Events and venues: how green are they?
If you are a sustainability professional or working in one of the emerging green goods and services sectors, chances are you’ve attended or hosted more than one event in the last 12 months. Aside from the endless stream of green awards, there’s a myriad of events targeting the green business sector and aiming to tackle the sustainability challenges facing our world – everything from intimate workshops and lunches to massive exhibitions lasting two to three days.
But how green are events and venues and how responsible are we being when it comes to organising and attending them?
Event organisers and venues are getting better at cutting down on waste and energy usage. But how many breakfast seminars have you attended where there’s been trays of pastries and bacon butties sitting there practically untouched? And step outside of London and it seems the taxi becomes the only form of transport that will get you from the train station to the venue conveniently and on time.
Developments in ICT mean online ‘events’ such as webinars and webcasts are becoming more popular and the virtual conference is gaining in popularity too, especially among the big brands. Last month, Unilever hosted its Sustainable Living Lab, a 24-hour global online event to find solutions to sustainability challenges.
But in-person events are still preferred by most of us, it seems.
What can I do to make my event greener?
There are a number of online tools and checklists that event organisers can access to measure and reduce the environmental impact of their events. eventIMPACTS has developed three levels – basic, intermediate and advanced – for event organisers to use to understand, measure and reduce the of environmental impact of their events.
BSI has developed BS 8901 Sustainability Management System specifically for the events industry to help it operate in a more sustainable way.
For smaller even organisers, I’ve heard the University of East London has developed a green event venue checklist.
The Green Tourism Business Scheme awards and lists hotels, events and conferences venues that are taking action on sustainability.
And the Greener Events Guide offers a downloadable guide and checklist and claims that over 12,000 UK venues are using it.
Last week, the global hotel group Accor unveiled its Carbon Optimizer to allow meeting and seminar organisers to cut their events’ carbon footprint. Accor says the carbon calculator is interactive and user-friendly and is “completely original” because unlike other calculators on the market, which only measure emissions from production processes and energy consumption to power hotel equipment, the Carbon Optimizer includes indirect emissions associated with organizing seminars – i.e. waste treatment, paper and food (the latter is a substantial source of carbon emissions).
The Carbon Optimizer is part of PLANET 21, Accor’s new sustainability programme. The hotel group prides itself on creating an open platform to share sustainability best practice with other hotels, whatever their size. It will be interesting to see, though, if it is prepared to share it Carbon Optimizer with others in the industry, or if it sees this as a purely as a sales tool to win business and differentiate itself from the competition.