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How can you run environmentally friendly events?
Hi, Abi here, a first year Events Management student at Beckett. Sustainability is a topic that many of us are aware of with but what you may be wondering is what does it mean for events? In this blog I’ll be sharing with you what I’ve learnt during my degree so far relating to how we can host environmentally friendly events and things we can do to help the planet when attending events.
What is sustainability and what does it mean to be environmentally friendly?
Without getting an academic textbook definition and having to provide a Harvard style citation and reference for it, I understand living sustainably to be doing anything you can to lessen your negative impact on the environment and maintain natural resources. This includes everything in the earth, air, water and some of the natural elements of the atmosphere we are in (A Level geography coming swooping back in there).
The environment we live in today is worsening, and you only have to watch a Sir David Attenborough episode to see the impact our actions have on the world we are living in. I love the expression, ‘you can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone’ and this fits perfectly here. You don’t have to do everything, but if everyone does something, it will make a huge difference. I will share with you how I do my bit to help and how in the events sector, this is becoming a lot more important.
The importance of events management and sustainability
Although there are very few events and gatherings able to happen in the present circumstances, we can start thinking about and planning for how much the industry is going to boom when we see the back of the coronavirus. As with this boom in events, it is likely that there will also be an increase in the supply and demand of things like one-time-use red plastic cups and other disposable products. So, in the future whether you are hosting a festival or just a small gathering with your friends, it’s good to think about how we can make these events as environmentally friendly as possible. I have learnt some useful things about this so far in class and I’m looking forward to learning more as the course goes on.
What I do to reduce my impact
What do you do, to do your bit, I hear you ask? So, I am from a country and farming background, so know a fair bit about sustainable production of things like crops and meat. As a family, we have always had a large vegetable garden which will have something growing in it all year round, and at peak times we can have up to 13 vegetables growing at once. We use these ourselves and it’s a bit of a competition between my dad and grandma as to who can get the most home-grown items on a plate for supper in one go. Whenever we come together as a family and have gatherings, we always use our own crops and it is so nice to know that our produce is fresh – like out of the garden an hour ago fresh – but also, we know where it has come from. The best thing is that it means we haven’t needed to travel to the shop so we’ve not added to our carbon footprint. We’ve also not needed to buy anything in a packet, to then throw out the packet, and add to the plastic litter around the world. We’ve literally gone to the garden, picked it, and put it in the sink to wash.
Hosting environmentally friendly events
An event is held with a reason for people to attend. Mostly, that reason is for entertainment, business or celebration. So it may be hard to all of a sudden stop the use of anything that will affect the environment, for the event to then be an absolute flop, not meet its objectives and the audience don’t want to come back. So, when planning events and gatherings we need to balance these points with the needs to look after the planet and think about the little things that we can do that will make a big difference to an events’ environmental impact, without negatively changing the overall experience and there are so many things we can do!
One easy thing to encourage and participate in is recycling. Now, when I say recycle, you probably think of the green little sign on the back on your milk bottle, but I’m thinking more down the lines of recycling things to be used again as they are. Recycling by gifting the leftover materials like pens, paper, and other reusable supplies, that will just end up in the rubbish otherwise to local schools, homes, offices (anywhere really). We discussed this initiative at length in one of our lectures as we were learning about ‘recycling events’ at the time – so many of us (including me) hadn’t thought about how much that could help reduce waste but also benefit others too.
Another thing we learnt is that one way to incorporate sustainable practices into an event is to recycle food products that will go to waste, to places like homeless charities and food banks. There is a requirement to sign a hold-harmless form, but regardless of legal technicalities, an opportunity to feed the less fortunate off the back of a successful event, and reduce food waste, should be taken. Sponsors will usually always be keen to help recycle and reuse, so they shouldn’t be opposed to helping get the technical work done as its helpful to them too.
What you can do to be an environmentally friendly attendee of events
Minimise use of disposable items
As an attendee of events, the best thing I can do, to lessen the negative impact I have on the environment and not disrupt my enjoyment of the event, is to minimise my use of disposable items. That doesn’t mean to say I turn up everywhere with a backpack full of plates, cups and metal straws. It means that I’m conscious of what I’m using, so I just try to pick up the forks from the food van that has the little fish and chip wooden ones instead of plastic and I take my own water in one big bottle rather than buying seven little plastic ones when I’m there. When I do throw stuff in the bin, I always put them in the correct bins so that they can be recycled (providing the event has separate bins, which most do now). This small action will make a difference and save some of the sorting that has to be done at the other end, and less going into general waste, meaning more items can be recycled into items like your supermarket bag for life. I’m also very picky with this at home, sometimes it drives people mad, but I’m a keen recycler!
Invest in quality over quantity
Another thing that can be done as an attendee, is buying decent clothes, bag, equipment or camping gear depending on the event. How many festivals have you been to where there are thousands of tents left lying around? If you buy good quality camping gear that you can reuse for a good number of years, then you don’t have to worry about budgeting for a new stuff every time you go to an event. This is not only helpful to your bank account but also importantly it helps to reduce the awful waste so often left behind by people at events. One other thing I like to do at festivals is to take sun cream and shampoo in the refillable travel pots (there is something satisfying about filling up a clear bottle!) and use a refillable water bottle to fill up at the free water stations.
At the end of the day we are forever impacting on the environment, but that impact doesn’t always have to be negative. So, when you’re at your next festival or event, remember every little bit helps and try to think about what things you can do. Whether that is growing some veg on the windowsill to use when hosting a dinner, or recycling items into the correct bins, we are helping each other and helping the planet too.