The events industry needs a wake-up call, we need to erase emissions one event at a time!
In the world of events, the allure of grandeur often takes center stage. We think the best events have unreal venues, elaborate setups, copious amounts of delicious food, with cutting-edge technology. Although this is still the case, event planners often need to pay more attention to the impact of an event on the environment and adjust their planning to be more environmentally conscious. PCO’s need to shift their focus to providing high-quality events while keeping carbon emissions, waste, and pollution to a minimum. Nothing is worse than being at an event or festival and seeing avoidable waste scattered on the ground or overflowing from bins knowing that much of that waste will be sent to landfill, destined to enter our waterways. Recently, at a marathon race the volunteers were giving small plastic bottles of water out to participants as they passed. Is this the best we can do? It’s true that progress has been made, events are encouraging guests to be more conscious but more radical change needs to be made if we are going to make a real impact.
In recent years, global awareness of environmental sustainability has grown, driven by the looming effects of climate change on our society people are much more conscious about the organisations, brands, and events they support. We must provide a service that aims to serve the people and the planet. We need to continuously improve how we run our events to meet the needs of our clients and our planet simultaneously. As service providers, we are responsible to the community to minimise the damage caused and give back where we can.
This journey towards sustainability does not begin and end at the event itself. It involves considering the entire life cycle of an event, from initial planning stages to post-event activities. It requires integrating sustainable event management practices into every facet of the event, from venue choice to waste disposal.
The questions we aim to answer in this article are:
How our events negatively impact the environment?
How can we calculate our carbon footprint?
How do you minimise your carbon footprint?
Can we organise events that are not only outstanding but also eco-friendly?
In the rest of this article, we will discuss these questions and uncover the steps you need to take to ensure your environmentally friendly event.
1. How our events negatively impact the environment.
Our events, while celebrated for their success, have a significant and often overlooked negative consequence regarding their impact on the environment. To fully grasp the importance of environmental sustainability, we must first recognise the footprint left behind by events and conferences.
Events, when not ethically managed, can create a trail of waste that extends far beyond the event’s end. Plastic, paper, and food are used in staggering amounts, contributing to resource inefficiency. Among these environmental concerns, perhaps one of the most pressing is the carbon footprint issue.
Much like unique fingerprints that we all possess, carbon footprints are the distinctive marks we leave on everything we touch. In essence, a carbon footprint reflects the total greenhouse gases, predominantly carbon dioxide, emitted into the atmosphere as a direct result of human activities. These emissions result from various event-related factors, including energy consumption, transportation, and the disposal of waste.
It is essential that we calculate the volume of carbon emissions created by the running of any event. This way, we can implement different procedures to reduce carbon-emitting activities that damage the environment. At Go West, we are committed to reducing our footprint. Our environmental policy outlines our actions and the improvements we are undertaking.
2. Calculating your event carbon footprint
To calculate your event management company’s carbon footprint, you can follow a similar process to what individuals do for their carbon footprints. Here are the steps to estimate your carbon footprint:
Identify Key Emission Sources: Identify the primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions related to your event management operations. These may include energy consumption, transportation, waste generation, and more.
Collect Data: Gather data on your company’s activities and resource consumption. This should encompass information on electricity, fuel usage, and transportation methods for staff. The venue should have its emissions calculations, which they can easily give you. If they do not, you should reconsider your choice of venue as we want to aim for green supply chains.
Provide Detailed Information: Input the collected data into the calculator, following the tool’s prompts and categories, which usually cover aspects like energy consumption, transportation habits, procurement practices, and waste management. Be thorough and accurate in your responses.
Review and Analyse the Results: Once you’ve obtained your carbon footprint calculation, review the results to understand which areas of your operations contribute the most to emissions. This information will help you pinpoint where to make the most significant improvements.
Monitor and Set Reduction Goals: It’s essential to revisit your carbon footprint calculation periodically to track your progress and validate the effectiveness of your emissions reduction efforts. Set specific reduction goals to guide your sustainability initiatives.
By regularly updating your data and calculating your carbon footprint over time, you can identify new opportunities for improvement and ensure your event management company is actively contributing to eco-friendly practices.
Remember that the accuracy of your carbon footprint calculation depends on the quality and completeness of the data you provide. Being meticulous and forthright when inputting information is crucial to accurately assessing your company’s environmental impact.
3. Strategies to reduce your events carbon footprint
Sustainable event planners can adopt a combination of strategies that may vary depending on the industry, size, and specific operations. Here are some of the best ways to reduce a company’s carbon footprint based on research and testing.
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy:
Research consistently shows that improving energy efficiency is one of the effective ways to reduce carbon emissions. Companies can do this by conducting annual energy audits, upgrading insulation, and installing energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems. It is important to choose a venue that is also environmentally conscious this way you can ensure that the energy is from renewable sources and is being used in the most efficient manner possible. You can do this by asking for the venues environmental policy, this will inform you on the strategy they use to reduce their own carbon footprint.
