Environmental sustainability and your event's social impact
It is important to consider the potential environmental and social impacts of your event. Apply sustainability principles to reduce your event’s energy and resource use as much as possible.
Promoting your event’s focus on sustainability may also help attract partners, sponsors and attendees.
Set clear and realistic goals for your event and identify what part others can play in achieving these. As with any event, getting in early, planning and bringing the right people on board is essential.
The key areas for addressing the sustainability of an event are:
- energy use
- waste management
- water use
- carbon consciousness.
- what practices would be advantageous to implement
- why these practices are the most desirable
- who is going to help make them happen
- how measures will be evaluated.
Once you have established clear goals, you should create a sustainability plan for the event, as well as:
- appoint a sustainability coordinator (a dedicated individual who is passionate about the issues)
- develop a sustainability working group and involve key stakeholders before your event
- allocate resources, time and money to achieve your sustainability goals.
Be transport smart
Transport is often the highest contributing factor to an event’s environmental impact.
Consider the transportation of attendees to and from the event, as well as transportation of goods and services before, during and after the event.
Reconsidering the need for participants to be physically present at an event is an important way to minimise an event’s impact by eliminating transportation. Many conference-type events are now using technology to provide low-impact solutions.
A sustainable transport plan for your event should consider:
- the accessibility and proximity of the event venue or location in relation to transport options
- providing a shuttle service between the closest transport hub and the event venue or location
- promoting public transport options and providing combined travel and event entry tickets
- whether bike racks, change areas and lockers are available to encourage bike travel
- promoting safe carpooling opportunities through a rideshare company, via an event forum that allows attendees to connect with each other or with incentives such as preferred parking or reduced parking costs for cars with two or more users
- whether remote participation is possible through podcast, webcast or video-conference
- ways to offset carbon emissions, including through partnerships with flight operators.
Be energy efficient
The GreenPower website provides information and tips that will help you manage your event’s energy use.
Your event’s power source will have a significant effect on its environmental impact, so it is essential that you investigate options. As the energy source is often not visible, it is also important to communicate your efforts to those involved and attendees.
Your energy plan should consider:
- encouraging the venue/site that has access to power from the grid to use 100% accredited green power
- alternative power sources, such as diesel generators that run on ethically-sourced biofuel or waste vegetable oil (if the site is not connected to a power grid)
- correctly sized generators to ensure they efficiently meet the needs of the event
- how you will communicate ways to save energy and costs to production staff and contractors
- promoting energy-saving initiatives before, during and after your event.
Be water wise
Water is a critical resource and conserving water is one of the main ways to reduce the environmental impact of an event.
Every event requires water. Drinking water is the most obvious need, but there are many others.
Your water conservation plan should consider:
- how water will be used
- how water can be conserved
- water supplier, regulations and restrictions (note councils mostly manage water supply, with Sydney Water providing water and water services to residents of Sydney, Illawarra and the Blue Mountains)
- events or accidents that could lead to contamination of waterways or water supply
- working with venues and sites that have implemented or support water saving initiatives
- providing water trailers or purchasing drinking water in bulk to satisfy the need to provide drinking water to the event and reduce the need for sale of single-use plastic bottles. Community events in the greater Sydney area may be able to access Sydney Water water refill stations free of charge
- engaging with stakeholders to explore the possibilities of grey water recycling
- using composting toilets, which is one of the simplest ways to signal commitment to sustainability and eliminates the need for water and harmful chemicals
- reducing water in unseen ways, from the type of printing services used to the food being provided
- providing or requesting contractors and venues supply biodegradable cleaning products to prevent chemical contamination of waste water and hand sanitiser to reduce water use
- how you will communicate water conservation initiatives to stakeholders, contractors, vendors and the public.
Sustainable goods and services are often better value for money when you consider the whole life cost, including operating and disposal costs, not just the initial price.
Sustainable procurement or sustainable purchasing impacts the:
- direct purchasing of products for the event – this involves choosing the most sustainable products including something as simple photocopying paper
- contracting of goods and services, or hiring of venues – this involves understanding what practices are being employed by contractors, and knowing the supply chain.
The adage that ‘every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want’ is true. You have the power to create the demand for sustainable services and products.
If sustainability considerations are not addressed during the planning phase, it is unlikely they will be considered by suppliers.
Your sustainable procurement plan should consider:
- what and how much waste your event will generate, including packaging, greenhouse gas emissions, water, energy and other resource use
- the impact of your waste on the environment, population health, biodiversity and working conditions
- how you plan to minimise waste
- how you will manage waste
- what items you can borrow, rent or re-use
- including sustainability goals when requesting quotes or conducting tenders
- sourcing products and services locally to reduce impacts and support the community where the event is being held.
Education and communication
The nature of your event will determine what education and communication initiatives are appropriate for your visitor demographic and location.
Your education and communication strategy should consider:
- opportunities for communicating with stakeholders, contractors, participants and visitors before and during your event
- communicating electronically, where possible
- sustainable printing options
- how to encourage attendees to support your sustainability goals
- installations and programs available through water suppliers, energy retailers and local council
- educational trailers
- whether doing something out of the ordinary, such as working with a not-for-profit organisation or school, may help reduce your environmental footprint and assist to build positive relationships with sponsors.
Refer to the National Carbon Offset Standard, which is a voluntary standard to manage greenhouse gas emissions and to achieve carbon neutrality. It provides best-practice guidance on how to measure, reduce, offset, report and audit emissions for organisations, products and services, events, precincts and buildings.
To have a carbon-neutral event you will need to:
- measure your emissions (there are a range of online tools to help you do this)
- reduce them through your sustainable event plan
- utilise an accredited GreenPower provider where possible
- offset the emissions that cannot be avoided.