“Green Events, Instant Gratification & Obviousness”
It is finally out of question that sustainability is relevant in the events industry and constantly gaining relevance. The demand of green-meetings, social incentives, responsible transportation and more is growing more and more. That confronts us with problem #1: only very few are willing to pay the price for it.
Instant Gratification is holding us back
As private persons, we are not used to it anyways: we are inconsiderate in our everyday business, pollute the air on our way to work and leave plastic trash everywhere instead of picking it up and throwing it in the right trash bin. Why should it be different? Thanks to progresses like artificial intelligence, robots and digitalization, everything is just one click away: The next doctor’s appointment, a new laptop, changing the electricity provider… Instant gratification! Clicked today, delivered tomorrow. 15 years ago, nobody would have thought it is possible and easy like that. But why is it so difficult with sustainability?
Environmental sustainability is impossible to be one click away and thus, excluded from instant gratification. Sure, we can make our traveling expenses a little “greener” by paying compensations, but the environment has to deal with consequences nonetheless. Many processes that are common practice as they are need to be re-thought in order to become sustainable. That needs time and as they say it: Time is money. Other processes can already be made more sustainable. This goes hand in hand with extra efforts – costing money as well.
Although sustainability is slowly coming into the general spotlight with its relevance, we all – planners, agencies, suppliers, clients and participants included – as a whole are not sensitized enough yet: We know of options in different dimensions to make events green, but we do not always know the real efforts going into those options. That lack of understanding is one of the key factors holding us back from literally investing into those options.
The first steps have already been made
But it needs to go further
But what is actually possible? First, there is a variety of hotels that are certified for green meetings: compliant with Green Globe, EMAS or ISO guidelines. The difference in pricing is not significant; however, the marketing for green meetings is not that significant either. The more exciting parts are transport, catering and furniture.
The transfer sector bears huge potential
The transport – or rather the necessary transfers during events for big groups are usually managed with busses: The boasts the advantage to have the group together and the event manager can get in touch with dispatchers and drivers rather easily. This is not the case when using public transport services. Buses how we already know and use them may be more efficient than 4-seat cars with only a driver in, but they can be even more efficient: Buses with engines running on natural gas and electricity are already out there on the streets. Buses running on natural gas have a better carbon dioxide balance already taking their asset costs into consideration, but Buses running on electricity can avoid air pollution on another level! But it comes at a price: The electricity needed for electric buses needs be “green” itself. In order to cover the vast amount of electricity required to serve all the buses with green energy, more money needs to be invested into green energy production in general: and those costs will eventually be shared with the actual passengers. However those costs are part of a big, important investment: decreasing the strain of our nature.
Appealing dishes instead of plastic waste
Catering as well offers opportunities to make events greener. It goes without saying that it is mandatory to decrease the meat consumption in general. But this is not everything that is possible! The simple change from still mineral water to filtered tap water is decreasing costs and nursing the environment as loads of package material can be saved and there is less weight to be transported to the event venue. Dishes and straws as well can have a great effect: one-way products may be the cheaper option, but they cause more waste during and after an event. Opposed to that, you find e.g. silver cutlery and porcelain plates. They do not only look better – You eat with your eyes as well! – they can also be reused after cleaning them. Of course, with higher costs for the extra efforts and “insurance” for the high-quality goods.
Wood? Responsible use only!
…and still, this is by far not the end of possibilities. In terms of furniture, another step can be thought through as well: What is the furniture and equipment made of that is used during an event? Are they made of wood? Are they FSC certified? A more conscious way of thinking in a collective can change the demand of products, making the production react to it in the long run. If only there weren’t extra costs for high-quality, sustainable material.
Especially in essential event components like transfers, catering and furniture there are sustainable options “only one click away”. However, this click is costing money. And as long as we are not sharing the costs with everybody, only very few will invest into reduction of pollution during events.