Events can reduce their carbon footprint by promoting sustainable transportation options for staff and guests. Providing incentives for carpooling, biking, walking, or public transportation can significantly cut emissions. As a considerable amount of the events carbon footprint will be created by transport it is essential that alternative transport options be provided either by organised buses, or by using public transport. Event planners should regularly communicate encouraging them to use public transport, this can be done by providing information on times and routes to and from the venue.
Supply chain management:
Events can influence other links in the supply chain by only choosing to work with environmentally conscious suppliers. This motivates other organisations and creates a knock-on effect through the market, ultimately creating a sustainable ecosystem for business. Analyse the different links in your chain and ensure that all suppliers align with your sustainability goals.
Companies can positively impact by sourcing products and materials from sustainable suppliers. Research by the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council suggests that environmentally responsible procurement practices can lead to lower emissions, reduced waste, and resource conservation.
4. How to organise events that are not only outstanding but also eco-friendly
Do you want the short answer or the long answer? In short, yes! We can organise events that will impress guests while ensuring sustainable goals are met. Here are some of the steps we follow at Go West to ensure that our events are eco-friendly.
Step 1: The pre-planning phase.
Like anything in business, before you start planning, you should set out some clear goals to guide you. These goals should be SMART, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound this way, you can track them over time and adjust your plan where you see fit. Some examples of goals you could set are;
Zero Waste Event: Aim to divert 80% or more of the waste generated by your event from landfills through recycling, composting, and waste reduction efforts.
We are reducing the event’s carbon footprint by 90% using renewable energy sources and minimising transportation emissions.
We are incorporating sustainable food and beverage options, such as locally sourced and organic options, and avoiding single-use plastics.
Educational and Awareness Initiatives: Encourage environmental awareness among participants by organising educational sessions or workshops on sustainability. Aim to have at least 75% of attendees demonstrate improved understanding and engagement with eco-friendly practices during and after the event.
By setting clear and measurable goals, event planners can track their progress, identify areas for improvement, and demonstrate their commitment to sustainability to stakeholders, attendees, and the broader community.
Step 2: Align your goals with specific activities.
Waste reduction: One of the most significant contributors to an event’s environmental impact is the amount of waste generated. Sustainable event planners should aim to eliminate single-use items by using reusable materials, reducing plastic use, and removing paper printing. Food waste is another crucial element; be sure to order food for the correct number of guests and remind guests to tell you well in advance if they cannot attend so you can communicate it with the caterers.
Carbon footprint: Transporting attendees, speakers, and materials to and from events can contribute to emissions and pollution. Event planners should encourage sustainable transportation options such as public transit, carpooling, or biking and consider hosting events in central locations to minimise travel distances.
Sustainable food and beverage options: Food and beverage services at events can generate considerable waste and emissions. Event planners should prioritise local, seasonal, and organic food options and implement strategies to reduce food waste and single-use plastics. Organisations like Refil Ireland are working hard to mitigate unnecessary plastic waste at events. They have pioneered the Tap Map, an interactive directory of all refill stations around Ireland and provide waste-free event solutions.
Educational activities: Have information at the event about the guest’s role in making this a sustainable event. Highlight the idea that it is a collective effort, and we need their help. This can be done before the event in email communications, guests should be reminded to bring their keep cups and use public transport.
Step-by-step guide: Some steps to follow when organising your next event.
Choosing the right venue:
When selecting a venue, event planners should consider factors such as its proximity to public transportation, its commitment to sustainable practices, and the availability of eco-friendly amenities. Investigate whether the event space has a sustainability certification. They might have their own sustainability system, making it much easier to account for the events emissions.
Sourcing food & beverages
When sourcing food you want to choose locally sources, organic and seasonal ingredients. Going with a supplier who supports sustainable and regenerative farming is always a good idea. This way you will be actively giving back to the environment and ecosystems. When serving the food vendors should be told not to use any single use items, additionally planners should have a system where left over food is donated to local shelters or people in need.
Green transport and Accommodations
To minimise the environmental impact of these aspects, event planners should prioritise green transportation options and eco-friendly accommodations for their attendees. Event planners should consider organising shuttle buses to the accommodation to reduce the volume of taxi’s used during the event.
Measuring and Reporting
Measuring and reporting on event sustainability is critical to any green gathering. By tracking your event’s environmental performance, you can identify areas for improvement, demonstrate your commitment to sustainability, and inspire attendees and stakeholders to support your efforts. You can follow the metrics you established in the pre-planning phase of the event. Use your SMART objectives and the metrics you set to identify changes overtime, if you are not meeting your goals make changes based on the information observed.
The future of events is green. At Go West we are committed to improving how we do business, considering all stakeholders when making decisions. We have joined the initiative “Green for Business” to enhance our environmental policy. We are actively working on improving sustainable practices, we have partnered with a sustainable consultancy firm Eco Merit to track our emissions and reduce them where possible.
Events, when not ethically managed, contribute to resource inefficiency and leave a significant carbon footprint.
Considerable waste and emissions can be avoided through proper calculations of emissions.
It is essential that we support “Green supply chains” meaning that we are conscious of our suppliers and vendors.
There is a growing desire for accountability in the event space by clients and especially guests.
Measurement and reporting is essential to continued improvement.
Let us know what you think and what practices you employ to reduce your carbon footprint. Click the link to our socials below!