The Importance of Sustainability within Events

We love events. From designing them, managing them, to attending them and watching our wild ideas come to life, there really is no other industry we would rather be a part of. That being said, we also love the planet, and right now – the planet really needs our help. Did you know that 85% of the waste produced by an attendee at a live event is sent to landfill? Or that food at an event can comprise as much as 60% of an event waste stream? 

It is now the vital role, responsibility and requirement of organisations across the world to implement sustainable initiatives, plans and goals within their business model to tackle the global climate crisis and work towards a more sustainable future. This requirement has transcended into the events they hold too. Therefore, the events industry must also adapt accordingly. In order to continue to innovate and improve, ensuring strong sustainable practices and goals are in place is key for moving forward within the events industry.

Panoptic Events are constantly pushing the boundaries to come up with fresh and innovative ideas, harnessing the global network of connections we have made across multiple sectors to deliver new event strategies and work together for the greater good, with a strong emphasis on sustainability. Education has always been at the core of what we do. In the past year, our continuous learning approach has opened our eyes to the importance of sustainability within the events sector. This is something we feel incredibly passionate about. Our focus on educating ourselves has given us copious amounts of invaluable information, such as our ‘Sustainability at Events’ Ebook where you can find recent case studies and plenty of interesting facts.

How can your event become greener?

We feel strongly about making our own event design and event management process environmentally friendly. With that in mind, we began looking into our supply chain, the venues we use, how we can minimise waste at events and the CSR initiatives of like-minded companies. We have made it our priority to ensure strong sustainable practices and goals are now in place in our business model. In 2020, we created our very own ‘Green Print’ for how Panoptic Events will move forward in terms of sustainability. It is our firm belief that this should be taught to others in order for us to move forward as an industry. 

Innovations like green venues, renewable energy sources and in-house recycling systems offer the events sector the chance to make a positive impact and encourage others to do the same. By producing ‘greener’ events, the industry will join forces with several others in tackling the impending global climate crisis and driving a positive change in the world. That being said, it is for everyone to make a drive towards sustainability, not just the event organisers and suppliers. The only way we will make significant change is if the attendees also get on board with a more sustainable events infrastructure, and we hope to see this being implemented across the board in the near future. So, you’re probably thinking – how can my event become greener? Let’s take a look at Panoptic’s top five tips for hosting a green event.

#1 Go Paperless 

With so many options on the market to digitise your event and go paperless, there really is no excuse nowadays to rely on paper at your event. End to end event management software offers event organisers the perfect way to make their event greener and reduce its carbon footprint – event websites, apps and digital registration systems can be utilised to keep guests engaged and updated with the event programme and other important information, alongside allowing them to cleverly keep track of delegate numbers. 

Why not get rid of the usual promotional leaflets and programmes which typically end up dumped in the bin? Instead, put all of the important event information in one place – cutting printing costs and eliminating the need for brochures, flyers and session schedules. Event apps for smartphones and tablets and websites offer a slick, easily accessible way for attendees to view the event details, map, timetables, last minute changes and any other information which adds value to your event –  all while highlighting that your event is forward-thinking, technologically-advanced and cares about its impact on the planet. This not only allows for a paperless event, but also one which is streamlined and efficient, saving time, costs and ultimately driving return on investment.

#2 Ditch the single-use plastic

Single-use, disposable plastic is one of the most difficult materials to recycle and for waste management providers to deal with. So much so, the EU has planned to ban it from 2021. So, avoid the mound of unmanageable plastic waste and ditch the single-use plastic at your event. Why not replace it with proper cutlery and crockery that can be reused? Or, if your event is on a larger scale and this isn’t possible, there are tons of biodegradable alternatives with a low carbon impact on the market. Why not try bamboo-based cutlery, reusable cups and compostable straws? It is also a good idea to avoid single sachets of condiments, salt, sugar or coffee –  not only are these a nightmare for waste management but they are an incredible waste of materials. 

