Incorporating sustainable practices into your event plan can not only reduce the environmental impact of your event but also contribute to a positive reputation and a memorable experience for attendees.
Event organisers have both a responsibility and a great opportunity to promote sustainable practices through the design and planning of their events. Providing attendees with the means to participate in and contribute to these practices can heighten positive feelings of connectedness and ‘working together for the greater good’ that many people associate with events and social gatherings. Taking sustainable practices one step further into the realm of a regenerative approach to event planning compounds this even further.
There are many traditionally wasteful aspects of event planning that can be readily replaced with sustainable or regenerative alternatives. A willingness to change the learned habits that define the ‘business as usual’ approach to event organisation can lead to innovative and exciting developments which fulfil many purposes at once.
Responsible Decision Making
Your event planning decisions define the experience and ‘feel’ of your event, which flow on to public perception and reputation.
- Prioritising local and low emission venues, suppliers and vendors that engage in responsible and sustainable practices can be a multi-faceted positive decision – reducing environmental impact, supporting your local economy and bolstering your event’s public perception among many other potential benefits.
- Choosing to use locally produced, recycled and/or reusable event supplies where possible also has many benefits in regard to sustainability.
Partnerships and Community Engagement
- Include attendees in your event’s sustainable and regenerative initiatives where possible and offer education on how to implement similar initiatives at home.
- Consider partnering with local businesses, organisations and charities to achieve your event’s sustainability goals.
- Offering community groups opportunities to fundraise through your event is a great way to engage with your local community. Utilising their members to collect and sort event waste doubles up on sustainable practices and engagement.
Sustainable vs Regenerative Practices
The term sustainability can be defined as ‘the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.’ This definition is inherently limiting, as it is based on maintaining a status quo. It has become more common recently to go past this ‘maintenance’ approach to envisage pathways in which regeneration is the goal, over and above what currently exists.
- Consider ways that your event can effect positive change to the environment and your community.
- Donating a percentage of proceeds from your event to local regenerative projects is a simple way to start implementing regenerative practices alongside your active sustainability efforts. This could also include a voluntary donation collection from attendees at your event.
- Some examples of regenerative projects that you could consider donating to include native tree plantings, wetland and waterway restoration, biodiversity and pest control projects, regenerative agriculture initiatives, community-based educational programmes, and more.
- Think of ways that your event could achieve regenerative outcomes directly – outsourcing to existing projects is not the only way to go about this. Work to your strengths and those of your partnered organisations.
- Selecting the right venue sets the context for any event, particularly when considering principles of sustainability and regeneration.
- Choose a venue that is easy to access by public or shared transport.
- A low-emissions venue is one where heating isn't reliant on burning fossil fuels like coal or diesel; instead, it utilises sources like electricity or wood pellets. The significance of this aspect cannot be overstated in terms of reducing the carbon footprint of an event, as heating is a major source of pollution.
- If you are finding it difficult to locate a local low-emissions venue, let existing venue operators know that this is a priority for you and your community. Change often requires prompting to begin.
- Consider the environmental impact of different freight and transport options for your operations.
- Promote sustainable transportation options like walking, biking, or using public transportation for attendees.
- If your venue location requires travel, consider providing a free or low cost shuttle service from central points to the event.
- Encourage attendees who live nearby to walk or cycle to the event and provide safe bike racks at the venue. You could offer an incentive or create a fun competition aspect around this.
- Avoid single-use items and opt for reusable or compostable alternatives for cutlery, plates, containers, and cups.
- Provide water refill stations for attendees, from which they can refill their own water bottles.
- Reduce food waste by accurately estimating guest count, coordinating with caterers to donate surplus food to local charities, and composting organic food waste and compostable packaging.
- Offer digital event information and provide reusable bags or containers for giveaways.
- Sort event waste accurately and recycle where possible.
- A carbon footprint is a measure of greenhouse gas emissions – there are 7 main greenhouse gases, which are usually converted to their equivalent in carbon dioxide for easier comparison.
- Offset the event's carbon footprint by investing in carbon offset projects or supporting local environmental initiatives.
- It is more efficient to minimise carbon output than to offset it, so look at where you can reduce this across your event’s activities.
Consider ways that your event could contribute to:
- Community values and structure
- Equitable and empowering educational and employment opportunities
- Social stability (peace and justice)
- Physical health and wellbeing
- Mental health and wellbeing
- Celebration and tolerance of diversity
- Productive local food networks
- Access to potable water
- Access to healthy and sustainable housing
- A healthy lived environment
- Honouring, respecting, and celebrating the diverse cultural landscape of our society contributes to a more cohesive and collaborative lived experience for all.
- Engage with local rūnanga and iwi where appropriate to ensure Te Ao Māori values, traditions and customary practices are provided for and adhered to in your activities.
- Te Ao Māori values include Whanaungatanga (a sense of belonging), Manaakitanga (altruism), Kotahitanga (oneness, unity), Rangatiratanga (self-governance), Mōhiotanga (sharing of knowledge), Māramatanga (understanding), Kaitiakitanga (guarding our taonga) and Whakapapa (genealogy), among others.
- Consider whether your event aligns with the Tiaki Promise – a statement of intent regarding respect, protection, and care for Aotearoa New Zealand.
- Ensuring your event’s ongoing sustainability involves making informed and appropriate financial decisions.
- Providing sustainable pay rates (i.e. a living wage) ensures that your staff and contractors can sustain themselves and their families.
- Innovation and technology can be used to drive profitability in a sustainable manner.
- Maintaining a code of ethics around profits, people and the environment ensures no one is short-changed by your event’s activities.
- Utilising local suppliers, vendors, staffing, venues, community partnerships and services strengthens your local economy among many other benefits.
Have you considered?
- Which local community groups could you partner with in working towards sustainable outcomes for your event?
- Which event assets (signage, crowd barriers etc.) could you reuse or repair?
- How could your event reduce the waste produced by its activities?
- Do your event activities contribute to social or cultural sustainability?
- How can you involve your attendees in your sustainable and regenerative practices?
- How can your event take direct action towards environmental regeneration?
- Are your event finances sustainable?