Why is it Important for Events to be Sustainable?

The natural environment surrounds and nurtures us, providing everything we need to live: air, water, food and physical materials to build and create. Human population explosion (now 8.1bn) and industrialisation have lead to enormous demand on the earth’s resources resulting in over exploitation, environmental pollution of our atmosphere, water, and soil and the desecration of our landscapes and habitats. One of the most pressing issues for our planet is climate change.

The impacts of global warming are ice melt, sea level rise, expanding deserts, heatwaves, wildfires and extreme weather. The global consequences include flooding, heat intensification, difficulty growing food, less available drinking water, less available land to live on and increased disease worldwide.

Events can use considerable amounts of energy, such as powerful sound systems, lighting and staging, not to mention generating a sizeable amount of waste. But even in today’s climate-conscious world, events show no sign of slowing down, representing a hugely valuable and unique experience for audiences around the globe. Therefore minimising the environmental impact of events is key to a thriving and responsible future for the events industry.

Embracing sustainability when hosting events will resonate with environmentally-conscious clients and attendees, as well as providing economic and operational benefits. Even small changes can make a big difference.


What is a Sustainable Event?

Organisers of a sustainable event consider the impact of that event on the three pillars of sustainability: natural environment, society, and the economy. The organisers’ goal is two pronged, to reduce any negative impacts of their event and to enhance the positive impacts.

This article focuses specifically on environmental sustainability in events and our much-needed response to the threat of climate change. As an experienced event production company we have developed expertise with a diverse range of live and hybrid events which has enabled us to gain valuable insights into how events can reduce their impact on the environment.

Event organisers need to minimise the carbon footprint of their events by identifying and using appropriate measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Emissions are generated in four main areas of event planning: transport, electricity usage, events supplies and event suppliers.


Examples of Sustainable Events

Low Carbon Event

We recently provided event equipment and technical event services to our client Chimera who produced an event for Low Carbon, who produce energy on an industrial scale from purely low carbon sources that they own and have invested in globally.

Elements of the production that aligned with their goals include providing many video displays around the venue for digital signage, reducing the need to produce many physical one-off signage boards. These displays utilise the latest high efficiency technology and have many eco friendly features, keeping their carbon footprint as low as possible.

We also used the latest hybrid technology to stream the event to remote attendees who may have preferred not to travel, or were not able to attend the event due to long distances or accessibility reasons. This combined with an app enabled the virtual attendees to interact at the event with the in-person attendees enabling an inclusive experience which in turn provides delegates with an eco-friendly option of not travelling.

Exhibition event

Forgerock Exhibition Stand

Our client, Forgerock, approached us to design, specify and produce an exhibition stand at ExCel in London Docklands. While wishing to have an attractive and prominent stand at the exhibition, Forgerock were very concerned with the environmental impact of traditional Expo stands that are produced on a purely one off basis with everything going to landfill post event. Their prime brief was to ensure there was zero waste and absolutely minimal carbon emissions from the production and build of their stand.

We came up with an all-encompassing solution for them in which all their sustainability aspirations were met. We built all the physical elements of the stand including the floor, walls, and storeroom from standard reusable stage flats, that have years of use in conference rooms as set backdrops. These were covered in biodegradable prints which combined with cardboard based signage, provided all the branding elements the client required, with zero environmental impact.

We used many products from Ikea which following the event we rehomed with interested parties. These elements included carpets covering the raised floor, live plants and plant pots, shelving units, wall lights, desk lamps etc. The demonstration pods were manufactured from modular elements that were reused for years at many different conferences and expos.

All the video displays used the latest eco-friendly technology keeping electricity usage as low as possible. All the event lighting was LED based and was either given away or reused following the event.

The client was extremely happy with the stand and our efforts to ensure there was zero landfill following the event whilst also delivering a striking, attractive exhibition stand that created the footfall they were looking for at their exhibition.


What are the Benefits of Event Sustainability?

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important within the event industry and it should be embedded at every level in the event planning process. The cross-cutting themes of sustainability such as energy efficiency, good waste management and local purchasing all contribute to producing an eco-friendly, community supporting and economically successful event.

