5 Ways to Use Tech to Run a Sustainable Event

Sustainability is becoming a necessary consideration for event planners. Create positive buzz around your events and start planning sustainable events.

After a week of partying in the Nevada desert that culminates in the burning of a 42 foot effigy, attendees at the annual Burning Man event do something rather unusual. As they pack up their equipment, visitors are asked to go “MOOPing” – that is, to clear up any “Matter Out of Place.” The arts festival insists attendees leave the desert in a pristine condition, with every single trace of their presence gone once they have left.

Asking attendees to go MOOPing might be beyond the scope for the majority of event managers, yet there’s a growing interest in making the industry more sustainable. Conferences and exhibitions can produce huge amounts of waste and CO2, which is both expensive and bad for the environment.

But with event planning already complicated enough, is it possible to make events more sustainable? Certainly. And there are a growing number of digital tools and sustainable technologies that can help you get started.

What exactly are “sustainable events”?

Sustainability is about ensuring that resources are used in such a way that future generations will also be able to continue using them. When it comes to sustainability in the events industry, this involves taking a step back and assessing how your event impacts the environment and exploring alternative ways of running your events to reduce their impact.

What are the benefits of running a sustainable event?

Making your event sustainable is about more than simply being “green” for the sake of it. Indeed, being sustainable makes a lot of business sense, too:

  • Cut costs by reducing fuel usage, catering expenses, and utilities
  • Improve the image of your event and organization
  • Help staff feel more engaged with a mission
  • Avoid any fines or bad press for environmental damage
  • Make your event more efficient

There’s now more tech solutions than ever that can help you monitor your event’s energy usage. Let’s see how they could be used to help.

Use tools that measure your event’s environmental impact

If you want to make your event more sustainable, you need to begin by getting an idea of its current environmental impact. This involves creating a rough estimate of metrics such as:

  • Waste produced: How many tons of waste are produced at your events at present? What proportion of that waste gets recycled? Waste calculators for events can get your started.
  • Electricity used: Can you use smart meter readings of your event space to get an idea of the quantity of power you use?
  • Logistical CO2 usage: By using various online calculators, you can estimate the quantity of CO2 produced on your event’s logistical side.

It might be easier to start with a focus on one metric – such as reducing waste from one event to the next. This gives you something to measure against and an objective target to aim for.

Replace paper with digital forms

Events typically use vast amounts of paper – from guest lists to schedules to brochures and more. Not only is printing expensive, much of the paper used gets lost or thrown away. An obvious solution is to use digital technology to replace paper at every possible juncture:

  • Sign guests in with digital guest lists
  • Display seating charts on interactive tablets
  • Utilize a simple event app that attendees download to their smartphones – rather than handing out countless paper schedules
  • Ask exhibitors to provide digital copies of their brochures to clients via email

Replacing paper with digital tools not only saves trees, it also makes your events more seamless and smooth, cuts confusion and minimizes the risk of mistakes.

Use tech and apps to minimize food waste

Event catering can produce vast amounts of waste. However, no one wants to deal with hungry guests, so many events managers invest in more food and drink than they will really need. But, with a little advanced planning, you can make the environmental impact of event catering a lot smaller:

  • In your event RSVP email or website, ask attendees to fill in details about their food preferences, and gauge how much they are likely to eat and drink to get a more precise view of the amount of food you’ll need.
  • Work with caterers who themselves emphasize sustainability – opting for locally grown and seasonal food where possible.
  • Similarly, work with caterers who use digital tools to minimize kitchen waste.
  • Don’t just trash leftover food – try and compost it instead.

Use tech that encourages sustainable travel

Transport and logistics can have huge impact on how much energy your event uses and how much CO2 you produce. There’s plenty you can do to reduce this:

  • There’s an ever-growing number of apps which support carpooling, and taxi sharing – work with a local provider who can offer this to your event.
  • Will your event be using drivers to ferry passengers from hotels to the venue? Consider using an agency that uses hybrid vehicles.
  • Air travel can count for more than 80% of the CO2 emissions of an event – ensure you choose a central location that all delegates can get to easily in order to cut emissions.

Reduce venue energy usage

A final way of making your event more sustainable is to choose a venue which also values sustainability. When researching venues, keep these questions in mind:

  • Does the venue aim to use renewable energy sources?
  • Does the venue use low energy lighting?
  • Can the venue install smart electricity meters to find out how much electricity is being used?

Make your efforts count

In many ways, running a sustainable event is about reassessing how your organization runs its events and finding more efficient and cost-effective ways of doing so. While it will require some upfront research, the payback of doing so has the potential to offer huge ROI, while also making your brand appear more responsible – all without ever asking attendees to clear up their MOOP.

Len Williams is a UK-based freelance writer who covers tech, engineering, energy and other technical topics.