Covid 19 has had a massive impact on the event industry. With meetings, conferences and festivals cancelled left and right, the hospitality business is facing one of its most tumultuous years in modern history. While survival instincts certainly kicked in, sustainability remains a top priority for Eventprofs worldwide.
So much so that numerous industry experts contacted me over the last couple of days to ask how this global pandemic might affect sustainable event management. Not an easy question to answer, but let’s break it down.
Covid 19 event guidelines are not in competition with sustainable event solutions. In fact, some of the recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) are straight out of the Green Event Management handbook. We’ve said for years that digital platforms can replace face-to-face meetings and that physical handouts should be a thing from the past.
Single-use face masks and hand sanitizers
That said, Covid 19 didn’t push sustainability forward. While “the new normal” certainly gave way to less travel and handouts, we’ve also been given a new set of challenges. For example, face masks, hand sanitizers and cleaning wipes are all single-use items and often made with potentially harmful chemicals. Replacing them with products that claim to be better for the environment but aren’t adequately tested by health professionals is a bold move I personally am not willing to make.
I am looking forward to sustainable solutions that are proven to be save, but in the meantime, all we can do is buy in bulk and make it easy to dispose all single-use items correctly. A designated “mask-bin” next to the exit is a first, simple step. You could also encourage your guests to bring their own reusable cloth mask from home. When it comes to chemicals, the least we can do is support pharmaceutical companies with ethical values.
No touching, no problem
Covid 19 can spread from contaminated surfaces which means handouts are a risk – and that’s a good thing! Invitations, tickets, schedules, information and leaflets can be transmitted digitally. Covid 19 saw the return of the QR code: restaurants started to replace their menu cards with barcodes and it’s a short walk from there to digitalize an event from A to Z. QR codes also help your staff! Reduce paper trails and keep your team informed by pushing them onto an easily updatable online page. And while we’re at it, opt out of buffets. They’re not only a habitat for germs but also increase food waste at events.
The WHO recommends to uninvite people who are at higher risk for severe illness from Covid 19. A rather drastic measure for passionate Eventprofs like myself. Instead of leaving them out in the cold, sustainable event managers might have to make sacrifices for the greater good. After all, our number one priority is the safety and well-being of ALL our guests. Booking a bigger venue despite the waste of energy is a must for social distancing, and we might have to allow certain people to come by car instead of public transportation. It’s against everything we stand for, but the current situation requires a certain amount of flexibility.
All digital, all good?
First thing first: yes. Online meetings and conferences are better for the environment. Less travel means less damage. What we shouldn’t forget though is that everything we do online increases our carbon footprint as well. Digital waste massively contributes to our global climate crisis and is often overseen. Covid 19 gives us a unique opportunity to lecture our attendees. Choose suppliers who use renewable energy for their data centers and use energy-efficient electronic equipment. A chic solution is to offset your carbon footprint caused by your digital conference. You could add a small donation to your ticket price to make attendees aware of your initiative.
While #eventprofs are eagerly waiting for this crisis to end, it’s a great opportunity to rethink the old and make way for the new. If you’re working in the hospitality business and haven’t adopted sustainable event solutions yet, this is the perfect time to change your habits.