Updated: Aug 6
Event sites in the UK’s green spaces have been found to have even worse air quality than inner city areas.
This industry therefore has much work to do to reduce negative environmental impacts of UK events. This article is aimed at event professionals in the UK, to make sure we can all do our bit for a more eco-friendly events industry. So, read on to make sure you’re organising your next event in an environmentally conscious way.
Your event location can make or break the environmental friendliness of your event. One of the biggest negative environmental impacts of events is local air pollution and congestion from vehicle emissions, as both attendees and speakers usually have to travel long distances to attend the same event. The effects should not be understated; the UK events industry results in 380 million litres of diesel being used every year, costing an estimated £230 million. Therefore, events organisers should do what they can to prevent so many long distances from being necessary.
We recommend holding your event relatively equidistant to most participants and speakers. It should also be preferably near to public transport links (including an airport, if you have international attendees) so that participants do not have to drive long distances. If your corporate event has sessions spread out over multiple days (especially if it is a conference or convention), it is integral that an affordable hotel is nearby.
Do you already know in which city or borough the location needs to take place? We recommend finding out if that city has a dedicated event sustainability planning department. If they do, you can obtain sustainability information about the available venues, to be assured about the carbon footprint of your event. Event professionals can also investigate if your chosen venue has sustainability certifications, such as ISO.
2. Consider Online Options
However, an easier method, which reduces the need for these logistical considerations, is to get your event livestreamed. Therefore, people can choose to attend online to reduce vehicle pollution (and you can still hold it as a hybrid event for those attendees that will only attend in-person). This will give you much more location options without resulting in excessive vehicle emissions.
3. Digital Ticketing
Another big negative environmental impact of events, is the amount of litter that is accumulated in and around the event site. This can include discarded tickets.
Event professionals incorporating digital tickets, can be instrumental in removing the amount of waste paper and plastic required for tickets, lanyards, etc. There may be a few attendees who prefer to print out their tickets, but if you make it as easy as possible for them to access digital tickets (such as via the Eventbrite app or whichever platform you sold your tickets on), most of your attendees will rely on these. You can also remind them that digital tickets will be much more efficient at getting them into the event due to the scanning process being easier, and send them another copy of their e-tickets on the day of the event so that they are encouraged to just use these.
4. Digital Signage
In a similar vein to digital ticketing, you may also wish to store other event documents on an app or other digital version.
For instance, other waste that is produced at events includes the plastic lamination and other materials required for the map and schedules, which are displayed around the venue. Containing all this information in an app can reduce such an unnecessary amount of waste, and reduce the carbon footprint of your event considerably.
Additionally, what usually happens when changes have to be made to the timings or rooms that sessions are held in? The event professional has to print out even more signage to notify attendees of these changes. But if you were to use an app, these updates could directly notify attendees without the need to use any extraneous materials.
We’ve written even more about how digital technology can be used at events in a blog post last month; read here to learn about how you can benefit from this and make your next event eco-friendly.
5. Reduce Energy Consumption
Events have a way of consuming a lot of energy. The amount of lights used, as well as electrical consumption to power projectors and computers – especially for training events with practical components – can produce a large carbon footprint.
To reduce the demand for power, it is worth implementing energy-efficient equipment, including your speakers and projectors. Furthermore, complete a survey of the wattage of the lighting at the venue. Whether your suppliers can provide energy-efficient equipment or not, you may also need to suggest energy usage quotas, divided between participants. This is why an audit of your power consumption is so necessary, to determine whether these quotas are kept to or if further work needs to be done. If your exhibitors cannot stick to your quota for their talks or sessions, then you know that the equipment, or session durations, need to be adjusted so that it is easier for future events to use up less power.
We also recommend implementing a power-down plan, whereby towards the end of the day, unused AV equipment and lights in unutilised rooms and hallways are started to be switched off or at least enter a power-saving mode. This is also a great way of signalling to attendees when they should start heading out, so that the post-event clean-up can be undertaken efficiently.
Are you confident that your next event will be environmentally responsible? If you have any more questions, ask in the comments – let’s start an important discussion for event professionals.