Questions of sustainability have been reverberating through the events industry for the last few years. How do you find a sustainable venue? How can we effectively manage and reduce event waste? What does a sustainable event look like?

We know that our industry is adaptive, forward-thinking, and built from a dream team of problem-solvers, so what can we learn from each other when a group of industry professionals gather to discuss sustainability in events? We recently had the opportunity to glean insights from the Sustainable Events Show at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business; here’s what we learnt:

Start Small

Starting can often be the hardest part of creating change, but the key is to start small. Don’t let the fear of not being sustainable enough prevent you from making a positive impact and initiating small changes. Try picking one element of your event to focus on, such as food waste, paper reduction, or travel arrangements, and then move forwards from there. Taking small steps can lead to significant positive impacts.

Sustainability Risk Assessment

It’s hard to change behaviours you’re unaware of, so knowledge is power. Consider conducting a sustainability risk assessment with your organising committee. You could try to identify which materials are necessary to your event and what waste will be left behind after your delegates have gone. Can you eliminate, reduce or repurpose any of these materials? When planning your catering, explore plant-based menus and locally sourced, seasonal produce. Choose one aspect that has been flagged in your risk assessment and commit to addressing it in your event planning process.

Educate Your Delegates

Shout about the sustainable choices you’ve made and educate your delegates throughout your event. You could offer plant-based menus, carbon-friendly dishes, or regional ingredients as part (or all!) of your catering. We even heard from one organisation who add an additional charge for delegates who request a meat option! By fostering awareness and understanding, you contribute to a more sustainable mindset amongst your attendees.

The Social Side of SustainabilityGreen dotty heart on the right on a dark blue background. Words say The paradox of eco-conscious venue selection: accessaibility vs environmental impact

Sustainability extends beyond environmental concerns; it encompasses social aspects, too. Ensure your events benefit everyone involved. We discussed the need to have input from diverse voices impacting the decision-making process and the desire to leave a legacy behind after an event has ended. Explore the ways that the local community of your host location can benefit from your event. Ideas included:

  • Redistributing or finding a use for any waste food and produce
  • Making donations to a local charity instead of providing delegate goody bags and merchandise
  • Volunteering with the local council or a local organisation

Control the Controllable

It’s important to understand what you can control and what you can’t. Unfortunately, it is unlikely you’ll be hosting the world’s most sustainable event, but that is ok! By making small changes and actively pursuing sustainability, you’ll make great progress on your sustainability journey. Don’t be afraid to ask your venue, or any of the team at Meet Cambridge, for advice. As we discovered at the Sustainable Events Show, you can learn a lot through open and honest collaboration.

For more information on hosting a sustainable event, take a look at our Sustainable Events Toolkit here.

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