For the Good of Everyone: How to Make Your Event Sustainable

November 26, 2018

Jessica Glenn

Jessica Glenn is the Sustainability Manager at Freeman, where she works to raise awareness and develop best practices for sustainability that make financial sense in light of corporate responsibility goals

When the event is over and you’re basking in the glow of success, nothing can put a damper on your hard work quite like seeing the post-event pile: huge stacks of leftover or discarded handouts and publications, bins full of packaging odds and ends, boxes full of promotional items that can’t be used again.

The accumulation of trash after a typical event not only affects the environment but also your bottom line (more dumpster rentals = more costs!). 

Reducing event waste isn’t a one-step quick fix, however. To be most effective, you need a collaborative experience that gets everyone involved, from show organizers, key stakeholders, and general service contractors to sponsors and exhibitors. No one is an island and no organizer can roll out effective sustainability practices on their own.

So how do you inspire others to get involved and pare down the waste? 

Include sustainability throughout the event experience. By engaging exhibitors and other stakeholders in your green plan from the beginning, everybody benefits. Try out these tips to get your green groove on!

Plan ahead

Before the show, take advantage of exhibitor communication. Right from the start, you can create awareness of your commitment to sustainability to get them on board with your goals. 

To make it easier for them to join in, it’s a good idea to provide clear guidelines and tips on reducing waste. You can also demonstrate how following these guidelines will save them money and improve their reputation for sustainability with potential clients. 


Encourage exhibitors to engage in the social responsibility and sustainability programs you’ve created. A great example is an e-waste program or donation program that gives unused supplies or materials to local non-profits. 

This is a win-win-win proposition: Your event becomes more sustainable, local non-profits get much-needed materials and exhibitors get to publicly demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, boosting their brand.

Go Digital

Being surrounded by large piles of leftover magazines or other materials is probably not the immersive event experience you’re going for. Fortunately, today’s technology makes it easier (and more popular) than ever to eschew paper handouts. 

The case for going digital is a strong one, with a huge range of benefits for event organizers and exhibitors alike. First off, digital has environmental advantages, creating less environmental impact by:

  • Reducing carbon emissions from shipping
  • Reducing the amount of paper needed overall
  • Reducing trash generated from discarded marketing materials

In addition to the environmental benefits, digital makes sense financially and logistically.  

Because digital materials are easy to edit and access, exhibitors can see major reductions in shipping and labor costs. Plus, an error on a digital display is an easy fix, even mid-event. A typo in 5,000 copies of your glossy new product sheet? Not so much. 

And imagine the labor costs saved by not having to pay someone to lug around boxes of materials or refill publication bins. An extra bonus: digital materials make it easier for sponsors to track who’s interested in their products since this approach yields data about who is looking. 

Make Sustainability a Part of Your Brand

When you commit to the environment, that value becomes part of your brand. Reducing your event waste is a great way to “walk the walk” and showcase your products and services in a way that backs up commitment to your organization’s principles. 

By engaging business partners and customers in this shared commitment, you help them feel empowered, which helps people associate your brand with cutting-edge technology and environmental responsibility.

Remember, if you pave the way for sustainability, others will follow. That’s success you can truly bask in. 


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Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact