Green Transportation

In order to have an event you need guests to show up!  But if you're trying to make your event more eco-friendly, how your guests get there should play a large part in your planning process. 

Here are a few suggestions to reduce your carbon footprint at your next event:

Buses & Carpooling
Not only is it more sustainable to bus or carpool as opposed to driving alone, it's cheaper and more social!  Having your guests load onto a chartered bus to your venue is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and keep the socializing going from a meeting to dinner or ceremony to reception.
All in One Venue
If you can avoid having your guests travel to multiple locations, that's your best option for a green event.  Bonus points if your venue is close to the airport or highway most of your guests came from.  If you're planning a conference long-distance you need to pay attention to the difference in a convention centre vs. a conference centre.  A conference centre has hotel rooms attached whereas a convention centre does not.  If you can find a hotel or conference centre for your event that is ideal as it will mean less travel for your attendees and who doesn't love convenience!  If you're planning a wedding, many venues offer options for the ceremony and reception to occur on the same property and your guests love it.  As late receptions have become more popular and many brides and grooms have begun to opt for "first look" photography, this is the most stress-free and eco-friendly way to host your wedding.

I've been to a few events now that have actually required the mass transportation to be completely turned off until the entire bus is loaded to reduce idling and pollution.  This is a great way to visibly show your attendees that you're making an effort to be more eco-friendly with your event.  

Walking Tours
While at a conference a number of guests walked from sessions and dinners together instead of taking the subway, bus, or taxis.  This was great because it felt safer for all of us to walk together and it influenced others to join.  While planning your event, consider having staff members guide groups or create easy to follow maps for guests to feel comfortable walking from one location to another.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." --Margaret Mead

Best of luck with your transportation planning!


A Green Invite

In the day and age of technology, it seems almost strange to receive snail mail from a friend or business.  I'll be the first to admit I get excited over a card in the mail, however, the chance of a response to it is not likely... you're getting an email. 

I'm currently working with our local hospital foundation on their upcoming gala and after much research they have opted to just send out electronic Save-the-Dates.  Not only is this a more eco-friendly option, but it will save them money on their printing costs!  (Great option for non-profit organizations.)

If you know you want to print your invitation anyway but still want to be green, there are a few options for printing.

1.  Print on recycled paper- this is available at most print shops or for purchase online. If you're working with a graphic designer, they can be very helpful finding you the right paper and envelopes to stay green!

2.  Print double sided- use less paper by printing your invites double sided.  You could also consider doubling up your programs by including the reception program and menu all in one.  I've done this for weddings and galas and it works out great!

3.  Forgo RSVP cards and envelopes- just because your invites are paper doesn't mean your RSVP's can't be done electronically!  Create a new email or website (many available for events online) for guests to respond to.  An event specific website is great for emailing out updates, directions, and other need-to-knows.

If you want to get really creative, there are invitations you can buy that after your guest is done with them you can plant them in the ground and they grow!

Remember, an invitation is your guests first look at your event and how well you design and present it sets the tone for the entire event.  Keep this in mind as you go forth with your invitations!



Green Terminology

If you're going to plan a green event you need to understand the different terms commonly used when relating to environmental sustainability.

Biodegradable: products that will break down and decompose into elements found in nature.
Example) You may purchase bidegradable plates for your event

Compostable:  paper, food, leaves, and other items that can decompose into organic matter through composting, the art of turning organic waste into soil-conditioning material.
Example) You can purchase invitations that you can plant after (so neat!)

Eco: short for ecological that is designed to be in harmony with the environment.

Green: environmentally friendly products and activities.

Green Washing: falsely claiming to be green. 

Local:  said to be 1-200 km radius.

Reclaimed: salvaged materials that are returned to use, as in wood recovered from a demolition site.
Example) Use old wine barrels as cocktail tables.  Looks awesome!

Sustainable:  the result of practices that "sustain" our natural resources rather than deplete or permanently damage them.  Reusing, recycling, and powering your home with renewable energy are all sustainable practices.

Hopefully understanding these terms help you get the most out of your eco-friendly event!


Green Catering

An important part of every event is "getting people fed and watered" (as my mom would say).  Aside from using as much local food as possible, there are a few other things to consider when organizing the food and beverage aspects of your event to be more environmentally friendly. 

1.  The # of Courses
The number of courses you serve will impact your eco-footprint.  The more meals you serve may mean more transportation and definitely more dishwashing.  For the least impact, limited the amount of courses you serve and choose a seated dinner rather than a buffet to limit the amount of dishes used.

2.  The Bar
Serve just wine and beer and a signature drink or cocktail rather than a full bar.  A full bar requires several different kinds of glasses.  Also, limiting your bar stock helps save you money!  Win-win.

