Sustainability in event management: 8 tips to get you started

Sustainability is on everyone’s minds, and rightly so. The only way to design future proof events is to include sustainability from the very beginning of the planning concept. Read on to learn about concepts and ideas that you can apply for your next sustainable event!

1. Host hybrid events

Hybrid events combine a physical face-to-face event and a virtual one. Modern technologies offer a plethora of options for hosting hybrid events. Platforms like Hopin or Webex Events let you reach your guests and connect online and offline participants. Just be sure to choose a platform that offers integrated networking and a multiple means of interaction. Innovative tools including live chat functionality, real-time polls, quizzes, and digital whiteboards make the event interactive for everyone attending.

What makes hybrid events so attractive? For one, they reduce travel requirements, transportation, catering, and accommodations. At the same time, they can reach a much broader audience by offering the possibility to attend online.

2. Sustainable transportation

Your event will only be sustainable if it relies on environmentally friendly means of transportation to bring people and materials to the venue. Opt for electric or hybrid vehicles or, at the very least, save fuel. Offer guests a shuttle service so they can easily get from A to B without having to use their cars. Or better yet, make sure that they can reach the venue by public transport.

3. A sustainable location

The choice of location sets the course for a sustainable event. Ask yourself, how strongly is the company managing your desired location committed to sustainability? Does it have a sustainability concept? Look for locations certified with an environmental label, as these have already proven that they fulfill several criteria. And remember, a sustainable event location should get most of its energy from renewable sources – including solar energy, wind power, or hydropower. Energy-saving lamps or LED lights contribute to sustainability, as does heating with environmentally friendly alternatives to fossil fuels. Event locations that heat with wood, heat pumps, or district heating, for example, considerably reduce their impact on the climate. And, as already mentioned earlier, the location should be accessible by public transport.

4. Ecological event construction

Depending on the event and the location, you might have to adapt the interior design. Whether you’re using platforms, walls, or other decorative elements, your focus should be on sustainability. Modular construction elements make this easy. They are reusable and simple to assemble and disassemble. The elements can be rearranged for each event to suit your ideas and create a unique ambience. To save resources, reusable elements and materials are generally a good idea. And for a truly sustainable event experience, build sorted by material. This makes it possible to separate from each other completely and feed them back into the cycle for reuse. And before you purchase anything, ask yourself: will I be able to reuse this element in the future? If not, start scouting around for companies that offer items for rent. They will not only save you money but also space in your storage facility.


5. Catering: regional, seasonal, and fair cuisine

Food production is responsible for about a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. So, when choosing a catering service, pay attention to their commitment to sustainability. Among the criteria is the choice of food. The more vegan, vegetarian, seasonal, regional, and fair-trade products they use, the more sustainable the service is likely to be. It also ensures that all of your guests will find something suitable in their offering.

But don’t forget, regional does not always mean sustainable. A vegetable grown in Switzerland in a greenhouse heated with non-renewable energy might have a larger carbon footprint than an imported vegetable grown in a greenhouse heated with renewable energy. So, be sure to pay attention to how the food was produced.

Another important point to consider is handling food waste. Transform this challenge into a win-win situation by working with local aid organizations and donating leftover food to those in need. Other crucial factors to consider when choosing a catering service are environmentally friendly alternatives to disposable tableware and avoiding waste during the production of the food and during the event.

6. From zero waste to waste management

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. If you follow these five principles of zero waste in the planning and executing phases, you’ll transform your event into a zero-waste event and significantly reduce emissions. If that’s too extreme for you, consider the following tips: Make it a point to avoid single-use plastic from the start. Choose a catering service that uses cutlery and tableware. And keep in mind that sustainable event locations typically have an efficient waste management system to minimize waste and ensure proper disposal, for example, by separating recycled waste and composting.

7. Paperless events

Paperless events seek to replace all printed event materials with digital alternatives. Modern, interactive tools and technologies can significantly reduce your event’s environmental footprint. At the same time, they can bring down the cost and labor involved in printing and preparing event materials as well as the costs associated with freight, storage, and logistics. Use the power of digital invitations and agendas, event apps, and QR codes to eliminate printed materials. You’ll even save attendees the hassle of carrying around event materials, while giving online and offline participants equal access to documents. If you still need to print out documents, make the printing as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible.

8. Climate compensation

Even with a sustainable planning concept and ecological business practices, it’s tremendously difficult to hold an event without any greenhouse gas emissions. One way to offset any remaining emissions is climate compensation. How does it work? It’s simple. First, determine your event’s carbon footprint using an online calculator. Once you’ve quantified your emissions, you can offset them by investing in international climate projects that, for example, promote the expansion of renewable energies or the reforestation of rainforests. Providers of climate compensation services include MyClimate, Carbonfund, ClimatePath, and NatureOffice.