Familiar with the 3 R’s ‘Reduce-reuse-recycle’? Did you know there are 4 more? Here we look at the 7 R’s of sustainability and discover how they can help you make a GOOD SUSTAINABLE EVENT.
Before you order something, STOP and THINK. Question yourself and your team. Do we really need this? How many times will this be used? Or is there another way of doing it?
How many promotional items are given away in face-to-face exhibitions? Gifts at an event? Bags at a conference? How many go straight into the rubbish or piled in the back of a cupboard with more of the same. It’s time to say ‘no’. If you are the organiser – push back.
Why not engage with your participants? Ask them. Would they like yet another ‘reusable’ water bottle? Or bring their own and see that budget spent on a water pump for a village in Africa? Therefore, our recommendation, if you are a guest and receive something you don’t need, politely say ‘no’ and give it back. Because the more we take and throw away, the more we fuel the problem.
This is an ‘R’ we are more familiar with and are getting better at. But there is a way to go. What are the key areas within an event programme where we can make the most impact? Here is our advice:
Reduce the travel miles of your participants, speakers and suppliers is a big win and choose hotels and venues that have a strong local supplier base.
Decrease the amount of meat, fish and dairy in menus and reduce or remove ingredients that travel long distances.
Also, lessen the number of internationally made products purchased for your event. Instead, look for alternatives made locally to the event location.
Single-use items are really bad for the environment. Even if an item is recyclable, it is much better to purchase something that can be used time and time again. Investing in quality products and using them multiple times is much better.
Currently, there is a trend to use wooden and bamboo cutlery, plates and bowls. Although these ‘feel’ very green, they are single-use items. Diving into their life cycle, let’s think about how and where the bamboo is grown; water consumption; pesticides used; the manufacturing process; the transportation in; transportation out and the important question – does the venue offer composting services?
Then, we look at the life cycle of regular cutlery, plates, bowls: you wash, store and use time and time again. Don’t be fooled by ‘eco’ marketing and greenwashing.
This is probably our favourite ‘R’. Time to get creative and think about giving something a new life! And you can approach repurposing in TWO exciting ways.
Think about how you can repurpose items in your event. A great example is how you can repurpose room and table decor, read our top tips here.
But don’t forget how we can use other industries’ ‘waste’ or ‘off cuts’ in our work. Food tin cans make great pots for cutlery or herb plants; old funky spirits bottles from hotels or pubs make great candle holders and old scraps of fabric can be transformed into ribbon bunting. If you don’t have the time to repurpose, you can support and buy from independent shops and charities that do. Looking for luxury gifts? One of our favourite go-to’s is Elvis & Kresse who take old fire hoses and transform them into gorgeous accessories.
It is really important to find what materials your venue is able to recycle. If this is limited, revisit the first ‘R’ and refuse to purchase items made of materials that can’t be recycled. Signage for your recycling is REALLY IMPORTANT. If non-recyclable materials are placed in a recycled bin, then a whole batch could be rejected at the point of sorting and it will ALL go to landfill. In 2019/20, more than half a million tonnes of household recycling was rejected due to contamination.
We highly recommend looking at Terracycle for their Zero Waste Boxes to recycle name tags and lanyards that are no longer serviceable.
Rot, also known as composting, is the act of turning food waste and other organics back into nutrient-rich soil. Ask where the kitchen’s vegetable waste is going? All of those tea bags and used ground coffee? And the scrapings from participants’ plates? You might be shocked to find that in many hotels and venues these all go to landfill; in black sacks and bins along with everything else that can’t be recycled. In our opinion, every site visit should look at the operation of the business. Go behind the scenes. Have you seen the kitchen and how sustainable practices are working in reality? Housekeeping and laundry? Are the toiletries and cleaning products natural or are they harming our water and ultimately re-entering our food chain?
If you need support putting your 7 R’s into action to create more sustainable event practices, then get in touch. Working together, we can help you do so much good.