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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Partner Voices
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