Whether you’re hosting your first event or your hundredth, there is always room for improvement. A great way to upgrade your event organization is to focus on sustainability. With attendee travel, waste, and resource use, events have a significant environmental impact. Learn how you can reduce the negative impact of your event by having it outdoors and staying conscious about how you’re affecting the environment.
Benefits of Having Events Outside
There are numerous benefits of hosting events outside that extend beyond environmental impacts. An outdoor event can:
- Facilitate productivity;
- Reduce stress;
- Promote mental wellness;
- Offer fresh air for improved digestion, lung function, and immune system;
- Use less energy;
- Produce less waste;
- Inspire eco-friendly activities.
Plus, your attendees will take note of the initiative you are taking. If you’re holding a corporate event, your commitment to environmental responsibility can aid in brand loyalty and positive perception.
Many indoor events use up a lot of energy that could be avoidable. In 2019, a three-day conference with an indoor venue was found to leave an event carbon footprint of 455 metric tons. It’s not only possible to get this number down, but it’s also imperative.
How To Make Your Outdoor Event More Sustainable
Hosting an eco-friendly outdoor event starts with the basics: no single-use plastics, an environmentally friendly venue, and stringent cleanup measures after you finish up.
With these first steps in mind, you can begin to feel confident that the occasion will indeed be more sustainable than an indoor alternative. Moreover, many events are well-suited to being held outdoors. For example:
- Trade shows;
- Food festivals;
- Music festivals;
- Craft shows;
- Sports events;
- Farmers markets.
You can even get creative with any kind of event to move it to an outdoor setting. Forgoing traditional indoor venues opens up opportunities to make your event more sustainable. When planning, go deeper than the basics we mentioned above and consider the following ways to reduce your impact.
Have Eco-Friendly Transportation Options
Especially if attendees are traveling a long distance, emissions can be a large contributor to your event’s overall impact. Encourage guests to carpool to mitigate this, offering incentives like ticket discounts if they can produce proof of ridesharing. If guests are closer to the venue, give them resources to find greener transportation, such as bike rentals and public buses, trains, and subways.
You could even offer a shuttle service from the parking lot to reduce the number of vehicles traveling to the final event destination. This is especially helpful if your event is outdoors in the heat or other adverse weather conditions.
Aside from signage at the event, you could create digital promotional materials and tickets. This saves on resource waste, including finances, ink, and paper. If you’re selling goods, food, or tickets at the event, it’s also a good idea to set up a hot spot to accept cashless payments. This way, you can send receipts to the customers’ email inboxes instead of creating waste.
Plan Food and Drink Mindfully
Many events serve guests food and drink. However, there are aspects of food production and serving processes that can harm the environment. First, take a tally of how many attendees will want to eat and drink at the event. This can be sent out via email or on social media. It will give you a better idea of how much to cater, decreasing excess food waste.
Additionally, consider adding plant-based options to your offerings. If your guests are open to the idea, you can make the entire menu vegetarian or vegan. This not only caters to different dietary needs but some studies (?) suggest plant-based food also takes fewer resources and produces significantly less carbon emissions than meat. When serving this food outside, it’s also less likely to go bad during the event time.
Use Alternative Power Sources
Outdoor events, by design, already use less energy than indoor ones. You can implement low-energy generators and LED lightbulbs if needed. The weather conditions can also work in your favor if planned correctly, letting guests stay comfortable without HVAC use. If you are hosting a larger event, you can even look into solar panel installation. If it’s within the budget, outdoor exposure can prove to be a powerful energy source of its own.
It may sound far-fetched, but several outdoor events have already incorporated human-generated power. At Coachella, human-powered DJ booths used giant “hamster” wheels to generate energy. Guests got on the wheel in order to make the music still go on. If you have an event that could facilitate this type of activity, consider making it part of the fun. For example, have a smoothie bike available for attendees to blend up their own frozen treats with a little leg action. When you’re outdoors, people are more likely to feel like participating in physical activity like this, and it can be a cool photo opp at the same time.
Respect Your Surroundings
When picking where to hold your outdoor event, make sure that you are aware of any neighboring residential areas, businesses, and plant and animal habitats. Make preparations to ensure that you are reducing the amount of noise pollution that your event will cause. Also, take steps to ensure your guests are away from any local wildlife or vegetation. Disturbing the natural ecosystem with a noisy event with stomping feet isn’t a boon for your environmental efforts.
Use Eco-Friendly Materials
When purchasing or creating things for your event, think about what they are made of, how they are sourced, and how people will dispose of them. Common items contain plastic that you may not expect, and single-use plastic contributes to larger amounts of waste in landfills. Consider using:
- Recycled art, decor, and furniture;
- Eco-friendly “swag” rather than cheap stress balls and pens;
- Biodegradable or recyclable cups and plates.
Think about every aspect of your event and whether or not it uses materials. Make an itemized list and see where you can cut costs without sacrificing quality or environmental friendliness. Giving your guest’s items that are already more eco-friendly will guarantee a less wasteful event.
Promote Proper Waste Disposal
It’s also important to provide easy, accessible ways for your event attendees to clean up after themselves in an eco-conscious way. Recycling stations can be implemented in tasteful ways, and you can offer incentives for guests to use them such as raffle tickets or prizes. For human waste, you should consider installing composting toilets at your event. These waterless toilets are a perfect alternative to portable bathrooms at outdoor festivities, leading to less water waste and enhanced soil health.
Measure Your Event’s Impact to Inform the Future
Measuring the environmental impact of your outdoor event is a pivotal step toward paving the way for future sustainable gatherings. Recognizing the significance of reducing your ecological footprint allows you to closely analyze various aspects of the event’s execution. Through comprehensive data collection and analysis, you can get a holistic picture of your event’s energy consumption, waste generation, water usage, and carbon emissions.
Also, take note of attendee transportation methods that were actually utilized, as well as the procurement of eco-friendly materials and services. Armed with this invaluable information, you can identify areas of improvement, set ambitious sustainability targets, and adopt more environmentally responsible practices for upcoming events. This way, you can create a positive model for organizing outdoor gatherings that not only go off without a hitch but also nurture and protect the environment for generations to come.