The Five R’s of Event Sustainability

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The following tips are provided by TerraPass partner Meet Green, which helps organizations improve their events by integrating sustainable decisions through the planning process.


Re-think: When was the last time you stood back and took a hard look at your event model? Rethinking is about taking stock of your event, the format you use and how participant needs are evolving. Could you improve services, expand your reach and cut carbon by exploring hybrid formats? One technology event has reduced their overall carbon emissions by 10,000 metric tons by segmenting their audiences for virtual or in-person participation. Sales and C-level attendees are invited to participate in person while technical experts receive session content online. Could your event and the planet benefit from doing the same?

Reduce: Cutting waste is not just about helping the environment, but the bottom line as well. Consider these examples: selecting venues and hotels within walking distance and a destination with good transit infrastructure saved one 40,000-person event $500,000 and 36,000 lbs of emissions over three years. For another small 400-person event the same decision translated into $3,000 in savings. Asking how you can reduce at the beginning of your planning process can help save in many ways.

Reuse: From signage to china service and carpet, reuse also pays. Generically branding and removing event dates from banner signage helped one organization improve signage reuse to 37% and saved $188,000 in a single year. Asking for bulk re-usable water stations can also save organizers $2.50 per attendee while cutting water consumption in half. Reuse of 1,000 square yards of tradeshow carpet can reduce greenhouse potential by 31,000 lbs of carbon dioxide.

Recycle: While many venues and hotels in the USA provide basic recycling, most planners don’t realize that the quality of these programs varies significantly. Few hotels extend recycling to guest rooms. 20-30% of landfill waste from events is often organic, which could be composted, making zero-waste a great goal, but one that is not yet widely achieved despite marketing claims. Buying recycled and asking deeper questions about venue recycling are steps planners can take to be better informed and improve event sustainability.

Responsibility: And lastly, but definitely not least, we need to recognize that there are impacts of events that are not possible to avoid. This is where the important step of offsetting comes in: it is your opportunity to be accountable for the carbon footprint that cannot be avoided through the methods above. Making an informed choice about your offset provider to select permanent, additional and verifiable projects that fit with your organization’s mandate is important.


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