The advantages are both tangible and intangible. Event organisers can measure the tangible advantages and promote them through their corporate and financial reports. For example;

Reduced negative impacts

  • Reduced carbon emissions
  • Reduced packaging and waste (stationary, food, drink)
  • Lower waste disposal costs

Increased positive impacts

  • Increased attendance (particularly if virtual)
  • Increased use of local and seasonal food supplies (increased income to local economy and decreased carbon miles)
  • Increased use of re-useable / eco-friendly products and packaging, and products made from recyclable materials

Successes can be promoted to raise awareness and used as evidence for key performance indicators linked to company sustainability policies. Understanding that the company running the event not only understands the need for sustainability when they put on events but also act to ensure they deliver them sustainably. Such as understanding the environmental impact created by the event and the measures used to offset that carbon production.

The intangible advantages are less easy to measure but can be as equally valuable as the tangible ones, such as;

  • Higher up the appeal ratings for event participants and contractors
  • Employee pride in a company living by its sustainability principles
  • Gratitude from local suppliers
  • The experience of new and different tastes (food and drink)
  • Demand support for re-useable and recyclable supplies producers
  • Establishing new and better purchasing habits

Planning a Sustainable Event

Working with Sustainable Suppliers

A sustainable event will draw up a succinct travel plan /principles for the everyone travelling to and from the event: attendees, speakers, event organising company and the event suppliers. Hybrid events where attendees can join in person or via an virtual event platform are a great way to reduce carbon emissions.

Event sustainability is hugely important to our planet, climate, clients, co-workers and the local community surrounding our chosen venue.

Events can be made environmentally sustainable by working with eco-friendly venues and suppliers. Ideally, they’d have a robust sustainability policy for clients and contractors to see.

For environment sustainability and to help the climate, an event organiser would be looking for a venue or supplier to demonstrate their actions and targets on energy, transport, use of materials, product purchasing and waste. Ideally a supplier should be able to show recognised sustainability credentials.

Increasing Energy Efficiency

There are a number of areas where an event organiser can improve their event’s energy efficiency and reduce the carbon miles. Even small measures can be very effective.

  1. Use renewable energy sources where possible. This really helps reduce carbon emissions
  2. Use energy efficient equipment and lighting. There is a large range of energy efficient screens available on the market. LED lighting elements are vastly better to use than halogen and other less environmentally friendly lighting options.
  3. Locate event in shared transport friendly locations and encourage participants to use public transport, event buses or car share schemes.
  4. If possible, plan event for time of year when least heating or air conditioning is required.
  5. Organise a hybrid event so participants can attend in person or virtually.
  6. Source local suppliers for equipment, staging, food and drink to reduce delivery carbon miles and economically and socially support the local community.
  7. Where carbon emissions are unavoidable, they can be offset though a number of creditable schemes such as Ecologi and Carbon Neutral Britain.

Reducing Waste

  1. Digital screens rather than plastic for registration, signage, projection and voting polls.
  2. Rechargeable batteries in all equipment that can take them (microphones, cameras remotes, lighting etc).
  3. Re-useable products (cups and crockery) or if such products are not available;
  4. Products made from recyclable or biodegradable materials (cups, crockery, toilet paper) and make it easy for event participants to recycle by placing well labelled recycling bins in obvious locations.
  5. Food waste for compost, biofuel (oil) or certain animal feeds.

Protecting Local Water Sources

To help protect local water sources venues and suppliers are best if they;

  1. Use eco-friendly cleaning and laundry products
  2. Install water efficient systems into their bathroom facilities (dual flush toilets or cistern displacement devices, tap and shower spray heads)
  3. Use jugs and glasses instead of bottled water
  4. Monitor water consumption through the use of smart meters

In Summary

Event sustainability is hugely important to our planet, climate and the people involved in organising and participating in events.

Here at Indigo Splash we have the experience and equipment to deliver eco-friendly hybrid and virtual events on a global scale. Both systems help maximise participation and are environmentally friendly, especially in respect to reducing the carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change.

We are equipped to use our own or our clients existing cloud-based systems including Microsoft teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts and partner with Cloud based event apps enabling an inclusive experience for those choosing or needing to attend remotely.

As a team, we have been climate-conscious for some time and have many years of experience working with our clients to produce events and exhibitions using recyclable materials, rechargeable battery systems and low environmental impact materials.

If you would like more information on event sustainability, or are looking to host an event which is as environmentally friendly as it is impactful, get in touch with us today.