With much of the world returning to (relative) normality after a strange two years, many organizations are turning their attention towards the return to in-person events. With a hard reset on how we run in-person events, with meetings, conferences, exhibitions, or training sessions, today’s host organizations have a unique opportunity to completely overhaul their event strategy to incorporate more sustainable, environmentally friendly options. With this in mind, what are the key considerations for organizations looking to make a more sustainable return to in-person events?
Sustainable Event Venues
Some venues are much more eco-friendly than others, using renewable energy and power-saving measures for more sustainable events. In your site selection process, you could prioritize venues with an enhanced commitment to sustainability, whether that means using solar power, locally sourced décor, great recycling initiatives, or low carbon emissions, which will ensure your return to in-person events is sustainable and socially responsible, checking the boxes for your eco-minded attendees.
Prioritize Public Transportation
One of the major benefits of virtual events has been the elimination of travel-related emissions. It is worth considering how participants will travel to your chosen venue with a return to in-person events. Opting for venues with excellent public transport links will help you minimize the carbon footprint of your event, or if it’s not possible to avoid flights or car journeys, you could consider offsetting your environmental impact with a carbon offset program.
Equipment and Resources
Now that we’re returning to in-person events, it’s time to consider if you need all those printed paper resources for your next event. Do your attendees need a paper agenda, or can it be displayed on screens around the venue? Do you need to provide plastic water bottles on the tables, or will a jug and glasses suffice? Does each individual need their own plastic model to study, or can small groups share resources? Reducing single-use resources will help ensure that your event is more sustainable and less wasteful.
Sustainable Event Catering
If your in-person event spans beyond a few hours, you will likely provide some catering for attendees. Considering the carbon footprint of your menu and refreshments can significantly impact the sustainability of your overall event. Choosing local produce means that you’re not transporting food halfway around the world for your attendees, and if people are traveling from afar, they would probably enjoy sampling some of the local fares.
Also, be sure to gather any dietary requirements ahead of time to reduce food waste, and be careful to order only what you need. If there is food leftover at the end of the day, you could encourage attendees to take some food home or donate it to local shelters or food banks.
Sustainable Event Swag
Firstly, consider if you even need swag for your next event. If you often find yourself shipping boxes and boxes of carefully chosen swag back to the office at the end of an event, it may mean that your audience doesn’t want it or need it. However, if you know your audience appreciates a small gift, make sure you choose sustainable event swag. This means selecting ethically sourced, sustainable products that your attendees will truly value.
Do your participants need another plastic stress ball, or would they prefer a reusable stainless steel water bottle, a chic bamboo coffee cup, or a handy umbrella (Pacific Northwest, anyone)? Opting for genuinely useful valuable swag means that attendees are more likely to hold onto it for years to come, making it a more sustainable option and maintaining brand exposure over time.
Of course, there is no rush to return to entirely in-person events. Some attendees won’t be ready, and in-person attendance isn’t always essential. Along with sustainability, some of the main benefits of hybrid events include extended global reach, improved ROI, and more flexibility for attendees, so this is an excellent option if your audience is a little hesitant about going straight back into in-person meetings.
In terms of sustainability, hybrid events allow you to cater to a smaller in-person audience, meaning you can choose a smaller venue and require less travel, catering, and materials for your event. There are plenty of powerful hybrid events tools available today to engage a hybrid audience, so your in-person and virtual attendees will get a lot out of the experience. At the same time, you are safe knowing that your event is more sustainable.