Celebrate Earth Day By Getting Excited About Sustainability Again

April 22, 2020

With the events industry focused on COVID-19 recovery, discussions around the role that sustainable events play in helping to stop an even bigger long-term threat — climate change — have taken a back seat. But during the virtual Global Meetings Industry Day on April 15, sustainability experts Mariela McIlwraith, director of industry advancement for the Events Industry Council, and Courtney Lohmann, director of corporate social responsibility for PRA Business Events, focused on the extreme importance of event sustainability going forward. 

Just in time for Earth Day, which celebrates its 50th anniversary today, the comprehensive session, titled “Events As Accelerators for the Sustainable Development Goals,” outlined how event planners and stakeholders can help further the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. During the session, McIlwraith and Lohmann cited several compelling examples of how event organizers can use the goals as a roadmap to redesign cleaner, greener, healthier, more inclusive and resilient events.

While there are 17 Sustainable Development Goals, McIlwraith and Lohmann zeroed in on those with the greatest synergy with exhibitions and events and how event planners can apply them. 

Here are a few takeaways to help you start thinking about how to integrate some of the SDGs into your planning actions once the industry makes plans to move forward with events.

Good Health and Wellbeing: Fighting Communicable Diseases

Post-pandemic, finding ways to stave off the transmission of communicable diseases at events will be key going forward, and that means evolving your on-site practices, McIlwraith said. She recommends event planners start thinking about the following:

  • Having strong hygiene practices in place and making them public
  • Providing protective equipment for staff to keep them safe 
  • Re-thinking food service methods such as buffets and shared serving utensils
  • Changing processes at common congestion points such as registration
  • Tweaking meeting room design to create socially distanced seating configurations

Responsible Consumption and Production: Halving Global Per Capita Food Waste

While many stakeholders in the events industry have been actively addressing food waste and responsible consumption, event planners will need to continue tackling this issue going forward. Here are some easy ways to shrink your food waste footprint, according to Lohmann.

  • Research your attendees’ dietary history and preferences
  • Cross-check with hotel for food pickup patterns
  • Collect event attendance and dietary needs
  • Opt for smaller portion sizes
  • Use restaurant or room service delivered to meeting room for small groups
  • Choose plant-forward menus
  • Use the same menus as other in-house groups
  • Communicate your food waste strategy with participants
  • Work with a reliable food rescue organization

Also, don’t forget to FLOSS by choosing food that is:

  • Fair (fairly traded)
  • Local
  • Organic
  • Seasonal
  • Smart (brain-friendly)

Responsible Consumption and Production: Substantially Reducing Waste Generation

Reducing waste generation at events is a big opportunity for our industry to become more sustainable. Consider adopting a circular economy mindset by looking at upcycling or recycling and reusing items instead of throwing them away. “Look at the number of events that have been contributing unused conference bags from cancelled events to produce face masks,” McIlwraith said. “Always ask: Does my event need this item? If not, toss it from your plans rather than tossing it from your event at the end.”

To be more efficient, save money and reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfill, try:

  • Using less
  • Choosing quality items
  • Having a life cycle plan for all materials
  • Donating or upcycling
  • Recycling or composting

Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions – Protecting Children from Abuse, Exploitation, Trafficking and Violence

Just because we’re not meeting at this moment doesn’t mean human trafficking has also stopped. The industry still needs to be aware and work to end the abuse and exploitation of women and children, Lohmann said. Here are some ways to make a difference:

  • Educate yourself and your teams about human trafficking and the warning signs of this illegal behavior so you can be part of the solution
  • When considering gifts for virtual or live event attendees, work with a conscious gift company that helps female victims of human trafficking

To learn about EIC’s Principles for Sustainable Events and to access their Sustainability Standards and library of resources, check out the EIC Centre for Sustainable Events here



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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.