3.  Bottled Water
Ban bottled water to avoid the plastic and the energy required to deliever all those bottles.  Consider water stations or water jugs on tables instead.

4.  Leftovers
Reduce your food waste by offering leftover meals to the catering staff (if they don't already get it) or send them to a soup kitchen so that nothing is wasted.  Make arrangements to have the scraps composted.

5.  Location
Host your event at a restaurant, cafe, or garden with a kitchen onsite.  The less your caterers have to travel to deliver your food, the lower your eco-footprint.

6.  Seasonality
Pick items that are in season and as close to home as possible.  Not only will your food taste better, it will suit your theme of your event for the time of the year (ex. pumpkin soup in October).

Happy menu planning!



Tips to a Sustainable Event

6 Easy Tips to a Sustainable Event!

1.  E-vite Your Guests
Emailing invitations saves paper and money, especially if you have a long guest list. If a printed invitation is an absolute must for your event, use postconsumer recycled paper or seed paper and give a phone number for RSVP's instead of reply cards.

2.  Serve Local Food As Much as Possible
Look for a restaurant or caterer that uses fresh, local or organic foods. If you're planning on serving seafood, make sure it's sustainably caught or farmed and low in mercury. Make arrangements with a local food collector to pick up any leftovers at the end of the day.

3.  Use Reusable or Biodegradable Tableware
Stick to cloth napkins and real tableware to reduce the amount of resources your event consumes and the amount of garbage you'll need to dispose of at the end of night. For a gathering at home, use your own dishes. If you have to go for the take-and-toss variety, look for post-consumer recycled content paper napkins and biodegradable plates, cups and utensils made from corn starch or agricultural waste. They'll degrade in just a couple of months in a commercial composter!

4.  Decorate Naturally
Try using 'living' d├ęcor such as moss, stones and succulent plants, or organic flowers instead of traditional pesticide-laden bouquets. Send your decorations home with your guests at the end of the night, or reuse them for another event.

5.  Dazzle with Energy Efficient Lighting
A daytime event held outdoors or in a place with plenty of windows lets you save big on energy costs and global warming pollution from conventional lighting. For additional lighting, use compact fluorescent light bulbs. They use only about one-third of the energy that regular light bulbs do. Look for energy efficient bulbs and fixtures marked with the Energy Star label. Alternatively use solar powered lights.

6.  Make Recycling Easy
Don't rummage through trash bins the next day looking for stuff that shouldn't have been thrown away. Make recycling easy by setting out clearly labeled recycling bins for items such as bottles, paper and cans.

If you impliment even one of these tips from your regular event routine you're on your way to positively impacting our environment.  Next event you do try to see how many more tips on this list you can use up and maybe one day you'll use them all!


The Importance of Eco-Friendly Events

It is 99.9% likely that all of you will plan an event at some point in your life whether it be large scale like a festival, small scale like a birthday party, or even your own wedding (which usually lies somewhere in between only you can up the stress exponentially...).  It is important to note however, that while much effort and planning goes into that event, there is also a lot of waste and harm to the environment that can occur from the single event you host.  Not to worry, there are many ways that can be easily reduced.  Over the next 6 weeks I will be posting about how to reduce your harm to the environment while planning an event and the importance of doing so.

There is much more to being "green" than recycling (though it is important!).  Here are some common myths about going "green".  I will note that as I'm a wedding planner aside from being a student, many tips will be referenced towards the industry.  

1.  Being eco-friendly is expensive.
Surprisingly it's not.  Think about it, if you're having your wedding in one location from ceremony to reception take out your cost of your limo as you no longer need it.  Poof.  There goes $600+ not to mention you're reducing the harm to the environment by all your guests driving here and there and they all love you for being so convenient with your venue.  This is also applicable to a meeting or conference as well.

2.  If you can't be 100% eco-friendly then why bother?
Every effort towards sustainability makes an impact.  "According to Green Suites International, if one hotel adopts the bath and linen program, 200 barrels of oil are saved per year-- enough to run a family car for 180,000 miles" (Professional Meeting Management 5th Edition, page 469).

3.  Individuals are powerless to change their workplaces and communities.
Just because you're the only person in your workplace or community actively standing to make a difference doesn't mean that others don't care or that they aren't willing to jump in and be a part of your initiative.  There are many success stories of individuals that have led the way for their company.  "Empowerment is a primary goal of eco-efficient conference management, giving attendees the opportunity to reduce their own environmental impact and adopt responsible behaviors.  These individual changes continue beyond a single event" (Professional Meeting Management 5th Edition, page 469).

Stay tuned for tips on how to "go-green" at your next event!