How to Run a Sustainable Event: Reducing Event Waste

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By Nathan Sharpe

Sustainability is one of the top event trends for 2018. But what makes an event sustainable?

A sustainable event meets the needs of present attendees while reducing minimal negative impacts to the environment and ensuring resources for future generations. Putting up a sustainable event is advantageous as it can cut costs and save resources as well as give the event a positive advocacy.

A primary way to make an event sustainable is to reduce event waste. Events can cause a lot of waste. In fact, a typical three-day trade event with 1,000 attendees can produce a whopping 12,500 pounds of event waste.

Here are some recommendations to effectively decrease the amount of waste in future events.

Closely Monitor the Number of Attendees It’s not unusual to find excess food, beverages, promotional items, and printed materials lying around untouched at the end of an event. This is because most event organizers have a habit of producing and providing additional assets just in case more people turn up. Although it’s practical to have a little extra, having a smart estimate of attendees can help ensure that the surplus is reduced.

  • Review attendance history of past events. Looking at the attendance history of past events will help organizers set expectations more accurately. As part of the event planning process, this can greatly impact event costs and efforts.Study which parts of the past events were less successful or caused overspending. Based on historical data, adjustments can be made to avoid unnecessary use of resources.
  • Offer RSVP incentives. In an ideal world, every attendee responds to an RSVP request on schedule. However, many people still choose to confirm at the last minute or just walk in on the event date. If enforcing a strict RSVP-only policy is not possible, offer an added incentive to early bird registrants in the form of discounts or gifts that can encourage them to confirm early.
  • Smart food management. There are conflicting opinions on the best way to serve food and beverages during events. Some argue that serving in bulk can lessen the need for individual packaging and waste items, while some say a bulk serving means more chances of leftovers, which leads to waste.The best way is to carefully assess the nature of the event. If it is a sit-down dinner, ask attendees to pre-select their options based on their preferences and dietary requirements to avoid uneaten plates of food. If the event is for an entire day and snacks must be provided, place vending machines with healthy snacks instead of providing junk food that is often served on refreshment tables. This way, attendees can choose what they want and there’s no need for additional staff to manage the process.

Go Digital Going completely paperless may not be possible, but there are still smart ways to use digital technology to reduce paper usage.

  • Event advertising and branding. In advertising an event, choose digital options such as LED screens for outdoor advertising, social media ads, and website banners. This will replace printed fliers that end up in the waste bin. Digital alternatives can also apply to branding to be used at the event.. Renting LED screens to feature digital branding can help reduce waste coming from printed materials. For printed branding, use recycled materials or place branding on items that can be reused on future events.
  • Entry ID’s and tickets. Instead of printed identification cards or tickets, use mobile technology.. Make use of electronic registration to monitor entry. Since most attendees have mobile phones, barcode scanning can easily replace the traditional printed ID.Electronic entry procedures can also help organizers track attendees more efficiently and produce post-event reports straightaway.


Provide Durable Promotional Items 

Event attendees love freebies and gifts, but if these items are not attractive enough, they are often thrown away or ignored. Attendees who travel to an event may not bother taking an item that is not worth carrying through airport security.

To avoid spending on items that will end up in the trash, consider gifts that do not need to be physically given away.

Electronic gifts can include digital books, electronic vouchers for experiences like free dinners or trips, complimentary digital headshots for their LinkedIn profile, and email discount coupons.

For physical gifts, USB sticks can still be useful especially for the communications and publishing industry. They are very small to carry around and can be reused in the office.

Managing Event Waste 

Running a sustainable event can be challenging at the start, but making it a priority can prove more efficient and cost-effective and can positively affect society. These events are an ideal way to show environmental responsibility while creating an awareness of sustainability.

Nathan Sharpe is the entrepreneur behind business blog Biznas.