Probably the most important step towards implementing a green event is the choice of venue, which will determine the overall environmental impact of the event, such as energy and water use and the waste generated by delegates and catering operations.
Selecting venues that have obtained environmental certification provides assurance that the environmental impact of the event will also be reduced.
Andre Harms, a sustainability engineer and founder of Ecolution Consulting, says travellers and conference delegates are becoming more and more attuned to green accommodation and actively look for hotels that are operated sustainably. Harms was an integral part of the building of Hotel Verde Cape Town, Africa's greenest hotel. He also recently completed work on Hotel Verde Zanzibar, East Africa’s greenest hotel.
He continues to assist on all projects for Verde Hotels, leaders in responsible and sustainable hotel development and operations.
As climate change gains more attention around the world, there is renewed focus on carbon emissions. Consumers are becoming more conscious of their carbon footprint, and are beginning to look for ways to reduce their impact on the planet – to eventually becoming carbon neutral.
The single biggest contributor to an event’s carbon footprint is travel; therefore, location and access are essential when selecting an event venue.
Carbon offsetting enables anyone to offset or neutralise a specific carbon footprint (ie an event or travel) by supporting projects, typically energy efficiency, renewable energy and tree planting that either reduce or offset carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. This effectively means that the negative amount of carbon created is apportioned to the offsetting entity, event or development.
When choosing accommodation, those that have environmental certification particularly suitable as they demonstrate compliance with environmental standards and can guide the event planner on more precise impact assessment and carbon accounting.
Guy Johnstone, general nanager at Hotel Verde Zanzibar, says that guests are also incentivised and encouraged to be “green savvy” while staying at the hotel by:
- Making use of the power-generating gym equipment (phase 2)
- Reusing towels
- Separating waste in the split bins for recycling
- Taking the stairs instead of the lift
- Walking or cycling to see the sights
When it comes to menu planning, the choice of locally sourced organic and seasonal produce, and even providing vegetarian dishes, will reduce environmental impact and benefit communities.
When arranging catering for an event, planning to prevent waste is essential. The number of delegates should be confirmed as precisely as possible to avoid the preparation of too much food. Half portions and children’s menus should also be available.
Large volumes of printed materials are generated for most meetings and events, but with information technologies widely available, most of the communication functions can and should be carried out electronically. Promotional emails, electronic invitations, registration, information packs and meeting documents can be provided on memory sticks or be available to download online.
If printing is necessary, print double-sided, using recycled paper and vegetable ink. Font selection and printer settings can further reduce ink consumption. While best avoided, any gifts or branded materials should be made of biodegradable, recycled and sustainably sourced materials, preferably from local suppliers.
There is no outright authority that tells an event planner exactly what to do and how to address sustainability when planning an event, but there are many associations at their disposal to assist and give guidance. There are also easy-to-use carbon footprint calculators where you can enter details about attendee travel, the venue and meals to get an approximate measurement of the carbon impact created by an event.
Harms highlights the importance of incorporating environmental considerations throughout all stages of an event in order to minimise the negative impact on the environment and positively contribute towards the community.
He says the hospitality industry should be incorporating green building practices, strategies and operations into its hotels to present a completely sustainable offering in support of the worldwide green movement and to assist in promoting responsible tourism. “Sustainability profits not only the organisation, but the global environment too,” he emphasises.