MISSISSAUGA – Small, simple changes – that’s the first step to creating a greener meetings and events industry.
That was the message at the inaugural Sustainability Events Forum hosted by Natalie Lowe of The Sustainable Planner on November 5 at the Hilton Mississauga/Meadowvale.
The Forum was designed as a way for event professionals to adopt new ideas to bring to their own events, to make their meetings and conferences greener.
“I want us to start using our events as an opportunity to create new ideas, and new ways of doing things,” Lowe said. “About a year ago…I was still handing out water bottles on wine tours, and I realized that I needed to change how I was conducting my business.”
Here are the top four takeaways from the meeting that any event professional can incorporate into their next event, to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Ditch the paper products and ‘extras’
The first advice to the attendees was to ditch the paper products. And when you think about it – there’s lots of wasted paper generated by events meetings.
For example, at the forum itself, Lowe made sure there wasn’t any unnecessary paper products, like badges, signs to indicate which meeting room the forum was in, and notepads on the table – a staple for many, many events and meetings around the world.
“What if we just say, ‘No thank you’ to all the extra stuff we put out there?,” Lowe said. “For example, it’s my fault you don’t have name tags today….But we could only order 500 in a block of the lanyards that we wanted. And we would have used 50 or 60 of them, and the rest would have sat on a shelf.”
Partner with those spaces using clean energy
With a wide variety of event spaces available, one easy way to reduce your event’s carbon footprint is to choose spaces that are environmentally-friendly.
One thing you can do as an event professional, Rebecca Bartlett Jones of Green Key Global suggested, is ask on your RFP if a hotel, conference centre, etc. has any green initiatives, or if they have any environmental certifications.
“It’s just one extra question and then you could make your choice based on that,” she said. “If two hotels you’re deciding between are identical but one is Green Key certified, you would be making the right choice by choosing that one over the other.”
If you need to cater your event, instead of going with the status quo, try finding a caterer who cooks with sustainably farmed foods that are plant-heavy.
Eating a plant-rich diet is one of the top five solutions to solving the climate crisis according to Drawdown.org, the world’s leading resource for climate solutions.
Though these kinds of caterers are very hard to find, demand is growing as more people become aware of the harms of eating meat, both on their bodies and on the environment.
Walk or travel smart
Event professionals know that where you host your meeting, conference, or event is a crucial decision.
To make your event more sustainable, consider choosing a location that is easy to get to via transit, Lowe encouraged, which is more environmentally friendly than all of your guests taking cars.
Additionally, choose your host hotel to be one that is closest to your event locale.
“What if we made our conferences completely walkable?,” Lowe inquired. “Do you know how many hours of my life I have spent shuttling empty buses between hotels and convention centres? Hours and hours.”
If you must shuttle some VIPs to your event, consider hiring a chauffeured electric vehicles company, like ecoRIDES.
“EcoRIDES is a chauffeured car service that uses all Teslas and other electric cars,” said Cameron Tulloch, COO of ecoRIDES. “Imagine the kinds of rides that maybe your keynote speakers or guests of your events are taking in Lincoln Town cars, or other large combustion cars, and we swap those kinds cars for electric vehicles.”
To stay competitive, ecoRIDES matches the prices of other chauffeured and limousine services.
“One of the values that we set out with is we don’t want it to be more expensive to do the right thing, so our pricing model is built to be the same as chauffeured or limo company, that is giving that executive tier of service,” Tulloch said. “We didn’t want price to be a reason for people to not choose us. If our competitors move prices, we move prices.”