Whether it’s a birthday or business gathering, if you’re looking to lighten the environmental footprint of your event; there’s many ways to do so!
Events are usually lavish affairs and lavish usually = rampant consumption. While it’s hard to make an event truly green, here’s a few tips to lessen the load on the planet. Implement one, or use them all – every bit counts!
Just about everyone has an email account or three these days, so instead of traditional paper invitations, perhaps use paperless ones – email. For that extra touch of class, consider an online invitation service – I reviewed one such service here. If you do need to use paper based invitations, try and ensure the items you purchase are made from recycled paper or even tree free paper.
Venue and travel
Think about the people you’re inviting – where do they live or work? If possible, choose a central location. This will not only reduce the time they have to travel, save them some money on gas (which they’ll be thankful to you for), but also reduce the amount of travelled related greenhouse gas emissions.
You could also try to find a venue close to public transport and include instructions in your invitation of how to get to the event via this means. Also offer a few car pooling tips as some of the attendees may be familiar with each other and would be happy to share a ride.
When selecting a venue, set up a checklist of things to ask about – such as whether the room uses energy efficient lighting (e.g. CFL or LED lighting), the type of heating and cooling used and if the room is properly insulated
While the imported lobster might gain you a few status points, it’s also travelled a long way to get to you. Reduce the food miles by buying local products. In your event menu (if you have one), you could also include information about the various ingredients, where they were sourced and why.
While not everyone appreciates a vegan or vegetarian menu; meats such as beef exact a huge toll on the environment. Perhaps stick to chicken and fish dishes.
Beverages and sweets
Coffee, tea and chocolate usually plays a big part in any event; so try and buy fair trade certified items. Fair trade certification ensures the product has been grown, harvested and produced in line with good environmental practices and that the farmers have been paid a fair price.
Bulk buying and packaging
Portion and convenience packaging are just plain bad for the environment.You can save a ton of waste and cash by buying food items in bulk and dispensing them in the same way. For example, you can have a common table where sauces and condiments are available in dispensers.
Tableware and crockery
While disposable tableware is very convenient, it also creates a great deal of waste – some of it non-biodegradable. If you must use disposable tableware, consider some of the green disposable crockery alternatives made from crop waste such as bagasse, a by-product of sugar cane.
Another option is to hire tableware – a much cheaper (and classier) option than having to buy it all yourself.
I’ve always found decorations to be a bit of a waste generally speaking. You spend a stack of cash to make things look pretty for a few hours and then rip them down again; some of which wind up in the bin. Try to use natural decorations such as live plants and freshly cut local flowers – give your event an overtly natural theme. What can’t be used again can then be composted.
Instead of having single bins for dealing with waste, use a 2 bin system – one for recyclables and another for non-recyclable items. Using placards above the recycling bin with images so your event’s attendees know what can be placed in there.
Waste food, depending on the type, can also be given to charity, composted or sent to farms to be used as pig feed.
Offset – sponsor some trees
While you probably don’t have the time to sit down and calculate the carbon footprint of your event; if you can afford it, sling a few bucks to a reputable tree planting organization to help bridge the gap between the green aspects of your event and the more environmentally damaging bits. It’s not guilt money, just a way of offsetting things a bit.
By the way, while many of the tips above are subtle; try and have one aspect unabashedly green to stir up curiosity with your attendees – that way your event can also double as way to raise awareness of environmental issues! When people are curious, they are more receptive to learning and how you run your event may become a model that others will follow!
Do you have any tips for greening events – perhaps something you’ve done or seen at an event you’ve attended? Please share your ideas (and questions) below!