Sustainable Practices for In-Person Events

Sustainable Practices for In-Person Events

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Posted on August 4, 2023

A typical event attendee produces up to 1.9 kg of waste every day, 85% of which ends up in a landfill.

Event sustainability has become one of the leading trends in the PR industry and for good reason. With climate change hitting headlines all across the world, there is a constant rise in environmental consciousness. A lot of attendees are now more aware of their impact on the environment and want to reduce their carbon footprint.

Therefore, the events industry has a responsibility to embrace sustainable events. Event professionals must level up their eco credentials and plan events that minimize the impact it produces on the environment.

But with so many things to think about when organizing an event and so many demands on a restricted budget, planning a sustainable event may seem like a further complication. However, that’s not true. Planning an environmentally-conscious event is easier than you may think.

With the right set of tools and information, you can easily minimize the negative impacts on the environment while still ensuring an exciting event for your attendees. Here, we will discuss some best practices for sustainable event planning.

What Is a Sustainable Event and Why Is It Important?

A sustainable event can be understood as one that is designed to eliminate or reduce its harmful impact on the environment. While the event may or may not be related to the environment, the event planners can go a long way in minimizing the environmental impact of the event as well as teaching attendees about sustainable practices.

Moving on, eco-conscious events are specifically designed to be ecologically, economically, and socially responsible. They include practices that can safeguard our natural environment, support economic growth, and boost a safe and equitable atmosphere for people.

Apart from that, sustainable events can also be a great asset to your organization. By striving for sustainability, you are demonstrating that you care. And this not only boosts your organization’s reputation but also draws in stronger partnerships. Also, green technology and energy can offer huge cost savings for many organizations.

Best Sustainable Practices for In-Person Events

By now, you must have understood the importance of planning sustainable events. But you may be wondering how to actually create a sustainable event. Here, we have put together some best sustainable practices for in-person events examples that you can follow.

1.      Choose an Eco-Friendly Venue

This is indubitably one of the most effective ways to make your events more sustainable. When searching for an environment-friendly venue, you must consider factors like energy efficiency, green certification, waste reduction initiatives, and water conservation efforts.

Green certifications such as Green Seal or LEED indicate that the specific venue fulfills the typical environmental performance and standards. The venue’s energy efficiency, on the other hand, demonstrates that the venue deploys energy-saving measures such as using solar panels or natural lighting.

Water conservation is another crucial consideration when selecting an eco-friendly venue. With our global freshwater consumption reaching a staggering 4.3 trillion cubic meters each year, you must consider places that offer amenities like waterless urinals, recycled water, low-flow toilets, etc. (you can modify this last sentence so it’s connected to the updated content). You must consider places that offer amenities like waterless urinals, recycled water, low-flow toilets, etc. Also, opt for venues that prioritize using biodegradable and reusable products that help in waste reduction. All these will help in choosing a greener venue to host your event.

Many websites such as Green Globe and TripZero can help you to identify a list of the best eco-friendly venues for your events.

One of the best sustainable events examples is demonstrated by Salesforce. Each year, the company organizes the annual Dreamforce Conference to showcase its commitment to sustainability. They choose an eco-friendly venue that uses renewable energy sources to power the event. The venue also offers sustainable transportation options and implements waste-reduction measures.

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2.      Opt For Biodegradable Utensils instead of Single-Use Plastic

Most disposable plastics are hard to recycle. They are made from non-renewable sources and can end up in streams and oceans if not recycled properly. So, go plastic-free and opt for biodegradable materials instead.

For instance, replace plastic straws and spoons with wooden or bamboo-based cutlery. You can even opt for compostable plant-based straws. Also, replace non-reusable plates with wooden or metal ones which are reusable. Make sure to install water stations at frequent intervals with reusable cups.

Apart from the cutlery, also make sure to use biodegradable materials for event settings such as tableware, decorations, and other items. For instance, you can opt for sustainable tablecloths that are made from natural fibers such as cotton or linen and help to minimize their negative impact on the environment.

Google has always garnered praise for its commitment to sustainability. Every year, the company organizes the Google Cloud Next conference with a focus on reducing waste by using water stations and reusable cups. The company also offers vegan and vegetarian food options to the attendees, promoting them to offset their travel emissions.

3.      Say Yes to Sustainable Catering

Food is among the foremost drivers of climate change. All the extra food goes into a landfill, which is the prime cause of landfill methane emissions, a global greenhouse gas contributor.

So, to avoid this and embrace sustainability, you must opt for sustainable catering. What this essentially means is focusing on environmentally conscious methods of sourcing, cooking, plating, and disposing of food materials.

Search for caterers that provide farm-to-table options. Having locally grown or produced items on the menu helps to lessen the distance the food has to be transported, making it better for the environment. Or, you can also seek out organic produce from certified sources. Additionally, make sure the caterer you choose has a waste reduction plan.

To cut down on food waste, it is recommended to accurately estimate the amount of food needed for the anticipated attendees. You can create attendee personas by asking about the dietary requirements of each attendee in advance and go for plated menus instead of a buffet. In case there is still any leftover food, make sure to donate it to a local food bank or shelter.

The Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival is among the largest camping music festivals in North America. The company set a great example by turning 180 tons of food waste into compost at the end of a four-day event.

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4.      Choose Smart Transport Options

How your attendees travel to your in-person event can make a huge difference to the event’s impact on the environment. It is recommended to promote your attendees to use public transport such as trains or buses to reach the venue. Alternatively, you can arrange for a shuttle service that enables all the attendees to reach the venue together. This will limit excess carbon emissions produced by hundreds of single-occupant car journeys.

If none of the aforementioned options works out, you can offer ride-sharing or carpooling services such as Lyft or Uber. That will also help to reduce the number of cars being used. You can also consider environmentally-friendly electric or hybrid vehicles to shuttle your attendees to the venue.

Additionally, for larger gatherings or events where attendees might be traveling from out of town, LA RV Rentals can be an excellent alternative. This can be a sustainable and memorable way to transport your guests, especially for events in and around Los Angeles, where the stunning landscapes and campgrounds can be part of the overall experience.

Lastly, make sure to choose venues that are easily accessible via public transport. Avoid selecting venues that are remotely located as then the attendees will have to travel long distances. And all the carbon emissions that your attendees will emit will simply cancel all of your other sustainability initiatives.

The best example of this is demonstrated by Tesla, the automobile manufacturing giant that not only promotes sustainable transportation through its products but also in event planning.

The company organizes events where they encourage attendees to use their own fleet of electric vehicles and avoid fossil fuel-based energy sources. They also promote public transport by providing info on all public transportation routes and schedules as well as arranging shuttle services between the event venue and all popular locations.

5.      Implement Waste Reduction Initiatives

Reducing the amount of waste produced is a crucial aspect of creating a sustainable event. There are plenty of waste-minimizing techniques that you can implement, such as composting, recycling, or using digital collateral.

Composting is a process in which all organic materials, such as leftover food items, are reduced to a soil-like substance that can be used as a natural fertilizer. You can prevent all the waste from going into a landfill by implementing an effective composting program at your event. Make sure to safely dispose of anything you cannot compost.

Collaborating with a Hazardous Waste Contractor Southern California can ensure the safe and compliant disposal of any non-compostable, hazardous materials. Recycling is another efficient waste reduction technique that allows you to repurpose materials such as paper, plastic, and metal. This will also reduce the amount of waste diverted to a landfill. 

Starbucks, the renowned coffee company, has been committed to sustainability and waste reduction for many years. The company encourages its event attendees to bring their own reusable cups or mugs.

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Additionally, Starbucks sets up recycling and composting stations at their events to ensure proper waste separation. Clear signage and staff assistance help attendees dispose of their waste correctly. This enables the recycling of materials like paper, plastic, and aluminum while diverting organic waste to composting facilities.

6.      Reduce Paper Waste by Choosing Digital Alternatives

One of the highly recommended practices for planning sustainable events is digitizing various aspects of the event with an end-to-end software platform. This is an excellent way to eliminate the need for wet signatures and printed materials such as pamphlets, flyers, brochures, etc.

An event app, for instance, can provide attendees with a digital schedule and map. Instead of printing wasteful paper brochures, you can create digital brochures and embed them as links within the app.

You can also create an online registration system without the need for wasting your time and money on disposable badges and manual registration processes. This will not only decrease the waste produced at the event with plastic badge covers but also streamline the registration and check-in process. Even the attendees and sponsors can network with each other within the app instead of exchanging business cards.

There are innumerable ways that your event team can shift to becoming less dependent on paper. And one brilliant example of this is demonstrated by IBM. The company prioritizes sustainability and leverages technology to reduce paper at their events. From digital event registration to event apps and digital agendas, IBM’s Enterprise Event App not only reduces paper waste but also enhances the attendee experience through convenient access to event information.

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7.      Promote Sustainability Education at Your Event

Now that you have made an earnest effort into planning a sustainable event, let your attendees know about it. Tell them about your sustainability goals and educate them on topics such as waste reduction, renewable energy, and eco-friendly living. This is a great way to educate your attendees and help them make more environmentally-responsible choices.

You must also consider incorporating sustainability messaging into your event’s marketing collateral, including logos and signage.

Finally, don’t hesitate to share all this information online. From your invitation letters to social media, advertisements, and newsletters, promote sustainability information everywhere. This will help to get your attendees excited about your sustainable initiatives and make them play a role in helping your event meet its eco-friendly goals.


With the rising environmental degradation and climate change, following these sustainable practices in events will likely become the industry norm. Therefore, it is best to adapt now.

An event that incorporates eco-friendly initiatives and reduces the carbon footprint is beneficial for everyone, the attendees, your organization, and the environment. So, follow these aforementioned tips and plan events that are ecologically viable.

The author Emily, as an outreach specialist, have a passion for connecting with people and building relationships. An experience of 1 years in Kustomer experience has enabled her to develop a versatile skill set that allows me to adapt to different environments and engage with a diverse range of stakeholders

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