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From energy to food waste: here are the 5 biggest polluters in the event industry

From small gatherings to big festivals, being green can be quite the challenge.

Events can be massive contributors to the pollution of the environment. From electricity to waste, organizing an event can be so overwhelmingly stressful at times that it’s easy to neglect environmental issues along the way. At the same time, it is more important than ever that event managers appreciate the diverse impacts that events can have on the environment, and consider changing their practices. This is where Green Events come into play. Sustainable event consultants not only know how to host eco-friendly gatherings, we also measure and assess where you can improve the most. If you know the biggest polluters of your event, it gets easier to implement simple and affordable changes that really make a difference – all without losing the fun.

Every event is different, but generally speaking, here are the 5 biggest polluters in the industry:


By far the biggest source of carbon emissions (about 80% in the US event industry) comes from the exhaust fumes of the vehicles used by guests arriving and departing the venue. Do you remember the Glastonbury traffic jam in 2016? Festival-goers were stuck in traffic for up to 14 hours (!) and the streets around the open-air completely collapsed for days. This is just one example, but it shows just how much the transport of your guests can mess up your good intentions. If you’re planning a Green Event, make sure everyone is on board. Choose a location that is easily accessible by public transportation, charge for parking and encourage your visitors to use public transportation or organize carpools.


Events are like icebergs. What your visitors see is just the tip. If you want to truly change your event habits, it is necessary to take a holistic approach as the 2nd biggest environmental impact in the industry happens below the surface. Having a dedicated sustainability consultant on site is a first step as project management is key here. Avoid empty journeys when setting up the location (you can’t have enough lists and plans here!) and work with local vendors instead of hiring partners from far away. It’s also time to change your own workflow. Is it necessary to meet your event team in person or can you chat via Skype? Do you have to use a car for on-site visits? Is it necessary to print out plans and schedules or would it make more sense to distribute them electronically? Does your team need plastic bottles to stay hydrated during the cleanup? Real change starts with YOU.


The 3rd biggest environmental impact in the event industry is food – from farm to plate and beyond. As tempting as it is to spoil your guests with your favorite food, it does make sense to choose different menus when hosting large events. Chicken is much better for the environment than beef and offering a vegetarian buffet would reduce your event carbon footprint drastically. You also reduce energy by choosing food that does not need to be refrigerated at all times. Start by choosing a local catering company that puts sustainability first and offer hands-on, proven solutions. The environmental issues don’t stop there though, food waste is a horrendous 1st world problem that needs to be tackled head-on. Order a reasonable amount of food and donate the leftovers.


The 4th largest environmental impact in the event industry is a tricky one: energy. Saving energy can be a task and a half. Locations are often inflexible and saving on lights is a security issue. That said, events need power: sound systems, kitchens, light concepts, sanitary facilities. Everything runs on energy and the stakes are high. In Switzerland, the EKZ offers consultancy services for event managers. If you’re hosting a Green Event, I highly recommend a quick phone call. If you’re planning a small event, the least you can do is choose modern electronic equipment that is energy efficient, like LED lights.


The 5th biggest environmental impact in the event industry is also the easiest one to eliminate: waste. Swap plastic items with reusable options, have tons of recycling bins on site, encourage your guests to keep the area clean, charge a deposit for cutlery, hand out portable ashtrays to smokers and start to compostE. It’s 2019 – cheap plastic items at events simply do not spark joy anymore.

Are you ready to green up your gathering? Get in touch with us.


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