Off-setting carbon footprint. Environmental impact. What was once considered an add-on is rapidly becoming a movement within the event industry. Today, sustainability is top of mind.

The ICPP (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) warns that we have a short 21 years to make significant changes before the global temperature rises above the 2.7 F level of warming that our planet can sustain.

To this end, organizations are bringing together expertise and talent to address problems and design solutions. In 2016, the United Nations launched the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and committed to the 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) designed to mobilize efforts that universally apply to all.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), an independent organization formed to create standards that provide solutions to global challenges, is composed of one member from each country, the ISO consists of 165 members. “ISO 20121” addresses the three primary aspects of event sustainability: economic, environmental, and social, and provides a framework for events of all sizes.

Individually, within our families and communities, we may be “doing our part” to recycle, reduce consumption and protect the planet for tomorrow’s future. But how does this translate as we move from virtual to hybrid to live events?

Sustainability need not be an “all or nothing” game. Integrating environmental, economic, and social responsibility may seem overwhelming. The good news is that efforts need not translate to significant budget increases or extreme protocols.

Following are 5 steps to consider when planning your event with sustainability in mind:

1. Let pre-planning begin with venue selection. Choose venues that make sustainability a top priority. In Chicago, the Greenhouse Loft uses energy-efficient windows to regulate temperature, eco-friendly/non-toxic utensils, and on-site composting and recycling systems to reduce up to 90% of waste that would otherwise become a landfill. Marriott’s “Serve360” plan aggressively aims to see 100% of hotels attain sustainability certification and 650 hotels pursue LEED certification or equivalent by 2025.

2. Identify key priorities from the start. Choose efforts you can incorporate knowing that doing something is better than doing nothing. With smaller events and/or limited budgets, choose “low-hanging efforts” with high visibility. Examples include using water bubblers instead of single-use plastic bottles and eliminating printed materials.

3. Communicate your efforts to place your company in the best light and avoid a negative public image. Use your event as an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to making a concentrated (and visible!) effort in this direction. While your next event might be the first step, communicate how you plan to introduce new measures every time you meet. As attendees begin knowing what to expect, they’ll applaud your efforts and feel good about participating. Opportunities to connect include your corporate, event, and registration websites.

4. Educate and train staff and vendors during morning briefs and pre-cons. Use signage (electronic wherever possible) and event apps to educate partners and participants on agreed-upon protocols and expectations. Leverage local staff to assist recycling efforts during meals, breaks, and room sweeps. Ordering event staff shirts? Print a catchy sustainability message on the back to reinforce your efforts.

5. Commitment to change can be fun; seek creative means to facilitate participation. Encourage walking instead of motorized transportation by organizing an attendee contest to track the total steps taken throughout the day. Announce winners daily via the event app or on electronic signage. Don’t forget the prizes!

Your event needs to be “Zero Waste” to be sustainable. Small steps taken today will impact tomorrow.

For more information on how Strategic Event Design can help, please contact us