MICENET ARTICLE : Karen Sainsbury kicks off a new series of articles on different topics provided by members of the Professional Conference Organisers Association.

We are all aware of the environmental impacts caused by the events industry, but how can we start to reduce our impact, waste and carbon footprint at each event?

Not all clients have considered ways to drive change in this space, so it’s time that professional conference organisers encourage them to do so!

This article is designed to give you a few ideas that you may not have thought of before, or some new concepts to implement where you can. We all think about it, and mean to take action, so hopefully this article might inspire you to start to make some changes – even if it’s one small step this year, then add another the following – everything will make a difference!

Firstly, when seeking venues and other event partners review their environmental policy – simple things like considering how they serve water, and their recycle philosophy; perhaps do they work with a community organisation such as OzHarvest?

Consider establishing an environmental sustainability policy for your event, and share with all stakeholders at the beginning of the planning process. This provides the conference with a base to work from, and also sets goals it wishes to achieve. Include information on this on your event website and the conference app you are going to use.

It’s always hard to convince clients that have traditionally printed programs and agendas, but encourage them to make a difference by using an event app that can hold abstracts, provide the ability to note-take per session, and will always be more current than a printed program! Oh and another sweetener is always the bottom line bonus without the print cost.

Encourage the use of plasma screens, projected or electronic signage to reduce production of signs.

Choose lanyards and name tags made from recycled or biodegradable materials. You really don’t need a plastic pocket. Simply clip on your lanyards to a printed tag.

Insist the venues you are using provide recycling bins and request they provide compostable options for service items. Request for jugs / cups to be used rather than single-use plastic bottles and single-use coffee cups. Ask them to provide drink stations / refill stations and to offer cleaning for Keep Cups.

Challenge your clients to abandon the traditional satchel pack and sell advertising options on the conference app instead. If you have to utilise a conference bag, seek those made from recycled materials.

Encourage exhibitors to reduce giveaways or to give away items that are long lasting, useful, and made with recycled content. Examples include cloth bags, reusable water bottles or mugs, apparel, gift cards, tickets, memberships, native seeds, USB drives, sporks, etc.

Encourage your delegates to pick up only what they need from exhibitors. Ask exhibitors to produce reusable printed signage – avoid including dates and times to assist with longevity – and ask your booth build company what their sustainability policy is, and select one that has a system in place to recycle items.

Aim to make your events carbon neutral. Did you know there is a National Carbon Offset Standard for events? The Standard can be used to better understand and manage carbon emissions, to credibly claim carbon neutrality and to seek carbon neutral certification. This might seem extreme for smaller events, but take the time to check out the website for the Department of the Environment and Energy at environment.gov.au/climate-change/government/carbon-neutral/ncos/events.

You may not be able to adopt all of these – unfortunately some solutions are more expensive than those not so environmentally friendly, and some venues are still stuck in the belief they don’t need to make changes. However, I challenge us all to vote with our feet, and push our suppliers and our clients to help us in our aim to produce more environmentally sustainable events.