planet under control – limiting its increase to 1.5 degrees. The science dictates that by the second half of the century, we should be producing less carbon than we take out of the atmosphere. This is what reaching ‘net zero’ means. It’s an important indicator that we are all serious about getting carbon emissions down now.

Even so, we’re going to need much more. There is now a small window of opportunity before effects are irreversible on our planet. In the next six months we will need to see big policy decisions from all around the world: ending coal power, phasing out polluting vehicles, making agriculture more sustainable, tackling deforestation and supporting developing countries with funding to help tackle climate change. We cannot wake up in 2029 and decide to slash our emissions by 50% by 2030.

Conferences and Carbon Emissions: The Impact of Climate Change Behind the Event

As the effects of climate change continue to be felt worldwide, now, more than ever, industries are looking for ways to make greater efforts in reducing their carbon footprints and as a result are creating sustainability plans. The Events industry is far from innocent when considering contributions to carbon emissions within our environment. Events and conferences can generate significant emissions and frequently output wasteful materials. 

The single biggest contributor to an event’s carbon footprint is travel. While international events are fantastic for bringing a diversity of people and perspectives together, the event industry must understand the impact those attendees are having on the environment. It is key to note that travel isn’t just flights, it accounts for the travel to and from the event of all attendees whether they are local or not. The majority of people who attend an event will have to use cars, Uber, buses, trains etc to reach the venue. The average conference attendee produces over 170 Kilograms of CO2 emissions per day.

A large contributor to the increase in carbon emissions is waste from events and meetings. It is no secret that events can use a huge amount of paper, marketing materials, agenda and brochures, ‘SWAG’ items and many more items that after the event has finished will end up as waste in a landfill. For example, a 3-day Conference for 1000 people creates 5670 kilograms of waste, over half of which will go directly to landfills.

The area of carbon emissions that has gained more attention over the last couple of years is food production. Many people and industries are understanding the positive climate impact of a plant-based diet, so why are food production contributes to a staggering 37 per cent of global greenhouse gas, showing our diets have a massive impact on climate change.

There is no ‘planet B’: How is the events industry tackling climate change

Actions speaker louder than words. Instead of the events industry seeing themselves as significant contributors to the problem, companies should be finding ways to lead the fight against it. 

Measuring these aspects can reveal opportunities for lower-carbon alternatives. For example, is it necessary to fly a speaker halfway around the world for a 30-minute speech? A lower-carbon alternative would be to host a virtual or hybrid event or even a carbon-neutral event. Before Covid-19, many companies were hesitant to go virtual, as they believed that there would not be as great of a response from attendees on their event experience. But after the forced transition to going virtual, many companies have seen the added benefits of a virtual event experience, including for complete mitigation of both travel and food waste. Although this is a great alternative, many event companies are sceptical about going 100 per cent virtual, this is where hybrid and carbon-neutral events come into play.

Catering to the climate is key to reducing emissions

An overwhelming amount of CO2 emissions are associated with the agricultural sector and the rearing of livestock. By serving plant-based menus at events, organizers can dramatically reduce carbon emissions and provide sustainable food for attendees. An alternative instead eliminating all meat alternatives are things such as:

  • Reducing meat and cheese on menus (Food production accounts for nearly 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions, with nearly half of that coming from meat and dairy production).
  • Choose a venue that prioritises sustainable food and beverage procurement such as local and organic suppliers.
  • Reducing waste by giving all leftovers to charities.
  • Choose fruit juices (like apple juice) produced in the UK.
  • Eco-friendly alternatives are great ways for events and conferences to reduce their waste such as;
  • Alternatives to flip charts such as dry marker whiteboards or digital whiteboards.
  • Check if the venue offers digital, rather than paper-based, signage.
  • Re-usable name badges that can be collected at the end of an event and recycled.
  • Consider eco-friendly alternatives to meeting giveaways.
  • Edible bowls http://www.munchinnovation.com/.
  • Avoid any ‘green washing’ venues.

Venues and Events Sustainable Vision and Practices 

At Venues and Events International we are passionate about the future of the Planet. In a world where sustainability is more important than ever. As a business, we have embraced the principle of thinking green in all we do, whether that be in the office or our responsibility to share our knowledge and expertise with clients and suppliers.

We are proud to announce our Greengage ECOsmart accreditation that reflects our commitment to both understanding as an events company what we can do and putting these practices into place. To ensure we are continuously updating our practices, at Venues and Events International we have a dedicated sustainability committee. This committee is dedicated to promoting green initiatives, as a business by; regular sustainability awareness training sessions for our staff on how to minimise our carbon footprint, reduce waste and promote recycling. Finally, to expect our suppliers to act in the same way and to actively engage within the industry to promote a greener approach to meetings and events.

Our recommendations…

Furthermore, we recommend and encourage our clients to go green where possible. This can begin at the start of the journey with us. At Venues and Events International, we recommend “green” venues wherever possible. We partner with several venues and hotels that align with our company’s sustainable vision. Venues and Events International has a detailed and large range of green venues including those that are certified EcoSmart, like us.

When our clients are hosting an event or meeting, we also propose sustainable alternatives such as virtual or hybrid meetings or propose eco-friendly themed alternatives when planning events. Planning a virtual event eliminates the need for guests to travel, thus helping to minimise the amount of CO2 emissions that come with attendees using personal cars to travel and the need for air-con to ventilate a crowded venue. Our event managers build all our websites in house.

Your website will be bespoke to your event, adhering to your brand guidelines and specific event requirements. Eco-friendly alternatives and measures are always at the forefront of our minds. From pop-up events and exhibition stands made from recyclable materials or using apps to replace name badges, paper handouts and presentations. Food wastage is accountable for a large part of climate and that’s why at Venues and Events we choose dining options that keep an eye on reducing their food wastage.

Finally, Venues and Events International help provide carbon offsetting for our clients. At our company, we like to use www.carbonfootprint.com. This company can self-assess your business carbon footprint, thus moving forward in the future can offer carbon offset schemes using high-quality international carbon reduction projects.