Are you shying away from greening your events because it seems like more work? Have you stopped paying attention to green because you’ve tried before and feel your efforts did not deliver the results you were hoping for? If so, consider if these common mistakes might be preventing you from experiencing the benefits of going green.
Starting Too Late
Budget is approved. Venue is booked. Agenda is set. Now what about the « green » stuff? Because sustainability is still a relatively new idea for events, it’s common to add it into our process late, after most critical decisions have been made. The drawback of this approach is that it reduces the value sustainability can present. By putting sustainability at the front-end of the planning process suddenly new possibilities open. And some of the frustrations often associated with starting too late-like not getting what we want-are eliminated or reduced.
Start sustainability early:
- Boost technology. Can you increase member or customer engagement by adding remote attendance options and new technology?
- In line sponsorships. Look for sponsors that are in line with sustainability and CSR to increase your budget and capabilities.
- Plan close meetings. Consider the best location to « meet close » and reduce the time people spend away from their families, in addition to their costs and carbon footprint to attend.
Putting Practice Before Purpose and Process
When doing green events, it can create a lot of long checklists. So long, that by the end of an event you could have checked hundreds of boxes, be exhausted and still feel like you haven’t gotten anywhere. When you stop looking solely at the minutia of practices, and focus on the intention of the process as well, suddenly things get goal-oriented and creativity blossoms.
Shift your planning focus:
- Switch recycling for packet-less. Instead of running around checking the box that recycling is in place, create buffets with non-packaged butters and no polystyrene. Focus on what contributes to less solid waste overall.
- Measure performance. Use checklists as an incentive to measure your team interaction rather than as a task list or restrictive burden. Checklists can support an overall intention that’s understood by all.
- Shift processes. Shift toward more succinct goals, team involvement and action planning to achieve goals and a clearer way to evaluate success. This purpose can be re-iterated in procurement systems, human resource development, reporting and other core planning processes. Making the effort more effective.
Communicating Too Vaguely About Things We Don’t Understand
We use a lot of buzz-words in the green event world: zero-waste, carbon neutral, legacy, corporate social responsibility and others. But, they can sometimes mean different things to different people. Often, we don’t understand the technical meaning of the words we do use that have clear definitions. We mix up recyclable products with recycled content products, for example.
It is therefore very important to be specific about green event practices, especially when communicating them to suppliers and participants. Not doing so exposes events to risk, and can lead to misunderstandings and disappointment.
- Ask your suppliers for their expertise. For example, Consider the situation of a planner who pays an additional fee to use biodegradable service ware for an event. He adds a note about this to his green event web page so attendees are aware. During lunch, an attendee snaps a photo of a landfill bin overflowing with plates, cups and cutlery and shares it via Twitter, citing #wasteful. Embarrassed, the planner asks the caterer why the service ware is not being composted. Only to learn the biodegradable serviceware is not accepted for composting locally, and must be landfilled, and if he wanted the service ware to be composted he needed to buy compostable and not just biodegradable items.
- Communicate clearly with participants. Manage their expectations early on, going into depth about the level of sustainability at the event if needs be.
- Filter marketing campaigns for greenwashing. This means making sure you aren’t using potentially deceptive information to make a product-or in this case an event or event-related product-seem more environmentally responsible than it really is. This can range from being vague (what exactly is a zero-waste event?) to lacking proof (excuse me sir, are those biodegradable name badges tested to break down in my compost?).
Putting Data Before Stories
Crunching numbers that show the quantifiable impact of green events can be a favorite for event planners. After all, now you can see it is working. However, sustainability is better spoken with stories, and then supported by good numbers. People are typically seeking an emotional return on investment in sustainability that is best delivered by sharing stories with a human interest.
- Use local sourcing. Letting participants know 100% of a gala dinner is locally sourced for example might be good. But what really makes them think it is excellent is when they can see a short video before their meal that introduces the farmer and his family who raised their meal, the chef who prepared it, and staff who are serving it.
- Convert to values. Not everything appeals to everyone, and converting the information to stories that appeal to attendees’ daily lives hit home for them. For example, discussing the health impact of non-sustainable processes and materials or the affect this might have on crime or public safety in their own lives strikes a chord and gets them thinking.
- If in doubt, bring out the animals. Most people will find more empathy for an animal than another human being so use the cute and fluffy to make your point. Show the impact of non-sustainable initiatives and how this affects ecosystems or the animals themselves and you’ll be onto a winner.
More pro tips for your event planning.
Source : Event Manager Blog