Making your event more sustainable – 10 Top Tips

Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

Going green isn’t just a trend…

It’s a new mindset that the events industry needs to get totally on board with. Events can be seen to be very disposable and therefore environmentally unfriendly. When you plan your event, at every step of the way you need to ask the question “Am I doing everything I can to be environmentally friendly?”

Here are our Top 10 Tips on how you can make positive changes, to make your event less disposable and more sustainable or at least, reusable.

1. Go Virtual

Gone are the days when delegates are required to fly around the world to take part in a global conference. Virtual events are one of the best options for an event organiser to minimise the carbon footprint. When planning the carbon footprint of an international event, you need to factor in the impact that one guest has on attending in person by calculating their carbon footprint. The main carbon footprint categories are mobility, shelter, and food.

  • How did they get there? Flying obviously adds a massive carbon footprint to attending, especially if the attendee flies in a class above economy (fact: a round trip from JFK to LHR in economy is 1.8tonne of CO2 versus 5.3tonne in First Class!)
  • Energy consumed in hotel accommodation (factoring in heating, and electricity consumption)
  • Onsite Food and Beverage consumption

If a guest were to attend virtually, all this impact is removed. Keep in mind that a virtual format isn’t perfect and still isn’t fully carbon neutral, but it’s all a matter of making positive impact changes.

2. Go Hybrid

Virtual events don’t provide that same level of connection with guests, so Hybrid is the next best option for making a positive impact. Putting on a live event still but having the option for guests to attend virtually provides an opportunity to reduce some carbon footprint without changing too much of the structure of the event format.

3. Pick a green venue

  • Does your venue have green goals? Can they prove this with sustainability certification? Try to choose a venue that has an international sustainability certification like ISO 20121
  • Do they use renewable energy?
  • Is there easy access to public transportation?
  • Do they have a recycling program and access to refillable water stations?
  • What air controls do they use (air cooling versus air conditioning)?
  • Do they use all LED lighting?

4. Sustainable catering

  • When picking your caterer, check with them to see that they get their ingredients from sustainable and local sources. The less distance the food source must travel to the caterer, the lower the carbon footprint.
  • Consider providing a vegetarian menu with an ‘opt in’ to selecting the meat dish. According to recent research, it has been proved that livestock has much higher carbon footprints (require land for grazing which impacts CO2 absorption, produces large amounts of methane etc) and beef and lamb are roughly three times higher that that of pork, poultry or farmed fish.. If you provide a vegetarian or vegan menu as standard, it’s a great way to decrease the event’s carbon footprint.
  • Gain as much dietary information as you can about your event guests as possible so you can then tailor the menu to the correct quantities based on the guests’ needs so as to reduce waste in guessing the quantities and having to over-order.
  • If at all possible, donate any unused food post event to local charities in need of some support such as local food banks or shelters, but be careful in what is donated; you don’t want to cause any food poisoning if reheating is required! Plan ahead and arrange the delivery as efficiently post-event as possible

5. Minimise single-use products

This is a simple and very effective way of reducing the carbon footprint of your event. Always ensure your venue or caterer provides any food and beverages in non-disposable products (such as plastic crockery, cutlery, bags, and plastic drinks bottles).

Provide refillable water stations at your event. Go one better and provide each guest a giveaway reusable bottle to encourage sustainability beyond the use of your event.

If you DO have to provide ‘grab and go’ food, make sure they are served in recyclable/compostable containers and provide ample recycle stations

6. Décor

  • Ban the balloons! Balloons are an incredibly wasteful single-use way to decorate your event. Consider other ways to decorate before you go down this route or ensure that you use a fully compostable option if you can’t live without a balloon arch!
  • Does your florist provide reusable plants (such as succulents) rather than cut flowers? Opt for plants over bouquets (especially if your event is more than a couple of days long) as you won’t have to refresh any blooms and you can offer that guests take home the plants at the end of the event!
  • Glitter/confetti – as pretty as it may look to adorn a table with table glitter or confetti, consider something that is compostable. The same goes for face glitter – hosting a festival theme event? Make sure that the body glitter is eco-friendly!

7. Recycle units

Make sure you have ample recycling units at the event and that you have managed the full circle of how the bins will be managed. There is nothing worse than guests using the correct bins but at the end of the event, the venue then just dumps the contents into their dumpbins. Make sure the venue is on board or make sure a recycling company can come and collect from you post-event.

We LOVE these recycle units provided at a recent event we managed in Greece by Just Go Zero. Not only did the recycling units look great, but were also fun to use; When someone puts an item in to recycle, it weighs the item and it shows a tally of how well they are doing with recycling for the event!

8. Printed collateral


Save trees and send digital invites!


Do your guests NEED to wear badges? If not, opt for a QR code sign-in process and get rid of the badge printing altogether. Once guests have registered, they can be provided a unique QR code in which they can check in to the event and connect with other guests by means of an event app with communication functions.

If you DO need to wear a badge, consider printing the badges on recycled materials, provide a recycle point for any plastic element (plastic wallets etc) and avoid lanyards that are not recyclable / reusable (there are so many sustainable options out there now for minimal extra cost)

Event guides / agendas

Switch a printed guide to an app, with all the information the guest could ever want to know about the event at the tap of an app

An event app can provide SO much more information than a printed guide could manage before. Create a digital schedule and venue map.

For exhibitors, provide your brochure digitally rather than printed brochures.


Opt for ways of branding your venue with reusable or sustainable products. If you need to vinyl an area, there are now compostable products on the market which are the greener options (although sadly a little more budget-busting right now)

Create generic branding which can be reused (or at least re-skinned) such as pop-up banners, backdrops, step and repeat boards etc. Not only will this save your budget for future events but also helps save the planet!


Eco-friendly swag

Always make sure any promotional swag is eco-friendly. Try not to order thousands of plastic keychains or pens that you know will be discarded soon after the guest gets home. Think of useful gifts that will help change the eco-mindset of a guest, such as reusable drinking bottles, bamboo pens or coffee tumblers, organic cotton bags, wild seed packs for the garden.

9. Transport

We have already touched on ensuring the location of your venue is easily accessible (ideally with great links to public transport, or better still WALKING distance from the majority of your guests) however if you are planning a country retreat for example, look into providing shuttle services to your venue, encourage attendees to carpool wherever possible and (if you are providing the transport) opt for electric, hydrogen or hybrid vehicles.

10. Plan and Educate

You have to be dedicated at the outset to make sure you are focused from the initial planning stages throughout the event. Build any sustainability requirements you have in any RFPs and contracts you form as part of the event. If you are clear to all suppliers that this is one of your top priorities in planning the event, they will then do all they can to help you achieve your goals.

If you plan multiple events and intend to have sustainability as the main focus, it might be worth investing in becoming a member of an initiative such as ISLA. They provide advice, training, and a fantastic TRACE platform where you can calculate the carbon footprint of each area of your event and make positive choices before committing.

Shout about your goals! It’s great to share the success of your plans with your guests so they are also aware of all the effort you are going to, to make the event as eco-friendly as possible. When registering guests, educate them in their choices in WHY you are asking them how they are travelling and selecting their menu options (can they make better choices to do their part?)

Creating a fully sustainable event is not going to be a complete success overnight; but with a positive mindset and committing to whatever initiatives that are available to you with timing, budget, and availability; even a small step is a BIG step in the right direction to creating a greener future for events.

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