Seven ways to make your event more sustainable

By Fiona Stephenson

With the silly season almost upon us, it’s time to share some of the ways you can ensure your events are sustainable, with some top tips from our own event experience.

Events are a great way to entertain, engage and inform your staff, clients and networks. But large events like conferences, festivals and conventions can become a major source of waste and carbon emissions.

“If your business supports sustainability, so should your event. At SBN, we work hard to ensure that our events are sustainable, by carefully considering everything from where we host the event, to which catering company we choose,” says SBN event manager Alex Williams.

Here are seven things to think about when you’re having an event.

  1. Choose a sustainable venue and suppliers 

From venue to equipment hire, we endeavour to use SBN members whenever we’re having an event. Here are some of the things we consider when choosing a venue and suppliers:

  • Choose a venue that is located close to the majority of participants, or close to public transport. Shed 10 is the venue for the 2014 NZI National Sustainable Business Network Awards evening and it’s situated in the heart of the Auckland CBD, and close to Britomart Transport Centre.
  • Choose a venue that has sustainability credentials, like AUT University’s Sir Paul Reeves Building, the home of the Project NZ conference, Shed 10, a venue which looks at the full picture from waste systems to solar energy generation, or Mt Eden Village Centre.
  • Encourage sustainable behaviours, e.g. for an outdoor event encourage people to bring a cup from home/no disposables.
  • Choose products that are made in New Zealand and services that are provided locally, to reduce the impact of long distance shipping and to support local industries.
  • Ask to see your suppliers’ sustainability policy or guide them with your own. Influencing your suppliers’ policy is a powerful way to create change.
  1. Consider the community impact of your event.
  • For formal occasions, recognise local Iwi and ideally have an official opening with local kaumatua (e.g. a Mihi).
  • Engage the community in your event during the planning stage, to design an event that takes in a variety of skills and diverse views.
  • Provide an opportunity for students or unemployed people to gain work experience by volunteering at your event.
  1. Select ethical food and beverage
  • Choose catering that uses locally grown, organic, fair trade and, where possible, SBN member products.
  • Opt for vegetarian food for your events – this will help to reduce carbon emissions. Divine Foods is catering the 2014 NZI National Sustainable Business Network Awards and will be serving vegetarian food that’s so delicious the meat won’t be missed!
  • Explore using organic and carbon neutral drinks. SBN works closely with Green Drop and Yealands Family Wines to source good beer and wine, and to design sustainable cocktails for special occasions.
  • Do not use disposable packaging or bottled water. This will save resources, transport and waste.
  1. Get creative about décor and signage 
  • Using one-off signage and décor can really increase waste. Consider creative ideas that recycle and upcycle resources to create props. Think wine barrels for bar leaners, old doors used as trestle tables, cardboard walls for backdrops, and live plants instead of cut plants.
  • We like to work with Creative Bhav, Fresh Concept, Fuse, Paradigm and Green Air to lift the creativity and aesthetics of our events, and to minimise our waste. 
  1. Minimise waste and emissions, and clean up responsibly             
  • Seek to compost/bokashi/worm farm any organic waste and compostable material, and recycle wherever possible.
  • SBN measures CO2 emissions and offsets these through our tree planting programmes.
  • Prepare and plan for waste with all elements of the event (catering, resources used, hand-outs, decorations and equipment needed). For bigger events, a lot of planning is needed and you can find help by contacting Green Shoot Pacific.
  • Choose cleaning products that meet environmental standards and have biologically safe, such as those from ecostore.
  • Reconsider whether it is necessary to give out ‘goodie bags’ at your events.
  1. Consider your transport
  • Choose a centrally located venue to allow your guests to arrive via public transport, walking or cycling.
  • Provide links to transport options and walking routes for your guests.
  • Encourage your guests to carpool or rideshare.
  1. Print if you must and re-use resources 
  • If you must print, make sure it is double-sided. For professional printing, choose a printer like Soar Printing that uses paper sourced from recycled materials or that is FSC certified, and use low VOCs and vegetable inks.
  • Encourage attendees to use electronic tickets.
  • Reuse waste paper for note paper.
  • Reuse name badges at events.
  • Recycle lanyards after events.
  • Opt for as many paper free communications options as is practical.
  • Use an online booking system to save paper and time.
  • Include information about the sustainability components of your event on the event website – this will encourage others to be more sustainable too!

Keen to see how we put these principles into practice? Join us at our next event, the 2014 NZI National Sustainable Business Network Awards. Click here to purchase your early bird ticket.

You can also check out the Sustainable Business Directory to find businesses that offer events services.