How to Plan a Sustainable Conference Without Increasing Costs

Going green actually can be cost-effective.


The modern meeting planner's checklist must include items on sustainability. According to MeetGreen, the eco-conscious conference-management firm, each event attendee produces an average of four pounds of waste per day. A conference attended by 500 people could therefore generate as much as 2,000 pounds of waste in a single day.

"The fact that we now talk about climate crisis instead of climate change underlines the urgency for all stakeholders to address sustainability very seriously," said Françoise Grumberg, vice president of global responsible business and diversity & inclusion at CWT Meetings & Events, in a new report on sustainability in the events industry.

But going green doesn't have to mean breaking the bank. Follow the steps below from CWT to make your meetings more environmentally friendly without increasing costs.

1. Choose Your Location Wisely`

When scouting sites, it's best to opt for a venue and city with a strong public-transportation system. This will help reduce carbon emissions and make it easier for attendees to get to your event. In addition to transportation, keep an eye out for certified facilities that are energy- and water-efficient. LEED is the most widely used rating system for green buildings. 

2. Partner with Responsible Suppliers

Small changes in suppliers can have a major impact. Look for locally sourced, seasonal and organic food on your menu. Relying on regional suppliers reduces the travel distance and carbon emissions of acquiring the food and often results in a lower cost. When possible, offer vegetables and poultry-based dishes over red meat.

3. Remember the "3 Rs" 

Look for ways to reduce waste, recycle plastics and reuse event materials throughout the conference. Consider going digital with the event programs and signage. Not only will this save trees, but it will also cut printing costs. In addition, planners should replace plastic bottles with tap water and employ reusable plates, silverware and glasses over disposables. Using naturally lit event spaces can help reduce the energy bill. 

4. Get Attendees Involved

At the start of the event, tell participants about your green goals and ask them to separate waste, turn down the heating-and-cooling systems in their guest rooms and use green transportation whenever possible. You might also want to consider planning team-building activities that give back to the community, such as planting trees or cleaning up a park. 

5. Consider Carbon Emission Offsets

Some carbon emissions might be unavoidable; luckily, they can be offset. Meeting planners can take advantage of certified programs such as Terrapass, which balances carbon emissions through wind farms and methane digesters. The programs come at a cost but could be presented in place of extravagant giveaways to remain in budget.