Top Ways to Go Green Without Impacting Your Event Budget

April 16, 2018

It goes without saying that trade shows and events are tough on the environment, producing daunting amounts of waste and carbon emissions every year. According to MeetGreen, the typical conference attendee creates more than four pounds of waste and just under 400 pounds of CO2emissions per day. Multiply that by hundreds or even thousands of attendees and the environmental footprint of a typical event is pretty staggering. 

As an event organizer, you know you should do your part to help the planet by taking your events in a more sustainable direction but you’re concerned that going green will not only be more labor intensive but also more expensive. 

But what it if you could make big changes and decrease your environmental footprint without affecting your budget? 

To find out how, TSNN consulted with some of the best minds in sustainability, including Lindsay Arell, lead strategist for Honeycomb Strategies; Naina Ayya, communications manager at the Moscone Center; Jessica Glenn, sustainability manager at Freeman; Jenn Waters, assistant publisher and digital media manager at CustomNEWS; Karen Young, senior operations manager at Global Exhibitions, and Nancy Zavada, president of MeetGreen. 

Here are their top tips for taking your events in a less wasteful and more sustainable direction:


  1. Choose an environmentally conscious convention center, particularly those that are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified. LEED certification is not easy to attain, so this accreditation proves that the facility is committed to sustainability and has environmental programs in place to help green your event.


  1. Opt for eco-friendly hotels with third-party environmental certifications such as Green Seal, Green Key, Green Globe or LEED and that have clearly integrated sustainability into their culture.


  1. Take advantage of pre-show exhibitor communication to educate attendees and exhibitors about your show’s commitment to sustainability, get them excited about your initiatives and enlist their support. 


  1. Encourage exhibitors and attendees to participate in the facility’s recycling program.


  1. Provide exhibitors with guidelines for how to reduce their waste and explain why it’s important to your event. This can help decrease the amount of dumpsters you use, which can really impact your post-event bottom line. 


  1. Ask the venue to reduce lights, power and HVAC during move-in and move-out, and only turn on escalators when attendees arrive onsite.


  1. Forgo plastic water bottles and replace them with water stations on showfloors, in hallways and meeting rooms, and serve beverages in pitchers at meal functions. Water stations can also make great sponsorship opportunities!


  1. Work with the venue’s catering manager to plan environmentally conscious menus that are seasonal, local and organic whenever possible.


  1. Swap out big and bulky laminated badge holders with simple printed badges (using recycled paper and soy-based ink, if possible) and lanyards.


  1. Go digital and re-evaluate any print needs, using environmentally conscious printers located in the host city to avoid the costs and carbon footprint of shipping.


  1. Serve condiments in bulk containers.


  1. Reuse and reduce show graphics and signage, use recyclable, eco-friendly substrates and leverage digital signage whenever possible.


  1. Go plant-based. Not only do meatless meal options help the environment, they’re also less expensive!


  1. Engage exhibitors to sponsor or participate in your social responsibility program, such as an e-waste or donation program that gives unused materials and supplies to local nonprofit groups. This helps publicly demonstrate your joint commitment to sustainability. 


  1. Donate any uneaten, packaged or wrapped food to local food banks. Better yet, work with a food recovery organization that can do the job for you. Many hotels and convention centers already have donation programs in place, so just ask!


For more great greening resources, go here.

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Partner Voices

As event professionals and destinations adjust, adapt and evolve in these uncharted waters, it is imperative that substantial resources be put in place for all of the people responsible for planning and executing trade shows, expositions and conventions. An example is Mohegan Sun, which built an industry-leading, COVID-19 Resource Center with a combination of pictures from recently held successful events (the property reopened on May 1, 2020) along with several widely available and informative documents, such as an evolving operational framework: