Should hosting a sustainable event cost the earth?
Sustainability doesn’t always come cheap for events organisers. Here are five ways to reduce the costs of going green.
This article is produced in partnership with Cvent.
It’s not an easy time to host an event – costs are rising across the board, from catering to raw materials, making it more challenging than ever to produce a memorable event within budget. Adding sustainability to the mix can complicate things further; while everyone wants to produce events with as little impact as possible, doing so often seems to increase the bill.
But sustainability doesn’t just have to mean buying organic food and pricey materials. With a bit of thought and perhaps a few shifts in mindset, the carbon and waste footprints of an event can be significantly reduced with a price hike. Here are five ways to bring costs down.
Rethink all your purchases
Very often, events are run in a certain way because that’s the way it’s always been done. But creating a sustainable event means, at its core, rethinking every part of it – and this means potentially buying or using less. Ask if your expenses, from signage to food to freebies, are truly necessary or really bring value to the event, and see if any can be omitted or reduced. Decoration savings could be found, for example, by using venues with built-in signage or great in-house decoration.
Reduce where possible
Reducing your use of raw materials is both sustainable and low cost. For example, swapping bottled water for filtered tap water can make a huge difference. Attendees can be encouraged to bring their own water bottles, and plenty of refill stations will mean they won’t go thirsty. For those who forget their bottles, branded water bottles (where possible, made from recycled plastic) could be a sustainable freebie. When it comes to food, reduce waste by avoiding over-ordering as much as possible. Plan carefully, don’t overfill buffets and allow serving platters to run low before refilling. And finally, organisers could potentially reduce use of equipment and other necessary items – as well as their costs - by hiring, or buying pre-used, instead of buying new.
Signage is another area that can be expensive and using digital signage instead of printed signs and posters could be both cheaper and more environmentally friendly. Digital tech is also increasingly used for tickets, agenda and maps, lowering printing costs and saving paper. Another option for reducing costs – as well as transport emissions – is to make your event hybrid, with options for both in-person and virtual attendance.
If staff are required to wear uniforms, ensure these are designed so they can be used across multiple events. Alternatively, staff could be asked to wear something already in their wardrobe that adheres to the event’s colour scheme, so they’re all in one colour. At the most impressive end of the re-use principle, look to Glasgow’s 2014 Commonwealth Games, which was the first ever event to achieve the ISO 20121 standard for event sustainability. It reused furniture, fittings and equipment from the London 2021 Olympics, and it even reused a stadium by converting an existing structure instead of building something new.
On the other side of the world, the Byron Bluesfest festival in Australia looks for innovative ways to reuse its waste – for instance, it sent four tonnes of organic waste to one local farmer, and 500 litres of leftover cooking oils to another, who recycled it into bio-oil to fuel his machinery. A bit of research and planning will help organisers find low-cost methods for reducing their impact.
Remember sustainability sells
Finally, remember that sustainability doesn’t only reduce costs, if it’s approached in the right way – it can also help increase an event’s revenue. As long as your efforts are properly communicated, it can help lead to improved brand awareness and trust, and potentially even a larger audience who appreciate the sustainability goal.