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How to Plan and Host a Green Special Event

written by: Mercedes•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/23/2011

Work in a company that likes to attend and host special events? Here are a few tips to make your events a little bit "greener."

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    Planning a Green Event

    Special events can go a long way toward establishing a company’s brand name or boosting its credibility. Special events are a sure way to connect with the various publics to which every organization caters. Industry conventions allow companies large and small to network, show off their latest ideas, and appraise the competition.

    But there’s one area in which special events fall short: the environmental side. Any special events coordinator worth his or her salt is well aware of the mess that all special events leave behind. Wherever people congregate, they leave litter behind. Add food to the mix—what’s a convention without food?—and the mess multiplies.

    Today, more and more companies are become environmentally aware. They are trying to save energy, reduce duplication and recycle whenever possible. That means that the Special Events coordinator should do everything he or she can to plan as “green” an event as possible to go with the company’s environmental goals. (Remember, every effort to accomplish those goals, no matter how small, will eventually make its way into the annual report.)

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    Start With Location

    The first rule of real estate is also the first rule to follow when figuring out where to stage a green event. If you are planning a convention from “soup to nuts,” you should start by researching the various venues that can accommodate your environmental goals.

    1) Some convention centers or arenas already have a recycling program in place. If you are leasing one that does, your job will be that much easier. Just make sure that you mention your company’s environmental goals up front, and treat them as if they were the same as any other requirement for the event.

    2) When you walk through the venue, take note of where the refuse and recycling receptacles are located. Are they clearly labeled? You should be able to see them from a distance. If you can’t, how can you expect the vendors you invite or the customers you expect to be able to see and use them?

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    Reduce Food Waste

    If you are working in a green venue, does it cater? If it does, that’s another headache off your hands. Just make sure that they use linens, glass and china, or other reusable materials. Try to keep meals to finger foods that won’t produce much waste. (In other words, to keep your life simple, skip the chicken wings or make them boneless.)

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    Make the Staff Aware

    No Special Events coordinator works alone. Make sure the staff you are going to use during the event is aware of the company’s goals. If possible, create an environmental team that will be in charge of making sure customers dump their trash in the appropriate receptacles, and that those receptacles are emptied on a regular basis. If you are serving food, you should make sure another team is on hand to make sure that plates and glasses are cleared on a regular basis. The only thing worse than a stack of used paper plates is a stack of dirty dishes.

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    Contact Vendors

    Your vendors or exhibitors should know in the planning stages that this will be a “green” event, so makes sure you send them a letter telling them your intent. That will give the vendors a chance to “go green”: they can get their brochures or fact sheets printed on recycled paper, or they can order “green” giveaways like reusable shopping bags or solar calculators.

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    Let People Know it's Green

    On the day of the event, make sure that vendors, customers and guests know that this is a “green” affair by posting signs at every entrance, and near every eatery and trash receptacle. Most people will make the extra effort to do what’s right for the environment, if you let them know what is expected and inform them there has been lots of effort put into making the event eco-friendly.

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    Dealing with Other Problems

    But what if you do this outside, or at a venue that’s not already green?

    My next column will address how to create a green event, when your venue doesn’t provide the basics. Subsequent columns will address how to train the environmental team to be most effective, some tips on how to deal with food, how much time it will take to plan a successful green event, and how to rate the success of your “green” event.

How to Green a "Special Event"

Work in a company that likes to attend and host Special Events? Does your company aspire to go "green"? This series will help you "green an event whether you're a "greenhorn" or an "old hand" at Special Events planning.
  1. How to Plan and Host a Green Special Event
  2. How to green a special event – Pt. 2- “Greening” an Event Venue