Focus on... Planning Green Events

Festivals, conferences and concerts are full of people, food and information, and that means waste. The event industry has some interesting waste reduction challenges.

More and more event organizers are 'greening' their operations -- trying to reduce waste while promoting recycling, reuse and composting solutions.

As with any event, a Green Event requires careful research and planning. Outlining your goals and reasons for hosting a green event is a good place to start. For large events, a Waste Reduction Coordinator or committee might better facilitate the organizing of your Green Event.

Stakeholder participation is important. Stakeholders are patrons, recycling companies, vendors and sponsors. Sponsorships focusing on the green aspect of your event may offset the cost of recycling. Communication with the stakeholders prior to the event ensures that all participants are aware of green practices and are encouraged to play an active role in making your event a green one.

Assessment of the waste stream is a key aspect of planning. After you identify the types and estimated amounts of waste that will be generated at your event, then you can figure out which green options will fit your operations and budget. Design a waste separation system and site plan that allows for easy access for both the patrons and the recyclers.

Vendors (food, beverage and merchandise) should be informed of the green intentions and encouraged to participate by using compostable or reusable dishes, having bulk condiment dispensers and other eco-friendly alternatives. Volunteers could be arranged to supervise the disposal stations and block cross-contamination.

An important aspect of any Green Event is communication and promotion of your efforts to local media and advertising as a "green" or "zero waste" event. Advertising before and during the event is integral to encourage full patron, volunteer and vendor participation. Educate participants on what you are doing to green your event and why you decided to host a green event.

During the event, monitor the waste sites carefully to discourage contamination and keep track of the amount of waste diverted and recycled. Each waste stream (recyclables, compost and garbage) should be clearly differentiated but with receptacles placed together. By promoting waste diversion through education and promotion, your event is not just diverting waste from landfill but encouraging others to do the same.

Following the event, evaluate your green initiatives by measuring how much waste was diverted and identifying what can be improved or changed in the future. Acknowledge the support of the stakeholders, vendors and patrons. The process of greening your event sends a powerful message about the importance of sustainable initiatives that is just as important as the initiatives themselves.

[Source: August 2010 WasteWatch ]