Earth Day fell on April 22 this year. As happens every year, people from around the world agreed on that day to turn off lights, reflect on ways to make our planet cleaner and take steps to reduce waste.
As we in this industry know, bringing together thousands of people can create a great deal of waste and emissions. However, we can make conscious decisions every day, at every event, to make sure we are doing all that we can to make our events environmentally friendly.
Follow these five tips to do so.
1. Choose a centrally located event destination.
As most of us know where our event attendees are from, it's a good idea to find a location closest to the majority. Start by using any of several tools available from the leading event technology companies that track where each attendee is from; you can then calculate the most logical, centrally located destinations. Using these apps can help reduce carbon emissions, travel costs and travel time.
2. Use ride-sharing services to cut down on carbon emissions.
Ride sharing has a much higher profile now than it did several years ago, thanks to the rise of Uber, Lyft and other disruptors. However, I’ve been to several events where I’ve seen a line of taxis or personal cars pull up with only one person getting out of the vehicle.
Carpooling, well known in kindergartens around the country, is one way to ensure that carbon emissions stay low. Encourage your attendees to use the carpool feature on Uber.
Another way to cut down on emissions is to use buses at your event. Obviously, many large events do so regularly, but events of all sizes can certainly benefit. Some buses are more environmentally friendly than others, so check out your options. In any case, having 60 people in one vehicle is far better than having 60 individual cars.
3. Use a mobile event app to reduce paper waste.
I can’t remember how many events I’ve attended at which, upon checking in, I’ve received a tote bag full of paper — a massive binder with the printed agenda, exhibitor information, a map and countless ads. It’s an incredible waste of paper.
A mobile event app can reduce the need for those piles of paper, and in turn drive down printing and shipping costs. Plus it often renders a heavy tote bag unnecessary and travels easily with attendees, helping to keep them engaged during the show.
4. Incorporate a green community event into the proceedings.
We’ve been seeing a steady increase in the use of event activities that benefit communities. Our partners at Salesforce, for instance, are doing a great job of this with their Dreamforce Cares initiative. Consider adding a community event with environmental benefits such as planting trees, collecting roadside or park waste or hosting a fun run to raise awareness. Such activities can benefit the local community directly, while creating time for your attendees to bond over a shared purpose and get to know the surrounding area.
5. Recycle and/or compost the waste.
One of my favorite airports to travel through is San Francisco International Airport. As soon as you step off the plane, you notice it’s nearly impossible to find a “regular” trash can: The airport makes great efforts to recycle or compost nearly all waste found on the premises.
Think of all the cups, cans, paper, food and so on that were thrown away at the last event you hosted or attended. Work with your host venue to set up stations and bins that are clearly marked for recyclable materials, compost or landfill, and explain to your attendees what can go in each container. Remember, not all attendees are equally versed in knowing what goes where; even a brief mention on stage or in the event app can shed light on your initiative and get everyone thinking about where to ditch their trash.
Patrick Mendoza is director of communications for Lanyon, and a former staffer at the Environmental Protection Agency.