12 Sustainability Tips for Outdoor Events

As the weather warms and vaccinations increase, event organizers are eyeing scaled-down outdoor events as a feasible option for in-person gatherings. Here are some tips to ensure your outdoor event is safe, successful, and sustainable!

1. PLASTIC IS NOT THE ANSWER. Numerous peer-reviewed studies have proven that properly cleaned and sanitized durable service ware is just as safe as single-use, landfill-bound disposables.

2. Don’t skimp on bins—it’s always better to have too many than too few! Place recycling, compost, and landfill bins (if necessary) together to create “waste stations,” and place at least one more waste station than you think you’ll really need.

3. Compost all food waste! If there is no commercial composter nearby, check with local farms who may want it for their own compost, or for pig feed. This will eliminate the heaviest (and most methane-rich) waste from the landfill stream, reducing both dumping expenses and CO2 impacts.

4. Signage Matters! Use graphical signs with large, bold lettering to make it as easy as possible for guests to properly and confidently dispose of any waste with just a glance.

5. Set appropriate expectations—prominently list all safety and sustainability policies on ticketing webpage, purchase/email confirmation, and any paper tickets/packets provided to guests. Doing so may help ease guests’ anxieties, while improving compliance onsite.

6. If hosting a drive-in event, make sure to enact a No Idling Policy (with signs!)—idling cars pump out tons of CO2 in addition to polluting the air locally.

7. Source local, organic, healthy foods—just don’t serve it buffet-style! Going local minimizes the CO2 impact of transport and is much more likely to get you the freshest, most seasonable and delicious options! If there is no wait staff, pre-portion servings on individual plates and stagger groups/individuals for social distancing.

8. Use high-efficiency LED lighting to reduce electricity costs and CO2 impacts, while gaining options on the color, temperature, and overall mood of the lighting.

9. If standalone electricity is required, use battery backup systems rather than gas-powered generators whenever possible. If using a generator is unavoidable, use the most efficient model possible and ensure adequate exhaust system is in place.

10. Comfort is crucial! If guests are wet, shivering, or sweating, they won’t stay long or enjoy the event much while they’re there. Be sure to have ample shelter as well as fans and/or high-efficiency heaters.

11. Leave the event site cleaner than you found it! Make sure to comb the grounds of the entire event site for any micro-trash that may have missed a bin.

12. Purchase CO2 offsets from verified sources for all unavoidable CO2 impacts—they are surprisingly inexpensive, and present a great sponsorship opportunity!