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How To Run More Sustainable Events

27th November 2019
green events hand painted green with plant

As UK businesses become more eco-conscious, the interest in green and sustainable events is steadily increasing. Public consciousness is growing, and businesses are starting to recognise that accountability and positive decisions around CSR (corporate social responsibility) are more important than ever.

In recent years mainstream events have made big changes to reflect this. Both Glastonbury festival and Shambala festival have made public efforts to be as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible, along with the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

So, if “event greening” has become a bigger priority for your business, this article will outline everything you need to know to start making your events more sustainable. Read on to learn about:

  • The common environmental impacts of events 
  • What defines a “green” event
  • What you can do to plan more sustainable events
  • How UOLV can help you run a sustainable event in London 

The environmental impact of events

There's no doubt that events can be incredibly positive. They can be hugely beneficial to local economies and they do wonders when it comes to increasing social interaction. However, from an environmental point of view, events can be problematic. 

 

That's because bringing lots of people to a small space during a short period of time naturally causes a rise in the use of transport, disposable products and energy, along with a spike in food and drink consumption.
 

In fact, a single event can create thousands of tonnes of waste, use huge amounts of energy, and prompt an increase in Co2 emissions.

Let’s look at some of the most common environmental impacts of events.
 

Events generate lots of waste

 

A key issue with any type of event is the amount of waste they generate. According to this infographic by MeetGreen, a three day event of 1000 attendees can generate a total of up to 5670kg of waste, of which 3480kg goes directly to landfill.

 

From an individual point of view, a single conference attendee can generate up to 1.89kg of waste each day they attend an event,1.29kg of which goes directly to landfill. 

birds eye view of landfill

Photo by Tom Fisk from Pexels

 

 

Events require high amounts of energy to run
Events of any size will cause a surge in energy use. That’s because things like extra lighting, heating, and chargeable hardware will require significantly more electricity than normal. 

 

When it comes to quantifying the amount of energy needed (and talking specifically in terms of oil) MeetGreen’s infographic shows how a three day event of 1000 attendees would need up to 530 metric tonnes of oil to fuel the entire event - that’s equivalent to more or less 449 barrels of oil. For context, the average american will use 2 barrels every month. (although it’s likely to be less per person in the United Kingdom).  
 

Events generate high C02 emissions

High energy requirements result in high carbon outputs. This means most events have very high C02 emissions.

 

The main contributors to high energy consumption are: 

  • Travel to the event (car/train/air)
  • Meals and drinks (sourcing, transporting and preparing)
  • General Energy consumption (energy needed to run the venue, energy used by guests in hotels etc)
  • Freight travel (Anything that might need to be delivered for the event)

What are green events? 

Green and sustainable events are events that aim to counteract or minimise the environmental impact they have on the planet. The process is often called “event greening.”

 

They’re planned in a way that deliberately reduces the amount of energy, waste and carbon emissions that an event would normally produce. Sustainable event organisers will consciously and proactively plan events that have little or no negative impact on the planet. 

 

How this is done will depend a lot on the type of event you’re running. However, a general list of green event ideas include:

 

  • Being carbon neutral or carbon aware
  • Having a zero or low waste policy
  • Providing fair trade or organic food
  • Using sustainable energy to run the event where possible
  • Providing local produce/food
  • Using local suppliers and locally sourced products

veg on market stall

Event Greening: How to make your event more sustainable: 

When it comes to planning a sustainable event, there are many things you need to consider ahead of time. Upfront and conscious organisation is the key when it comes to making your event is as green and sustainable as possible.

 

In this section, we’ll outline what you can do, and how you can do it to minimise the environmental damage of your event.
 

Make your event carbon neutral 

 

Making your event carbon neutral is easier than you might think. To start with, you can us this event CO2 calculator to calculate how much C02 your event is likely to produce. 

