A couple weeks ago I sat down with my 3 year old to watch the Netflix documentary, A Plastic Ocean. Yes, I know what you are thinking, what 3 year old would sit through a documentary if paw patrol is not in it! Well, much to my surprise he made it through about 30 minutes, enough to understand and ask me ‘Mom, why is the whale sick?’. His question came as images of a sick and dying whale were being shown because it ingested six square meters of plastic sheeting. As I tried to explain to him what made the whale sick and how sad it was, the look of bewilderment on his face broke my heart, as did this documentary. The startling facts and heart wrenching images were enough for me to ask myself- how can we as human beings be this cruel to our planet and its marine life, how can we be so blind and unaffected? And most importantly, what can we do to help end our harmful practices. As one of the hosts of the documentary Craig Leeson stated, “From knowing, comes caring and from caring comes change”. This statement, in its simplicity is what inspired me to write this article.
A startling stat as stated by MeetGreen shows that a typical five-day conference with 2,500 attendees consumes up to 62,500 disposable plates, 87,500 napkins, 75,000 cups and 90,000 cans or bottles. Given the extensive amount of logistics used for event planning, it is no surprise that the event planning industry has a huge impact on the environment. With this in mind, sustainability should not be approached as an afterthought but rather a necessity when planning memorable events- from pre production to post production.
Although it is difficult to give an entire event an eco-friendly revamp, incorporating some sustainable event planning practices can go a long way to highlight your eco-friendly efforts and leave a positive impression on your guests. Not only will you minimize the negative impact of your event but also serve to inspire event attendees who are made aware of the innovative practices used to create an environmentally friendly meeting.
I’ve rounded up a few easy tips that can help you do your part at your next event:
- Select a green certified venue. In Toronto, some of my favorites are Artscape Wynchwood Barns (LEED Gold certified), Centre for Green Cities at Evergreen Brick Works (LEED Platinum certified) and Hilton Mississauga/Meadowvale ( 4 Green Key Eco- Rating from the Hotel Association of Canada).
- Responsible Catering – using local or regional food vendors. Incorporate as much seasonal, organic, local food offerings as possible.
- Using compostable tableware (if not using reusable). Think compostable plates, cups and cutlery, biodegradable paper straws.
- Go Paperless and plastic free- use glass bottles for water vs. plastic ones. Use paper straws vs. plastic ones.
- Reuse wherever possible- repurposing and up cycling can help with this. Reuse lanyards, badge holders and other materials so long as you don’t personalize them during your event. Keep signage generic or use chalkboards!
As an event professional, it is important to me to have these conversations with clients; vendors and partners, keeping sustainability a topic that is top of mind so that we become more deliberate and focused in our efforts. Sadly, the headlines about climate change, plastic pollution, melting ice caps and erratic weather patterns will continue, but by incorporating a few small sustainable steps in your event planning- we can certainly make a difference.