Photo: Ron Mader, Pochote (Some rights reserved)
As the garden grows so does the gardener.
– Popular saying
We explore how events are evolving, maturing in manners that are responsive to those in the room and beyond it.
- What will green events look like in 2024? 2030?
Events offer opportunities to make new friends and acquaintances, tackle serious topics, and walk the talk.
Participating in events where connecting and raising awareness matter matters more than ever. We would like to see events that are demonstrably more responsive in 2023. An interactive event is more engaging than a series of monologues or speakers reading at their audience or streaming without comments or Q&As.
What are the red flags of an eco- or people-unfriendly event?
- Water is served in individual plastic bottles.
- Recycling is not evident.
- Locals are treated poorly or even excluded from the meetings.
- The event is announced online, but no follow-up or summaries are posted.
- Name badge holders are not reused.
- Meals are served via paper or plastic disposable containers.
Sadly, such events are common. An academic ecotourism conference housed speakers at a chain hotel and served meals in cardboard boxes. A friend complains that an organic trade expo created mountains of trash.
Here are our guidelines in creating effective, green events. The following recommendations have been collected from good practices around the globe.
How well locals are included — from preparation to post event continuity — should be used in evaluating the success of the event. When locals are treated with respect, everyone wins.
Please, no more closed door meetings that do not include an opportunity for a virtual dialogue among interested parties before, during and after the event. As proposed in the Wish List for Responsible, Sustainable Ecotourism, interested constituencies without the money or time to attend in person should have the opportunity to participate.
When practical, use small hotels and local B&Bs. If the facility has environmental conservation programs, point out the details to guests.
Use less paper and offer online registration.
Lighting and energy efficient measures should be incorporated wherever feasible. Conference centers that maximize energy efficiency should communicate the details to their guests.
Feature local culture and entertainment.
Serve locally grown products and organic food when possible. Point out such items on a menu. Food can be served in a way in which participants can choose what they do and do not wish to eat. Additionally, many conference centers and restaurants support community food drives. Eco kitchens also find ways to compost.
Far too much paper is wasted at events. The good news — more conferences are going paperless!
Recycle and explain the process to conference participants.
Like food, information is best served self-service. Otherwise, brochures end up in the garbage. If you are distributing a conference program or background reading, distribute two-sided copies.
Schedule a heritage walk. Local tours promote where the conference takes place and gives visitors a feeling for the neighborhood and a locals a chance to interact with conference participants.
For those concerned about the environmental impact of international transportation, review the pros and cons of Carbon Offsetting.
Use shuttle services to and from the conference. Bonus points for using local public transportation and double bonus points for making it clear how to use beyond the event.
Serve water from pitchers. If using plastic, make sure there is a receptacle for recycling and a means to refill the bottles.
One solution would be the unconference approach. Evolving from Open Space Technology, events could abandon the traditional agenda and ask participants to self-organize a schedule, goals, and work.