It’s time to start planning again – for travel experiences and sustainable events. Certainly, the pandemic brought to light issues of economic, health, and environmental justice. The truth is that sustainable events can provide some solutions for these complex problems and help the tourism industry turn around again. Specifically, event planners can plan sustainable events that are uniquely people-centered, budget-friendly, innovative, and inspiring.
Sustainable Events are Not a Niche
When it comes to planning your event, going green should not be an afterthought. Whether you are organizing a smaller meetup, a trade show, or a 3-day conference, it’s important to be mindful of the impact your event is having on the environment. Specifically, planners should look at opportunities to work with venues and communities that enable events to be socially, economically, and environmentally responsible.
In 2019, a survey conducted by Skift and Eventbrite found that just 6% of meeting planners surveyed thought sustainability was a meeting creator’s priority. Then, in 2020, that number jumped to 59%. Sustainability has moved beyond a national trend to a global responsibility.
Building Blocks of Sustainable Events
As an event planner, there isn’t much fun in offering or planning an event that is just like every other one. In addition, for your organization or clients, there is not a competitive advantage in offering events like everyone else’s either.
Basically, sustainable events have 3 main building blocks. They balance economic development with local environmental and social needs. And, the most successful events ensure that:
- environmental and economic goals are visible
- social and economic goals are equitable
- environmental and social goals are not burdensome
Sustainable events emphasize the notion that economic development does not damage nor destroy the very assets that motivate visitors (and planners) to come to the destination. Also, social goals that enhance the livelihood of residents, tell their stories and share their traditions. Finally, environmental practices that do not burden communities with high water, energy, or food costs or waste.
It’s a different way of thinking about events that produce results. Since sustainable attitudes are becoming more mainstream, events can lead the way by cutting through the typical large conference experience of four walls, hotel, and airport transfers. Instead, sustainable events can encourage people to value and explore the destination along with building new business contacts.
Photo from UN.org
Sustainable Development Goals
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a blueprint for achieving a sustainable future for all. SDGs address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice. And, they are interrelated so that solutions can be implemented holistically. So, what does this have to do with planning events? In fact, a lot!
While an argument can be made that all 17 SDGs can fit into the role of how events can improve a destination given the underlying notions of policymaking and partnerships, the four that are most attributable are:
- Clean water and sanitation (#6)
- Affordable and clean energy (#7)
- Sustainable cities and communities (#11)
- Responsible consumption and production (#12)
Tips for Saving Planning Budgets by Going Green
- Front-end sustainability planning with sponsorships from organizations that are focused on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and ensuring to negotiate sustainability into venue contracts.
- Shift your planning focus from simple recycling to ensuring no product packaging or from using shuttle buses to emphasizing walking or biking to the venue.
- Set goals for procurement, food waste, energy usage, transportation, giveaways, education, and development.
- Budget for impact by providing attendee experiences, volunteer programs, fair-traded items, sustainably-sourced food, and composting.
- Encourage transparency by communicating clearly with participants about your sustainable event goals.
- Convert facts to human values of health and community impacts.
Example of a Sustainable Event – 2016 Brighton Festival