Making eco-friendly choices, even small ones, can make a world of difference. Meet Cambridge is working with Green Tourism – a not-for-profit company which is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Its successful sustainable accreditation programme for the hospitality and events sector has helped businesses and event planners achieve impressive carbon savings. Jon Proctor, co-founder and Chief Executive of Green Tourism, explains the benefits of planning sustainable events in and around Cambridge.

The events industry is often cited as one of the most polluting, but that need not be the case. Green tourism properties have an average carbon emission of a quarter of the global average and we have reduced our carbon footprints by almost 50% over the last five years (2010-2015).

Climate change is real and everyone must play their part. Global emissions are at their historical highest and we need to reduce our footprints further to by 80% by 2050 to meet global ambitions related to climate change. Biodiversity has dropped by 50% over the last 50 years and increasingly businesses choose to work with more progressive responsible organisations.

Our message is that doing nothing is not an option, unless you want to be a dinosaur and become extinct! The event industry has an opportunity to lead by example and it’s time for venues and event planners in the area to embrace sustainability, to take responsibility and action.

We're pleased to be working with Meet Cambridge and its venues towards reducing the carbon footprint of events in the area, in the hope that together we can position Cambridge and its surrounding areas as a green destination.

It’s really simple too – if we can make every effort to minimise consumption  (electricity, paper, water); if we can recycle and manage waste better; if we choose engaged suppliers and if we promote sustainable travel then we're all taking a step in the right direction.

The great news is there is already so much happening in the area. By working together we want to encourage event planners and venues to share ideas for green activities and to share best practice so that we can progress this conversation.

What’s happening already?

Introducing EVE – a new, easy-to-use event Carbon Calculator

EVE will allow event planners to determine the footprint of their meeting or event with just a few details. It will also offer the option to offset those carbon emissions by supporting a range of social projects.

EVE is due for release towards the end of 2017. It relies on the cooperation of venues to input their consumption data and to publish their carbon footprint and I'm pleased to say that we're already working closely with Meet Cambridge to invite its venues to register with Green Tourism, giving them the ability to calculate and publish their carbon footprint.

Green Tourism accreditation

Our venue accreditation programme has three levels, Bronze, Silver and Gold. Every venue in our programme is visited every two years so that we can check on progress; our members go through a rigorous process to meet the necessary criteria to achieve an award, ensuring that event planners and tourists too can make smart, informed choices about accommodation providers and attractions. We now have more than 2,000 members and have accredited over 5,000 properties.

Then there are the small things that we can all do...

  • Go paperless, can you make a change and send invites, feedback requests and programmes via email? Make the event website work for you, have a download area and an area for post-conference communications to keep everything online
  • Use local suppliers and question them about their own environmental policies, can they help you to achieve your goals by changing their practices – for example, by using less packaging?
  • Set up a car-sharing scheme for delegates who aren’t able to use public transport
  • Ask that coffee, tea, sugar and biscuits are not served in individual wrappers to cut down on waste
  • Ask for water to be served in jugs or refillable bottles rather than plastic bottles
  • Avoid disposable crockery (unless it’s wooden and recyclable)
  • Offer an organic or vegan/vegetarian choice and gauge how many people choose it
  • Ask the catering team to give you details about the food miles involved in the menu. This can help you make an informed choice and be accurate about numbers to avoid food waste
  • Get the catering team to record the amount of food waste they collect in kilograms and report it back to the event
  • Ditch the goody bag – Meet Cambridge has some great ideas for alternatives
  • Provide easy-to-spot recycling bins at the event
  • Display handouts –if you need them - on a table so that delegates just take what they need, rather than handing literature to everyone or putting it on chairs
  • Collect name badges and lanyards back at the end of the event for recycling or re-use

We’d love to know what you do to help make your events more sustainable – let’s keep talking!

For more information about Green Tourism, please contact 01738 632162 or email enquiries@green–tourism.com

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