July 9, 2019

Know Better, Do Better: Planning Eco-Friendly Meetings and Events – Part 1

During this past May long weekend, affectionately viewed by most of us as the unofficial start to summer, my partner and I packed our bags and ventured north to cottage country with a group of close friends.

After a night of core-strengthening laughs, never-ending charcuterie, and multiple pitchers of palomas, we fell asleep easily and woke up to a cooler, but still sunny morning.

On my way to the kitchen of our charming, rented farmhouse, I passed my partner in the living room and noticed he wore a look of defeat on his face that I hadn’t ever seen before. I approached, noticing he was staring out the window at nothing in particular, and asked if he was alright. He sat, still staring out the window, and said, “The world is on fire.”

I might have been alarmed by this, but before I could react, he picked up a book from his lap and nearly flung it onto the coffee table in front of him. I read the title, The Uninhabitable Earth, David Wallace-Wells.

If you’re not familiar with this light and breezy summer read, The Uninhabitable Earth essentially outlines all of the ways in which climate change is already impacting our lives; it also warns of a not-so-distant future in which the oceans contain more plastic than fish and, due to water scarcity, extreme weather and the rise of as little as two-degrees Celsius (TWO-DEGREES!) we will be facing a global conflict unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before.

Try as you might, climate change is hard to ignore. In Toronto, water levels on the islands are at a record high (again) halting ferry service and leaving many roads and paths waterlogged. This is the second time the island has been at risk for flooding since 2017, and despite having more safety measures in place and a united community, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen in the coming days and weeks.

South of the border, we already know how unrelenting forest fires have impacted much of the west coast in recent months, but across the Midwest this Spring, torrential rains have left acres upon acres of land unsuitable for growing food. You can learn more about this by following #noplant19 on Twitter, but I’ll warn you now, the numbers are bleak.

If you’re still with me, now would be a good time to look in the mirror and do your best Oda Mae Brown because, “Molly…you in danger, girl.”

Danger, yes. Despair, no. As Wallace-Wells says himself, “It’s not too late. In fact, it never will be.” It’s easy to take on a defeatist attitude when you hear just how much damage has already been done. However, it’s important to remember that your actions matter – no matter how small. No matter how seemingly insignificant.

In the world of events, we see a lot of waste. From food waste to paper waste and the constant travel, we owe it to our planet to hold ourselves accountable for the impact events have on the environment. Whether you’re planning an intimate meeting for executives, a multi-day conference, or a city-wide festival, make it part of your event blueprint to be as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible. Not sure where to start? You’re in luck! We at LOMA Agency have compiled a list of tips and tools for you to consider before you begin planning your next event.

Get Down with Digital – Go Paperless!

We get it, sometimes you have a less-than-adaptable audience; or maybe your stakeholders are insistent that every seat receive a print out of your event agenda. As Kermit the frog once famously lamented, it’s not easy being green – but it is worth it!

To start, partnering with a mobile app developer is a great way to combine all of the most commonly printed materials (e.g. programs and agendas, speaker bios, menus, presentation decks) in one convenient place that your attendees can access at any time.

There are no shortage of options available, and as with any other vendor you decide to partner with, you want to make sure that the app that you choose is right for you. To help get you started, take a look at the latest top-rated event apps that planners are talking about most recently and get inspired to start going digital.

Another major consideration is signage. We know, we know. We need signage. But do we need printed signage?

If you have a trusted AV partner, have a frank conversation about what your budget restrictions are and how you might be able to incorporate more digital signage vs standard decals or foam core. Digital signage not only allows you to be more creative with your branding by including animations and sound, it also allows for additional real-time content.

If you’re on a really tight budget, take an audit of any opportunities within your chosen venue to leverage built-in screens or in-house AV. As I’ll share later, your venue selection plays a major role in your ability to be sustainable so don’t be afraid to ask them to step up.

Waste Not Want Not – Sustainable Food & Beverage

Did you know that meeting budgets allocate approximately $48B every year on food and beverage (F&B) in the US alone? Meanwhile, in 2018, roughly 40% was wasted – meaning it went into the garbage despite being still safe and nutritious to eat. Combine these numbers with the fact that also in 2018, an estimated 50M Americans required access to food banks so that they didn’t starve, and you can see why we need to make serious changes to our planning habits. Canadians aren’t doing much better. Reports show that 58% of ALL food produced in Canada is going to waste which is staggering, to say the least.

These facts are important because they prove that sustainability isn’t just good for the planet, it’s good for the individual. Imagine if you could say to your key stakeholders that you discovered a way to save them 30%-40% off their F&B, or allow them to re-purpose these funds? (*cough* digital signage *cough*)

Or event better, you can help support an organization’s CSR initiatives by reducing food waste at your event and donating to a local not-for-profit? Whatever your rationale, the result is the same – greater sustainability leads to a healthier planet.

Here’s how to get started:

  • Audit previous events similar in size and scale – this will allow you to understand your average no-show rate and how many people you’ve actually fed in the past to fine tune your guarantees
  • Talk to your caterer about sourcing local, ethically-grown, and where possible, organic ingredients
  • Include a sustainability clause in your RFP to caterers and/or venues and challenge them to outline the ways in which they plan to donate or re-purpose any leftover food
  • Finally, limit service waste. This means swapping paper napkins for cloth napkins that can be dry-cleaned or using compostable materials and providing clearly labelled receptacles for guests to dispose of when they’re finished. You might even consider enforcing a “no bottled water policy” and provide your guests with reusable water bottles that can be refilled at water stations throughout your events space.

Still with us? Let’s take a beat before we share part two of our guide to planning greener and more eco-friendly meetings and events. In Part 2 of this post, we’ll share more interesting facts about the food we serve at events, and how a little creativity not only satisfies our planet but satisfies our appetites as well.

In the meantime, we want to hear about all of the ways you’ve reduced waste and continue to implement greener practices at your meetings and events.

Find us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram and share your story by tagging us @loma_agency or #lomaagency so we can continue to learn from you. Remember, there is no Planet B!