Reducing Your Carbon Footprint of Events

Reduce your event's carbon footprint with these practical tips for wedding venues, conferences and community events!

As the effects of climate change become more pressing, it’s crucial that event organizers take steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Not only is sustainability important for the planet, but it’s also key to the long-term success of your business. By implementing net zero solutions, you can reduce energy and fuel costs and create diverse supply chains, helping to future-proof your business in a rapidly changing world. Event organizers have the opportunity to not only provide memorable experiences for their attendees but also to promote sustainability and protect the environment. Take action now to reduce your carbon emissions and secure a bright future for your business and the planet.

If you’re looking for more ideas, consider measuring your business’ Net Zero score to get a sense of your current carbon footprint and where you can make the most of a difference.

Why sustainability matters in the event services industry

The environmental impact of events can be enormous, with large crowds frequently consuming a large amount of energy, water, and other resources. Events can also generate a significant amount of waste, such as food waste, paper products, and other materials that end up in landfills. It is critical for event services businesses to take steps to reduce their environmental impact, both for the sake of the planet and for the industry’s long-term viability. Event services businesses can help protect the environment and demonstrate their commitment to social and environmental responsibility by implementing sustainable practices and reducing their carbon footprint. Furthermore, reducing the environmental impact of events can have tangible benefits for businesses, such as cost savings and improved reputation.

Where do the carbon emissions from an event come from?

As an event service provider, you may be curious as to where your carbon emissions come from. The following is a breakdown of the emissions produced by different aspects of event planning and management.

Transportation is the largest contributor to carbon emissions in event planning. Emissions from transportation come from the use of cars, planes, trains, and boats. For example, a one-way flight from London to Edinburgh with 189 passengers could emit around 30.24 to 38.2 metric tons of CO2 – that’s the same as using electricity in an average household for 3 to 4 months or driving a car around 9,000 to 11,500 miles.

Energy usage during events includes heating, cooling, and lighting event venues. For example, the emissions from a one-day event at a convention centre with 1,000 attendees would be the equivalent of driving a car for 2,000 to 4000 miles. 

Food is the second-largest contributor to carbon emissions in event planning. Emissions from food come from the production, transportation, and preparation of food. Red meat is particularly carbon intensive. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), 1 pound of beef produces an average of 23.5 pounds of CO2 equivalent (CO2e). This means that making 1,000 hamburgers, which would require approximately 1,000 pounds of beef, could produce approximately 23,500 pounds of CO2e.

Event waste, from food, paper products, and decorations, can contribute to carbon emissions during disposal, either through landfilling or incineration, both of which emit greenhouse gases. The transportation of waste to these facilities contributes to emissions as well.

Event supplies such as chairs, tables, linens, and decorations, can also contribute to carbon emissions in event planning.  The carbon footprint of event supplies is determined by several factors, including the materials used to manufacture the supplies, the location of the manufacturing facility, and the transportation methods used to transport the supplies to the event venue.

1. Sourcing sustainable products and services

By selecting eco-friendly goods and services, you may have a significant impact on sustainability as an event planner. Choose environmentally friendly products like recycled paper or biodegradable plastics, and work with suppliers who share your commitment to sustainability, such as caterers who use only organic or locally sourced ingredients or rental businesses that offer green products like LED lighting or energy-saving appliances. Consider the entire life cycle, including manufacturing, usage, and disposal, as well as the amount of energy and resources needed, when choosing products and services. Additionally, you can look for certifications from organisations like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for seafood or the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for paper products.

2. Reduce energy usage

One easy way to reduce energy use is to turn off lights and electronics when they are not in use. This simple step can save a significant amount of energy, and it’s easy to implement. Another way to reduce energy consumption is to use energy-efficient lighting, such as LED bulbs, which use 75% less energy and last longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. In addition, choose energy-efficient appliances, such as refrigerators, ovens, and washing machines, to further reduce your carbon footprint. Finally, optimise heating and cooling by setting your thermostat to an appropriate temperature and utilising natural ventilation whenever possible. By taking these steps, you can make a positive impact on the environment and reduce your event’s carbon emissions through energy conservation.

3. Redesign your menu

Another effective way to reduce carbon emissions is to redesign your event’s menu. A straightforward way to accomplish this is to add more plant-based options to your menu. Plant-based diets have a lower carbon footprint than meat-based diets because plant-based proteins require less energy to produce. Explore purchasing locally grown and in-season produce to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation. If you serve seafood at your events, choose sustainably raised options or consider using plant-based alternatives. Overfishing and destructive fishing practices can harm marine ecosystems, so choosing sustainably sourced options is critical. Finally, to reduce waste and minimise the environmental impact of your events, use eco-friendly packaging, such as biodegradable or compostable materials.

4. Segregate event waste

Segregating event waste is an important step in lowering your event’s carbon footprint. By separating recyclable materials from non-recyclable waste, such as paper, plastic, and metal, you can significantly reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators. This not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions associated with waste disposal, but it also conserves resources and has a lower environmental impact. Make sure bins are clearly labeled for recyclable and non-recyclable materials to segregate event waste. Assign staff to man these bins in case attendees require assistance. You can also compost organic waste, such as food waste, to reduce waste and reduce the environmental impact of your events.

5. Sustainable transportation for attendees

Another effective way to reduce the carbon footprint of your events is to provide attendees with sustainable transportation options. One option is to promote the use of public transportation, such as buses or trains, which can reduce carbon emissions significantly when compared to individual car travel. Consider providing shuttle services from convenient locations, such as public transportation stations, to your event venue. Another option is to promote carpooling, which can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If you have the ability to provide onsite parking, another option is to reserve spaces for low-emission vehicles like electric or hybrid vehicles. Finally, offer attendees incentives such as discounted tickets or preferred parking if they use environmentally friendly transportation.

Next steps

For practical and cost-effective sustainability actions tailored to the event services industry, check out our online platform Hero. For just £15 a month, it provides everything you need to achieve net zero carbon emissions and beyond. From eco-friendly materials to sustainable vendors, Hero has all the resources you need to minimize your environmental impact.

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Reducing your emissions has become easier than ever with these Small99 Partners.

Adam Bastock
Author: Adam Bastock

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