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How To Run An Eco Friendly Event

Posted in Spotlights on January 4, 2017

When it comes to learning how to run an eco friendly event, Leaving No Trace is the most powerful motto of all. The famous Burning Man festival espouses this creed not just for its event, but as they say on their site, “it’s our ethic about the whole planet. Burners are environmentalists. It’s just our nature”.

Because I think that Burning Man is the epitome of running a sustainable event, I want to talk about some of their practices and how you can use them for your next event. I’ll also preface the tips by saying that it’s not just a chore that has to be done, because it’s not about you, or me, or anyone.

I think we have a great privilege to create and take part in these events, and we should want to make sure that future generations can also enjoy time together. Some environmental practices can even end up saving you money or time too, since that will be something you are also concerned about.

Pack It In, Pack it Out
Burning Man has another statement called “Pack It In, Pack It Out”. The point of this statement is that each Burner should only bring what they’re going to take back with them. Ultimately, people only bring things that are biodegradable or recyclable, as nothing should be left there to preserve it for future shows and generations. What does this mean for your event?

It can't be called an eco friendly event unless it has multiple waste receptacles, with each being present for different types. Normal trash, glass and plastic, and aluminum should be a bare minimum, for 3 receptacles per location. You and/or your team will need to come up with a plan not only for where these will be, but also for how many different types. Take it a step further with Organics, Paper/Cardboard, Glass, Plastic, Steel, Aluminum, and so on.

Of course, make sure that each of them are labeled differently - different colors are easy, and you also should have in bold print what goes in where. At Burning Man, they use one central location for the different places to emphasize the communal aspect. However, if you’re running a convention, that goes right out the window and you’ll need to have different areas. It all comes down to where you’re actually holding the event.

Event Transportation
Urge your attendees to carpool, or to take a bus or train. If it’s a local event, encourage attendees to ride their bikes and offer a discount at the gate if they do. If you’re running an event out of a convention center, make sure to encourage attendees book hotels that are within walking distance. The more you can encourage people to be close to the event, the less impact on the environment they will have.

Some events require transportation of attendees - if this is the case, try and use electric or hybrid vehicles. Now, I know that there is a lot of controversy regarding exactly how these vehicles are constructed. There is certainly evidence supporting the case that the batteries for these vehicles are just as damaging to the environment as a gasoline powered car. Unfortunately, when it comes to long-range transportation there is no “perfect” option. However, public perception normally places electric and hybrid vehicles as being more environmentally friendly, so this would be a good idea for you to consider. And for what I’ve read, these vehicles are over long periods of time better for the planet, so you should take heart there.

Take Out The Trash
In regards to the eco friendly event, there are certain “tiers” of packaging that are going to be more respectful of the environment than others.

Materials that are more easily recycled should be more highly considered. When it comes to drinks, for example, aluminum is always going to be better than plastic. Glass will be better than plastic too, but glass has the issue of breaking. In any case, try to avoid plastic at all costs. If you do need to use plastic, look into using plastics developed from non-oil sources. There are new breakthroughs in technology that allow corn and methane to create materials known as “bioplastics”. These bioplastics also require less carbon than normal, oil-derived plastics. Anything that helps reduce landfills is great, as they are rapidly expanding.

When it comes to vendors and transportation, you should be strict in being eco friendly with them as you are with your own staff. You won’t look very good if you’re presenting one front but you’re not having vendors or other guests follow the same policy.

There is no need for paper tickets if you can avoid them. Online ticketing sites can send emails, allowing you to check in attendees with a scanner. Many of these registration companies allow you to sell tickets at the door with a mobile Point of Sale solution, too. This also alleviates another use-case for paper tickets. Sometimes of course, especially for festivals and conventions, having some sort of identification like a badge or wristband is unavoidable. With this, try and look for recycled paper options. Spend extra time talking with suppliers to learn about how they manufacture the goods you’re using. You may find that you can educate them and as a result benefit all future events, not just yours.

Conclusion
There is a lot you can do to make your event more sustainable and eco friendly. While it might take extra time for you to do so, the benefits far outweigh any sort of perceived disadvantage. Attendees will appreciate you trying to be mindful, and if you’re an event planner, you can make a name for yourself as someone who does their best to preserve the environment.

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