With businesses responsible for half of all carbon dioxide emissions in the UK, it is little surprise that the government is offering financial incentives and implementing energy efficient schemes to encourage businesses to go green. There are many ways to improve energy in the office or in the manufacturing process but what about reducing waste and becoming more environmentally friendly when holding conferences and exhibitions?
In 2009, UK business events and exhibitions contributed 60, 000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the environment, with travel to and from events being one of the major factors.
However, there is also a lot of wastage attributed to promotional materials such as display banners, exhibition stands, leaflets and programmes as well as the vast amount of energy used in heating and lighting venues. At trade fairs and promotional events there is also the added factor of corporate gifts and promotional materials most of which end up discarded in the rubbish.
However there are ways in which businesses can reduce their carbon footprint when planning an event:
- Think outside the building box. When it’s absolutely necessary to host an event or conference outside of the usual business premises try and source a venue that is also committed to reducing its environmental impact. Green issues have become a lot more of a priority for all businesses so with a bit of research and planning you will be able to find a venue which is committed to being energy efficient with lighting, heating and even catering. It is also worth considering if the venue has its own in-house technical equipment all of which can reduce the cost and energy of transporting your own to the event. It is always wise to locate a venue with good public transport links for both staff and guests to reduce the need for individual car travel. If this isn’t possible consider hiring a minibus or coach if quite a few members of your team are attending. If an overnight stay is required, try and source a hotel nearest to the event as possible, preferably in walking distance or better still, try and negotiate a deal on rooms at the venue if available.
- Spare the trees while increasing usability. Ask yourself how important the information is that you’re providing at the event. If it’s appropriate, consider recordings such as video links to slides or audio recordings so that attendees will be able to go through the information again if they need to and those who can’t attend can be kept informed without realms and realms of print-outs and will also allow you to reach a wider audience. Of course it may not be possible to do everything digitally, but if paper programs are needed try and use recycled paper, print on both sides and avoid laminating. Promote the event through email and websites and provide any necessary information packs on the day of the event rather than beforehand to avoid the need for duplication.
- Be a conscientious consumer. Consider hiring equipment rather than purchasing it, taking care to source the most energy efficient options. If you require the use of banner displays or exhibition stands, consider choosing re-usable options that allow for you to change the graphics without having to discard the stand. This is particularly useful if the display is event specific, but it is also helpful if you need to make any changes your company details or logo. If you are planning on giving away any corporate or promotional gifts look for eco-friendly companies that offer greener more functional products such as re-usable bio-degradable bags, pens made from recycled re-fills and even USB pens made from recycled materials. Not only will they be more environmentally friendly, they will create a bigger impact on your guests and less likely to be thrown away.
- Eat and drink sustainably. When catering for your guests, ensure food is sourced locally using seasonal ingredients. Consider providing more vegetarian options and if using fish make sure it’s from a sustainable source. Try and avoid using individually packaged items such as milk and sugar portions when serving tea and coffee, provide jugs and sugar lumps instead. Provide filtered tap water instead of bottled water and ensure tea and coffee is fair-trade. Where possible avoid disposable cutlery, plates and cups, using crockery and regular cutlery where possible. If this is not feasible, use paper plates and wooden cutlery rather than plastic or polystyrene and make sure there are plenty of well posted designated recycling areas. Good organisation and planning will normally ensure there isn’t a significant excess of food, but if there is any significant food left-over, consider donating it to charity or send it to a local facility for composting.
Lucy Hunt is a UK blogger with a keen interest in environmental issues. She is currently working on behalf of Marler Haley-an ISO14001 certified company specialising in display banners and exhibition stands.