World Environmental Education Day

World Environmental Education Day is celebrated annually on January 26th. The goal is to identify environmental issues both globally and locally and to raise awareness about the need for participation to conserve and protect the environment, mitigating the various levels of impact caused by climate change.

We love this! Oh gosh… every day for the past 16 years has been an event-focused environmental education day! With that in mind, here are five simple ways of making your event more environmentally friendly:

1) Set GOALS

Goals are always needed… yes, I’m an MBA numbers nerd, but how do you know if you have accomplished what you wanted to if you don’t set goals? Goals should be SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

2) Select greener, more sustainable venues

Take advantage of what is already available. I have said this in other blogs, but there are venues out there that are sustainable. They have sustainable methods and are certified. Pick them! Look for places with certifications from the U.S. Green Building Council, Energy Star, Green Key, or others. Or, in your RFP, list what is important to you in a sustainable venue. The bare minimum should be: do you have a sustainable policy, and what is your recycling policy?

Once you have found a location, ensure that the sustainable efforts they told you are in the contract. Hold them accountable for what they told you.

3) Divert from the landfill 

This topic really deserves its own blog post (yay, future blog topic!) because there are so many ways to divert from the landfill. What I will say is that if you can’t recycle it, reuse it, or compost it, don’t use it. For example, plastic water cups at refillable water stations aren’t typically recyclable. Just don’t use them. Have people bring water bottles or have the venue provide compostable or reusable options. If you have to use plastic name badges, collect them at the end of the event. Have boxes at the venue's exit to drop the name badges in. Make it easy for your attendees to be sustainable.

SWAG (we have a whole video series on this topic), but if you are doing a giveaway, ensure it is something that will be used. If someone isn’t interested in it, provide boxes to collect the giveaway for donation or reuse.

4) Say it…public transportation is your friend

The way we get to and from somewhere uses up a lot of resources. First, pick a location that is centralized to your attendees. If you are all in Boston, don’t fly everyone to the West Coast unless there is a really good reason. If you do have a really good reason, then consider offsetting your carbon. While offsetting carbon isn’t the answer for sustainable travel, it does help. What is offsetting carbon? Carbon offsetting is a trading mechanism that allows individuals, businesses, and governments to compensate for their greenhouse gas emissions. This is done by supporting projects that remove, reduce, or avoid emissions elsewhere. So, if you buy a carbon offset for your flight, it might go towards a solar farm or to plant trees in the rainforest. It is better to minimize the carbon from the start, but this is a better option than doing nothing.  

When you get to that destination, carpool. Find out when everyone else is arriving and take a car share together. Or take the subway from the airport to your venue. Encourage attendees by paying for the car share or subway fares. Maybe something else motivates your attendees, but figure it out and compensate them for their good behavior. 

5) Buy local

You have heard this before for your personal life, but you can also do it for an event. Again, work with your venue. They probably have relationships with local businesses. Let the venue do the hard work. However, what happens when you do buy locally? Just like anything you buy, don’t buy too much. You don’t want to be wasteful. What happens when you buy too much? Find out if you can donate the food to a local shelter. Most places allow this under the Good Samaritan Law but keep in mind that the food could not have been served. It has to be in the kitchen and then donated. If it has already been served, find out if you can compost it. This is another great way to divert from the landfill. 

Buying local is super important because, according to an economic impact analysis by the American Independent Business Alliance, 48% of each purchase at local independent businesses was recirculated locally (a multiplier of 1.48), compared to less than 14% of purchases at chain stores (multiplier of 1.14). This means that small independent retailers return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales to the local economy than chain competitors. Also, just by the nature of being local, small businesses are investing in their local economy. Small, independent businesses are more likely to purchase inputs (goods and services) from local suppliers and distributors, are more likely to hire a local workforce, and are more likely to do business with local financial institutions than are businesses with headquarters elsewhere. 

This is really just scratching the surface of why an event should be sustainable. Sustainable events have a lot to them. I hope you check out our other blogs, and feel free to reach out to our team if you have any questions. We love this topic and would be happy to chat through your next event strategy with you!