Reducing the environmental impact of your events is quite a daunting task, especially on a budget. We’re all busy people, and if you’re new to the world of sustainability it can seem a little overwhelming. That’s not to mention the prospect of extra time or expense.
However, if you incorporate sustainable thinking into your event management plan right from the beginning, it can really add value to your brand and event, and it’s easier and cheaper than you might think.
Having recently run a fundraising event for the Plastic Oceans Foundation, with an audience of the most senior sustainability professionals in the UK, the pressure was on to run a zero plastic, minimal waste event. I found some amazing suppliers on my journey and had plenty of my own learnings – so hopefully I can take some of the hard work out of making your own events more sustainable.
1. Find A Sustainable Venue
It goes without saying that finding a venue with a sustainable ethos immediately reduces your event’s footprint. Ideally the venue will already be running off green energy, can source sustainable drinks and food for you, and will be in a great location for transport, cutting the carbon footprint of your guests!
In London there are some great options to choose from. Whilst sourcing venues for my event I came across these lovely, sustainable places;
The First Floor Events Space – The Conduit, Mayfair
If you aren’t London based, search for blogs about sustainable or environmentally friendly venues in your area. Look for a venue with an ethos – you’ll usually find a sustainability commitment somewhere prominent if your venue is inclined to working in that way!
2. Sustainable Name Badges
Sustainable single use name badges are hard work. You can obviously go for an old school sticker if that’s in keeping with your event, but for me it wasn’t appropriate. In my quest for plastic-free products, I came across a couple of wooden options and cork lanyards, unfortunately at a pretty hefty price!
I finally settled on Ubiqus’ most environmentally friendly option. They’re made from FsC certified recycled paper, laminated with a layer of polyester. Although they aren’t totally plastic free, they are free of PVC. This means that they can be sent back to the manufacturer to be incinerated (without any nasty chemicals being released) after the event as part of a waste-to-energy scheme, and don’t end up in landfill.
What makes these badges even better, is that they are offered at a 48 hour turn around, and they print all of the information on for you, attach the fasteners, and send them to you in a re-usable tray pre-alphebetised… The event managers dream!
3. Avoid Single Use Items
This is a fairly easy one to navigate. Make a conscious effort to avoid unnecessary plastic items like straws, plastic water bottles and plastic cutlery. All of this stuff will end up in a landfill and avoiding it will help you make a huge leap towards a zero-waste event.
Instead, aim for glassware and crockery, and offer water in glass bottles or from a dispenser.
4. Source Sustainable Merchandise
There are so many sustainability focused, plastic free promo items on offer now. That said, there is also a ton of plastic junk to wade through, so bear in mind a few things when you’re sourcing;
What’s the life span of this item?
Where will it go when the user has finished with it?
How much everyday use can this item have?
Does it help the user to live in a more sustainable way?
My favourite promo item at the moment is this Acre water bottle! At £9 a bottle, they’re far from the cheapest bit of merch out there, but they’re likely to last a lot longer than most promo items, be used more regularly, and will mean that your logo gets daily exposure in the long run.
I’ve also received samples of these fantastic Appeel notebooks from Steel City Marketing, who’ve been fantastic at helping me find the best sustainable products out there. They’re executive looking, covered with vegan leather made from apple peel, with FsC sustainably sourced paper. They’re available in a range of colours with plenty of branding options.
A good plan and plenty of time to execute it will help you to keep your costs down and allow time to consider your options and source some more environmentally conscious products.
We’ve all been in a situation where you need a last-minute banner or pack of business cards, and next day delivery is your only option. The delivery is expensive, and those quick turnaround options are typically the cheaper materials with the most environmental impact, with websites like helloprint only offering polymer or PVC banners. Which brings me on to my next topic…
6. Eco Friendly Banners & Business Cards
Solopress offer next day delivery on their uncoated pulp or brown kraft recycled business cards, which I love!
My favourite find has to be these incredible Hatch pull up banners, which are 100% recyclable and compostable. You heard it… No metal, no plastic. My favourite thing about these banners is the cardboard base. It’s really sturdy and is full of seedlings so it can be planted after use and turned into a flower bed in your garden!
The pull up is described as paper on the site – which I can assure you isn’t as flimsy as it sounds. It’s more like a thick canvas and looks every bit as good as your usual banners if not better, and it’s printed with a CO2 neutral press. They’re available on SAME DAY delivery in some parts of London and offer next day delivery as standard.
7. Sustainable Catering
If you’re serving food at your event, ask questions about the produce. Our event was held at The Conduit, who source local produce to reduce their carbon footprint and support the local economy. They also operate their own food waste programme to repurpose any leftovers!
If you’re in need of a caterer, there are companies like London based Elysia Catering who offer breakfast, canapes and catering made from local artisan ‘rescued food’, alongside a tailored talk about food waste, sustainability and their food system. There are other organisations in the UK with the same mission to cater with food waste, like Food Works in Sheffield and The Real Junk food Project in Leeds. You can find a branch of TRJFP in 127 locations across the world!
Googling ‘sustainable catering’ or ‘food waste catering’ should bring up a load of ideas, wherever you are! The Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) are also a great resource for finding a restaurant doing some good, whether that’s by supporting their community or committing to 0 waste.
8. Sustainably Produced Drinks
My particular event required alcohol by the barrel, so hopping on trusty google I found the following suppliers, and their products are a dream!
TOAST – Toast have now rescued 1 million slices of surplus bread which would’ve otherwise been thrown away, and turned it into a ton of tasty beer!
Greensand Ridge Distillery – Greensand Ridge produce a range of incredibly good rum, gin raspberry ghost and apple brandy in their carbon neutral distillery. They minimise chemical use, mitigate food waste and reduce emissions by running their business with sustainable energy.
Cooper King Distillery – Cooper King supplied us with an amazing sustainable gin for our event. They’re committing to sustainability by using 100% green energy in the distillery, operating a recycling scheme for their bottles and sourcing the produce for their gin from local beekeepers.
Biodynamic / Organic Wines – Acre have worked with TheWineScouts for plenty a wine tasting, and they take all of the hard work out of responsible sourcing. I’d recommend their organic cloudy Condo Prosecco Belfi!
If you’re looking for sustainable soft drinks, I chose DASH who craft four lovely flavours of sparkling spring water from UK sources, flavoured by wonky fruit & vegetables which don’t make it to the supermarket.
So, I hope this helps you to source your suppliers in a more sustainable way. My advice would be to only take on what you can. Running a 100% plastic free event is ambitious – make small, manageable changes where it’s possible!
I’m always on the hunt for more innovative and sustainable solutions, so if you have any recommendations please send them over to Rachel.Frost@acre.com.