How to host an eco-friendly conference

Registration at TED2017 – The Future You, April 24-28, 2017, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

by Anja Dolphin

Each year about 18 billion pounds of plastic enters the world’s ocean. Let that sink in…

Our throwaway society is having a serious negative effect on the environment and the only way we can make a change is if individuals and organizations start acting to reduce the amount of plastic and waste that they produce.

Think of the amount of waste that is produced from the thousands of conferences and events that are held every year. That’s a significant amount that could easily be reduced if conferences were designed with sustainability in mind.

Even small changes can make a big difference so when you’re planning your next conference here’s a few ways you make it eco-friendlier.

Choose your venue wisely

The venue where your conference will be held is perhaps one of the most important things to consider. You need to make sure that it has everything you need to make your conference a success and that it is the right size for the number of attendees. This doesn’t mean you can’t be conscious when choosing your venue though. Searching for venues that are committed to reducing waste and recycling is a good place to start. If the venue is devoted to being sustainable already, you will be able to work together seamlessly to create the perfect eco-friendly conference.

The location of the venue should also be thought-out and a local venue that is centrally located should be prioritized. This means attendees, suppliers and employees won’t have to travel as far thus reducing carbon footprints. Of course, this will depend very much on the number of attendees and where they are coming from.

Go digital

Conferences and similar events are known for excessive use of paper and materials. Whether it’s floor maps, programs, name badges, brochures or general marketing materials the industry tends to overdo it on the tangible resources.
With sustainability in mind when planning your next conference things such as reusable name badges, recycling materials from previous events, digital invitations and creating resources from recycled materials will all help in creating a green event.

Rather than using traditional marketing techniques change your focus to digital marketing to promote your conference. Social media, a dedicated website and email marketing works just as effectively as well as being faster and cheaper. A bold move such as going paperless and taking everything online will instantly make your event eco-friendlier.

Choose sustainable catering

Some may say that picking the perfect caterers is just as important as choosing the venue itself and they might be right. Food production involves a huge amount of materials and waste so it’s important, to make your conference truly green, that you pick a caterer who ethically sources local food and is dedicated to sustainability.

Using biodegradable or reusable plates, bowls, cutlery, cups and food packaging is also essential. These items are so readily available these days and it doesn’t mean that you have to forgo style or practicality.

Use solar power

Conferences use a huge amount of energy in lighting, sound and staging but using solar power can be a fantastic way to save energy. Most sound and lighting equipment can be run on solar power and an increasing amount of organisations are now using solar energy to power their events. Looking into implementing solar panels will take your eco-friendly conference to the next level.

Recycling bins

It may be the most obvious thing to think about but it’s vital to ensure that you have recycling bins scattered around your conference venue. Set up clearly labelled recycling stations making them unmissable so that attendees understand that sustainability is an important part of the conference.

It’s all well and good organizing a sustainable event but thinking about the aftermath and how you’re going to recycle the waste after the conference is just as crucial. Make sure you plan to send your waste to be recycled in advance.

Creating an eco-friendly conference is the perfect way to make a positive impact and encourage everyone to give back to the environment. Show your commitment to the cause by making it a dominant theme throughout the marketing for your event and whilst the conference is being hosted. If your attendees are aware of the sustainability policy they should hopefully turn up willing to help you make your green event a success.


Anja Dolphin
Digital at Identilam – the badging company

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One Reply to “How to host an eco-friendly conference”

  1. Dragan

    If you could serve only zero waste food or provide anything of that sorts, that’s a progress.

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