 

Once you have an idea of the amount of C02 your event is set to produce, you can work on ways to reduce this further. You can do this by: 

 

  • Only inviting local guests 
  • Offering international guests the option to join the event remotely to avoid air travel 
  • Insisting on the use of bikes or public transport to attend the event instead of cars/taxis.
  • Sourcing local food and drink
  • Serving vegetarian food 
  • Using local services 
  • Hosting the event during the day in naturally lit spaces

Offsetting your event’s carbon footprint

 

After making some of the above changes, you can also choose to offset your remaining carbon emissions.   

 

C02 offsetting is the process of financially supporting projects around the world that work to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Renewable energy projects such as wind turbine farms, hydroelectric dams or biomass energy are common projects, while tree planting is another. 

 

Offset schemes vary widely in terms of cost, however you can expect to pay around £8 for each tonne of CO2 your event produces. You can use this resource to see which projects you can donate to.

 

footprint in sand with surf

Implement a zero or low waste policy

Reducing waste at events can be done effectively with careful planning.
 

How to reduce waste at events:

  • Don’t include swag bags with unnecessary gifts that are likely to be used once, or thrown away. 
  • Use digital meeting agendas and avoid printing resources
  • Place recycling facilities throughout your event and be militant in how these are processed
  • Forbid the use of single use plastics from entering or being used at the event
  • Serve food that can be donated instead of thrown away if not all consumed
  • Make sure food is served in compostable materials

Serve locally sourced, organic and fair trade food

 

By serving locally sourced food at your event you can reduce it’s C02 emissions. That’s because it will use less carbon used to transport the food than food sourced from afar. 

 

In addition, choosing to serve organic food reduces your event’s association with the use of toxic chemicals that can damage the environment. 

 

Lastly, from a humanitarian point of view, ensure that the people who have produced the food have been well treated, and buy fair trade where possible.
 

Use sustainable energy to run your event where possible

 

While this may not be a possibility for indoor events, choosing to run your event on sustainable energy can heavily reduce the negative impact of your event. 

 

Occasions when this is more viable can include summertime, outdoor events. Opting to use a solar power provider could allow your event to be 100% sustainably powered.

solar panels on building against a blue and cloudy sky
 

Use local suppliers and locally sourced products

 

When looking for suppliers for your eco friendly event, it’s important to make sure they are local. 

 

From your food to your event decorations, right the way through to any equipment rental - the less distance the suppliers need to travel in order to reach your event the better. 

Sustainable event management at University of London Venues

At UOLV, we go above and beyond when it comes to helping you run green and sustainable events. 

 

We’ve even been awarded the "Carbon Champion" status by the Camden Climate Change Alliance for our year on year carbon reductions, and for championing carbon reductions throughout our local community.

We have been shortlisted for 3 awards by the Camden Climate Change Alliance and earlier this month received highly commended in the category for Energy Efficiency and Carbon at the Camden Climate Change Alliance awards. 

In recent years, we’ve won a Green Gown Award in which we received highly commended status.

 

We also run other initiatives to make sure our event services are as green as possible. These include: 

  1. Our Sustainable Food and Fairtrade Policy that ensures sustainability is embedded into our catering services. We have also replaced the majority of the packaging in our cafes with compostable alternatives.
  2. A catering team that provides extra vegetarian options on Mondays to reduce the carbon associated with eating meat.
  3. Our menus that are sourced as locally as possible, supporting local growers & lowering carbon emissions.
  4. Our bees on the roof of 17 Russell Square help pollinate the local area (as well as using their honey as part of our catering service)
  5. Our selection of London based services, such as our audiovisual, furniture hire, and photography partners. This means you can rely on us to supply all the services you need for your event without having to source them from afar.

entrance gate of senate house

Book your green event at UOLV

We’re committed to environmental responsibility, and we’re always striving to use sustainable resources and reduce our carbon footprint.

If you’re looking for an event space in London to hold your green event, we can help. Our range of meeting rooms are flexible and perfect for all types of meetings and events. Room sizes vary to support your exact number of guests, and each space is supported by our environmentally friendly catering service.

Get in touch with our event organisers today, and find out about our event and meeting room spaces.

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