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Sustainability in the Event Management Space: Part 1

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

If we don't put the Earth first, who will?

A biodegradable paper posted to a lamp post on the street promoting sustainability
How we can do our part to reduce our carbon footprint: Image by createandbloom

The emphasis on transitioning to a more sustainable future has increased in recent years. For the first time in history, we must reflect upon what impact we leave on generations that come after us. As easy as it is to think about life from our current worldview, we have been endowed with an eye-opening realization that the choices we make today directly influence the future of our children's tomorrow. And the biggest lie we can tell ourselves is that we don't affect to make a change.

We can build a greener future together when we switch that narrative and believe we hold the power to influence fundamental change.

if everybody waits for somebody else to do it, nobody will.

As individuals, we are responsible for doing our part to build that future for the next generations. But as a company, we bear that responsibility tenfold. So first, we are presented with more opportunities to implement sustainable practices because each part of the event planning process leaves behind a carbon footprint. While it takes a bit of extra effort and planning, the earth and the people living on it long after we're gone will thank you.

Our clients have yet to learn what goes on behind the scenes, so we must present them with more sustainable options where they have a choice. If they realized the impact they could make with these small changes, there is no doubt they would hop on board. In addition, we can easily make events sustainable by providing sustainable solutions even when clients don't ask for them.

Soon, a line in the sand will be drawn from where companies ignored sustainability to where it is essential to participate. The fact of the matter is your company will either be dragged into it or will be the one holding the candlelight down the path for others to follow.

According to a report shared by FirstLook Research, the NorthStar Meetings group conducted a study to determine the environmental efforts made by the events industry. NorthStar Meetings Group interviewed 352 qualified meeting professionals to see if their organization has a sustainability policy that addresses meetings and events, and 60% answered no; that number needs to be higher. In addition, over 60% of their organizations have yet to make net-zero commitments in the future.


Although it can feel overwhelming to take a high-level look at how much progress is ahead of us, we can fix our eyes on each day and implement slight changes that ultimately leave a significant impact. So, let us dive deeper into how your organization can implement these changes.

It begins with a conversation:

Schedule a meeting to discuss the reality of the demand for sustainability within your organization. Having an open discussion about where others on your team may see obstacles is a great first temperature check.

Brainstorm ideas together:

Once everyone is on the same page and willing to discuss more about where sustainability fits into your workflow, allow everyone to suggest where to begin implementing these practices. Again, no contribution is too small, and you may be surprised at how creative the team can get.


After you have determined where to make these changes, lock in a reasonable budget that would allow you to put them into play in real time. As your organization becomes more comfortable with the first round of changes, you can slowly integrate more over time.

1. Who are you working with?


The first topic to consider and reflect upon is the hotels you are working with and the companies you purchase products from for gifting experiences. If they do not have sustainability knitted into their business model, you start from ground 0 to build a sustainable network.

Partnering with hotels focusing on sustainability gives you an advantage because many clients try to source hotels with these procedures from the get-go. From our experience, we have found that clients are so passionate about this that if they learn they are working with a hotel that does not implement these practices, they put pressure on the hotel to see if they can do it.


Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a worldwide green building certification program. If you prioritize hotel locations with this certification, your clients will be excited to work with them and encourage other large luxury properties to consider pining for the certification themselves. The large hotel partners are the powerhouses that produce the most pollution, so we aim to promote change underneath them to shake up their foundations. A lot of effort goes into achieving this outstanding recognition, so partnering with these locations empowers your clients to choose green options that align with their events goals and objectives. In addition, clients love to hear about the planning and effort that went into the event, letting them know that the location they are visiting, the food they are eating, and the hotel they are sleeping in brought us all one step closer to a greener future.


Not only do clients arrive with them, but the hotel also provides them. Sadly, after a few days of usage, most of it finds its way to the trash. As a result of how prevalent this waste has become in the hotel industry, Clean the World has created a hotel recycling program, partnering with over 8,000 hotels worldwide to recycle discarded soap and bottled amenities to provide vulnerable communities with access to hygiene necessities and WASH programming.

To summarize how their program works, they collect soaps from hotels, sanitize them, and prepare them as donations to countries without access to these products. As of now, not all hotels allow this, but many other hotels already operate with this program. This scenario exemplifies why you must consider who you partner with when choosing a hotel location. When clients ask whom to partner with, we recommend hotels that give back, consistently reduce their carbon footprint, and have additional sustainability practices in play.

To learn more about their program click here:

To find out what hotels they partner with click here: Management Company Partner - Clean the World

Venue and caterers

Consider asking these few critical questions before confirming your food reservations when food is involved in the event:

1. Where do they source their food?

2. Can we support our community by not shipping food when we can find it locally?

3. Can we reduce or eliminate meat from the menu?

4. Does this venue have the resources to repurpose food waste after the event or a partner to donate the food to?

Truthfully, local food tastes better, is undeniably fresher, and is more eco-friendly. Alternatively, incorporate a food tour to include local markets if the event consists of food outside a fixed location. Immerse them in the neighborhood while promoting small businesses and reducing the event's carbon footprint. Finally, training your team to shape the food experience of the event into an opportunity for sustainability is a best practice to begin implementing. With all that in mind, there are very few justifiable reasons to ignore sustainability practices when offering food at your events.

2. What Decor are you using?

Decor is many event professionals' favorite aspect of event planning. When considering this, remember that choosing more sustainable decor options does not have to compromise the integrity of your design and creativity. Alternatively, it does just the opposite. By choosing decor beyond just design, you are adding a level of depth and compassion to your plans, which we at ETHOS like to call purposeful planning.


Similar to the idea of fast fashion, a fast furniture fad is sweeping the nation and leaving landfills overcrowded with millions of pounds of waste a year. While at first, it may seem appealing to find a stylish piece of furniture that fits the theme of your event at a low price, but we must think of the real cost of purchasing these items- and the cost cannot be calculated in dollars. Luckily, companies are becoming available to provide a solution to fast furniture, renting furniture for your event. These companies provide high-quality, stylish furniture for your event, collect it once the event ends, and stores it for future use.


When choosing more sustainable centerpieces for your event, the possibilities are endless. Although flowers are some of the most popular centerpieces, many other options will still give guests the wow factor and can be repeatedly reused. Some ideas for this are lanterns, books, edible assortments of candies, flame candles, and many more.


It is understandable for clients to desire those natural plants at the event, so if that is the case- just consider where you can implement more sustainable growing practices. The process of growing, cutting, and then trashing the flowers makes them a very unsustainable decor choice. If you are unwilling to remove flowers and foliage from the event entirely, then renting it is a great route to take or look for plants that can be replanted. Many tropical florals and foliage are available to purchase in a pot that can be replanted and reused without harming the plant.


It may sound hard to believe, but linens are somewhat problematic when calculating the carbon footprint of your event. Consider the amount of water required to wash them, the chemicals used to clean them, and how often planners decide to use plastic covers for convenience. The most straightforward answer to avoiding this all together is to have no linens on the tables. As a result, planners may spend extra on a lovely table that does not require any coverage to reduce the costs of table linens and laundering, reducing the environmental impact.

If your company still needs to start being sustainable, consider sharing this article with others within your organization to get the conversation started. Remember, it begins with us, and the gradual progress of sustainability in meetings leads to a more sustainable future.


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