What Does It Mean to ‘Green’ an Event?
‘Greening’ is a term that refers to the process of making an event more ecologically responsible. Every event has unique challenges and opportunities, which makes it often difficult to discern the level of effort and fulfillment necessary to really be Green.
Some visible signs of a Green Event include:
- recycling and compost stations for waste
- active and well-funded areas for creative community education
- requiring organic food and re-usable or biodegradable dishes in vending areas
Less visible (but equally important) signs of a Green Event include:
- use of eco-friendly construction materials
- alternative energy sources
- post-event impact reduction
An event that is making a serious effort to be ‘Green’ must undertake a holistic approach to the planning process. An examination of the current Green Event standards and available options is necessary, considered within the context of the vision and resources of the particular event.
Before the Event…
Responsible Use of Space
Assessment of the venue for ecological strengths and weaknesses is a vital step in the event planning process. Indoor events may face challenges regarding water and energy use, while the positive aspect of a permanent physical location would be availability for long-term community engagement. Outdoor events are faced with infrastructure and post-event impact concerns, while alternately able to educate larger audiences with dramatic large-scale presentations.
From the office to the event, opportunities abound for ecological and fiscally responsible procurement choices. New standards for construction materials in the home-building sector have expanded the options for products from lighting to lumber. Many companies are also willing to enter into sponsorship agreements to expand their products to new audiences, creating affordable or even free opportunities to implement new eco-technologies.
Efficient use of energy is one way an event can be not just ecologically but fiscally responsible in ways that are immediately evident. From rechargable batteries to biodiesel generators, a wide range of opportunities is available fro events of all sizes. For those whom fossil fuel use is unavoidable, renewable energy credits are also available to help offset carbon emissions.
Carpooling and Transportation
Transportation to and from an event for a large number of guests can create a heavy impact on local air quality. Carpool and RideShare Programs, Biodiesel Bus shuttles, and special extensions of public transportation hours and routes have all been successfully implemented to reduce car traffic to events. Carbon Emissions Offsetting programs allow event producers to calculate the carbon emissions impact of their event and make a financial contribution towards alternative energy sources or tree planting initiatives in an amount specified as equitable to the amount of emissions produced.
During the Event…
Volunteer and Mentoring Opportunities
Event producers can often supplement their team with local volunteers, who excel at participating in activities that demonstrate a positive long-term impact on their community. Green Events are an opportunity to instill the next generation of event producers with the importance of Eco-Logical Best Practices as active volunteers. Mentorship from local activists and industry professionals can build bridges between experience and enthusiasm, unleashing the unlimited potential of the human resource. Workshops and hands-on participation in areas from recycling to MycoRemediation involve participants of broad interests and abilities.
Entertainment and performance can be green too! Events of all kinds can incorporate entertainment with an environmental message, such as skits and puppet show between music acts, biodiesel car exhibitions, or art installations made from scavenged and recycled materials. Inspiring an audience through art, theatre, music, and creative engagement has an effect that is unquantifiable, yet undeniable.
Vendors and their products can convey a strong message about the intention and integrity of an event. Organic foods and caterers are now widely available, for both the health of the guests and the support of local organic agriculture. Biodegradable dishes and cutlery can be composted, or re-usable dishes can be provided for a small deposit, drastically reducing the volume of trash. Successful dish re-use programs have sourced dishes and cutlery from thrift stores, and implemented a common dishwashing station to minimize water waste. Merchandise vendors can also be selected for commitments to Fair Trade, organics, local and artisan production, recycled or re-used materials, and conscious labor practices.
After the Event…
‘Waste’ is really another word for ‘Surplus’ – meaning that everything we produce must eventually find a use. Recycling and Composting are common ways to divert Event Surplus before it is committed to a landfill. composting toilets and unbleached recycled toilet paper are ways to reduce the sanitation impact of a large group. Food Vendors and Caterers can use biodegradable or re-usable dishes.
Continuing Community Outreach and Education
Active engagement of local activists and organizations is the foundation of a long-term relationship for the benefit of all. While an event may last only a finite amount of time, communities need enduring solutions that can only be provided by local activists with an ongoing commitment. By supporting these organizations and individuals, events are able to provide outlets for their audience to follow up on the initiatives introduced to them at the event.
Create an Eco-Logical Plan of Action.
An event may choose to undertake some or all of the above initiatives in the Greening process, as each gathering is a unique combination of vision and community resources. With real examples set by event producers, creative audience engagement, and provision of outlets for long-term local involvement, people will come to self-identify the need for eco-logical practices in their daily lives: the ultimate goal of the ‘Greening’ process.