#3 Select Green Event Venues or ‘Flexperiences’

Sourcing venues with sustainability credentials is a solid step towards making your event greener and has become increasingly important as more and more people look to host eco-friendly events. Selecting venues that have clearly invested in sustainable initiatives or hold solid sustainability certifications like ISO 20121 is a great way to allow event organisers to minimise wastage and reduce carbon emissions at their event, alongside measuring the event’s overall impact. Important things to consider when sourcing your green venue include ensuring there are energy-efficient systems in place, an in-house recycling programme, onsite waste management systems, portable composting toilets and that the venue can be easily reached by public transport. 

Another way to increase the greenness of your event is through selecting venues that are designed for ‘flexperiences’ – a phrase used to describe how venues can creatively repurpose existing venues and assets for multi-use. Labelled by Wunderman Thompson in 2021 as the “future of event venues”, these types of locations will begin to replace niche, specialised spaces for events, as their multifunctionality makes them far more sustainable – both environmentally and economically.

A fantastic example of a flexperience comes from Populous in Toronto, Canada, who are building a new arena in the area, set to open in 2025. The arena is being cleverly designed so it can host a range of events, from operas to esport tournaments, containing traditional theatre-style areas alongside sporting arenas for top hybrid functionality. “The design of the theatre was neither conceived as a sports arena nor an opera house”, explains Populous Senior Principal Jonathan Mallie, “Rather, a new typology that straddles the two.” This cross in combining different event spaces, from micro-venues to arenas, leads to better and more sustainable spaces, as they can be adapted to any style of event.

#4 Use Environmentally-Friendly Swag Bags

Despite their reputation of being far from eco-friendly, swag bags don’t need to be totally abandoned in order to make your event more sustainable. However, the vast majority of the free promotional gifts like pens, t-shirts, bottles and badges that tend to be given away typically end up in landfill once the conference or event is over. Over recent years, the industry has gone back to the drawing board and looked into how we can make these items more sustainable, giving away useful freebies, not gifts that will simply be thrown away. 

Instead of giving delegates bags of single-use merchandise that will probably never be used again and end up in the bin, try the ‘less is more’ approach. Offer your guests merchandise that is actually useful and won’t burden your event’s carbon footprint, like reusable tote bags, recycled mugs or eco-friendly notebooks. There are tons of sustainably sourced, eco-friendly promotional products on the market to choose from – check out Buddy Burst, who are committed to helping brands grow sustainably by producing eco-friendly promotional products which are sustainably sourced, superbly designed and bespoke to suit customer needs.

An additional green tip – if you’re making branded items – make sure you don’t put any dates on these. This means your items can be recycled time and time again at future events!

#5 Use Renewable Energy and Recycled Goods

It has been estimated that 5.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide could be avoided by 2050 if recycling rates of industrial, household and commercial waste is increased to 65%. This is just one of many powerful statements which make a strong argument for using recycled goods and ensuring there is a strong in-house recycling system in place at your event. 

Across the board, we have already begun to witness an increase in venues and event companies using renewable energy sources as a main source for powering their events. One venue in Glasgow, Scotland, recently announced that they are installing a ‘state of the art renewable heating and cooling system’, which will take the body heat from attendees and convert this into a renewable energy source. Alternative ways that venues have been using renewable energy sources is through the installation of solar electricity panels, which capture the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity which can be used in the venue.

As for using recycled goods at events, Glasgow-based company Re-Set Scenery has recently offered a convenient solution. Re-Set Scenery takes any unwanted scenery, props and furniture, which would typically go to landfill at the end of the event’s life, and instead offers a hire service where people can rent the props to be used time and time again at other events – extending the product’s life cycle. 

Additional measures you can take include selecting suppliers who only use recyclable or compostable packaging, ditching the single-use plastic and offering attendees recyclable cups, cutlery and swag bags, recycling the materials used at your event (this will also save you money on the landfill charges), and finally, ensuring there is clear signage across your event on recycling procedures to ensure guests recycle accordingly and your recycling programme goes smoothly.

If you’d like to hear more of our latest industry tips and knowledge, check out our Resources page where you can find our blog articles and ebooks. You can also keep up to date with Panoptic Events latest news and activity via our Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

At Panoptic Events, we deliver world-class experiences cross-sector that amaze and inspire. We have the expertise and solutions to design highly effective and engaging live and digital experiential marketing campaigns. Simply tell us your story, and we will create your legacy. If you would like to find out more about our services, please get in touch at molly@panopticevents.com.