Every gripping story needs a villain and when it comes to climate change, plastic is a strong contender. Climate debates can get sciency and abstract rather quickly. Carbon footprint is mostly invisible, charts of rising temperatures are rather dull and disaster only seem to happen in places most of us have never been to. It's easy to shrug these things off as mere "theories", but plastic pollution is different. It stares us in the face the minute we walk out of the house or pass a river. It's something we can all see frequently – which makes it the perfect partner in crime for marketing.
In fact, a whole month is dedicated to plastic pollution and it starts today: #PlasticFreeJuly is a global movement that encourages people to ditch plastic for a full month. And where there's a hashtag, there's a marketing opportunity. As a sustainable event manager, hosting a Zero Plastic event is right up my alley and truth be told – I tried. Once. I failed. Here's why:
It depends on how you define a "zero plastic event". If you merely want to keep your guests away from plastic, you should be quite alright:
Opt-out of single-use plastic bottles
Choose reusable plates instead of plastic containers
Ditch all the plastic cutlery
Order signage made of wood or fabric
Don't offer plastic straws
Choose high-quality goodies Decorate the room with flowers instead of cheap plastic items
Print name tags on thick paper instead of using plastic pouches
But if you want to dig deeper and take a more holistic approach, things will get complicated real quick, especially when you widen the no plastic rule to your supply chain management. Finding partners who are willing to go the extra mile might be tough. Imagine a caterer who can't buy ingredients in bulk because the containers might be made of plastic. Or a goodie supplier who can't secure the boxes on a pallet with plastic wrapping. You'll have to spend a considerable amount of time finding the right partners and honestly, you might want to spend it elsewhere. There are bigger fishes to fry when hosting a sustainable event, like transportation, electricity or food waste.
Don't get me wrong, reducing plastic to the absolute max is the right thing to do, but instead of hosting a zero-plastic event, aim for ZERO WASTE. Zero waste doesn't mean you're not allowed to produce any kind of trash, it means you have to recycle all used materials properly – plastic items included. Make sure you only work with suppliers who recycle and encourage your guests to use the correct bins at the location. A zero waste event is not only easier to manage but better for the environment, too, as you not only fight plastic pollution but waste in general.
That said, DO keep the zero-plastic policy for the last stretch of your event – the part guests can see – and reduce it as much as you can throughout the whole planning process. The rest will be taken care of by recycling stations.