As WIPA works towards more sustainable events, we have tips for making your events more environmentally responsible in recognition of Earth Day 2021!
Sustainability with any event may never be 100% however there are ways to reduce our carbon footprint and offset the rest.
1. Avoid single-use plastics and instead consider compostable containers.
Plastic utensils, straws, coffee cups and lids, bottled beverages, plastic bags and containers eventually end up in a landfill or the ocean. A plastic bottle takes more than 1,000 years to degrade or decompose. Rent reusable dishes and utensils or use compostables and make sure they are appropriately composted. 50% of plastics are used only for a few minutes and then thrown away and less than 9% of plastics get recycled. Plastic can only be recycled two or three times before it is no longer viable.
2. Carpool when possible or rent electric or hybrid powered shuttles.
Reduce emissions by carpooling to events or arranging shuttles for your guests. According to the EPA,, a typical passenger vehicle omits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Fewer cars on the road results in lower emissions.
So many resources are needed to use, deliver, and make these products and at the end of the day, they end up in a trash bag where they cannot be broken down and used for fertilizer or replenished back into the earth. More than half of what we consume can be composted. Organic material that sits in a landfill also creates methane which is a greenhouse gas. Most non-meat and dairy food items as well as florals and plants and materials made from plant-based ingredients qualify as compostable items.
Bonus: Use florists that use only compostable or recyclable components in their arrangements
4. Serve vegetarian or vegan meals.
Livestock requires a plethora of natural resources and accounts for at least 15% of greenhouse gas emissions. Beef is the largest contributor at more than twice the emissions to process than any other meat. If you can steer guests towards chicken, lamb, or even better vegetarian, you will greatly help reduce emissions.
5. Locally sourced food and floral
Locally based service providers who prioritize locally sourced food and floral result in fewer transportation emissions. Many flowers and food items are shipped, sometimes from overseas. Local cuisine and native floral can result in a unique and customized guest experience while also protecting the environment.
6. Donate unused and leftover food and beverage.
People sometimes RSVP for an event and due to unforeseen circumstances are unable to attend. Even during COVID, there are organizations such as We Don’t Waste that will accept donations for those in need. Research non-profits in your area and the services they offer and the communities they serve. The event industry alone produces about $21 billion in food waste a year, according to PCMA, while millions struggle to find adequate nourishment. Reduce the amount of food that may be disposed of and instead put in the hands of those in need.
7. Encourage sustainable venues with solar and renewable energy resources.
More venues are moving towards sustainability. Many are installing solar panels, efficient lighting, and appliances. Some venues and vendors are sourcing and growing their own food and have initiated recycling and composting programs. Asking questions when considering venues will help push venues to prioritize and implement sustainable and renewable energy options.
Reduced energy consumption results in a reduced carbon footprint. Studies show 80% of electricity still comes from Fossil Fuels. A candle for example, emits about the same energy as a CFL bulb. An average LED light bulb lasts 50,000 hours and produces fewer emissions than a candle. Even if those standard bulbs end up in the landfill, it is still better for the planet to swap them for efficient LED bulbs. Even better, find a location that recycles halogen, incandescent, and CFL bulbs. LEDs are the future! They are available in various colors to customize the ambiance of your event.
8. Go digital or use sustainable signage.
So much paper goes into making an event such as invitations, menus, signage, receipts, invoices, the list goes on. Consider making some or all of your events digital or consider sustainable products and signage that can be reused or rented. If you opt to use paper items for your event, recycle them at the end of your event whenever appropriate and possible.
9. Offset the rest!
Non-Profit organizations such as Carbonfund plant trees, invest in renewables, and other means to help offset emissions when you can’t be 100% carbon neutral. Check out their carbon emissions calculator for events and business and ways you can donate to help offset the carbon footprint of your event at www.carbonfund.org.
WIPA is striving to set the standard and offer resources to the event community to create sustainable events. There will always be some element of waste with any sort of event or gathering however there are many ways to offset your emissions and to be cognizant of the impact you have in your local community and the planet as a whole.