Why Does Event Sustainability Matter?
We’ve previously spoken about What Event Sustainability is, but why does it even matter? Below are 4 reasons why you should consider incorporating a sustainability plan into your event planning and production processes.
1. The Current Climate Change Crisis
Carbon dioxide is among the most popular and abundant greenhouse gas that is released into our atmosphere. Although it is a natural gas that lives in our atmosphere, humans have exacerbated the amount of carbon being released in the last 100 years. There aren’t enough carbon sinks (i.e. trees or ocean) to absorb the carbon from our atmosphere and as a result a “cloud” of these greenhouse gases lives in our atmosphere. As heat from the sun enters the earth and is reflected back into space, these greenhouse gases trap the heat and reflect it back down to earth which in turns causes additional warming to the sun’s heat. This increases the average global temperatures which causes the shift in our global climate. If we continue to follow status quo, it will only continue to generate both greater and stronger natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis.
In addition to petroleum and harsh chemicals used in the production phase of all the single use plastic forks, cups and knives, the plastic does not degrade. Sure, plastic will break down into smaller pieces, but it doesn’t disappear. Much of the plastic that has ever been produced has unfortunately not been properly recycled rather EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF PLASTIC THAT HAS EVER BEEN PRODUCED IS STILL SOMEWHERE ON OUR PLANET. It does not simply magically “go away” with your blue bin. In fact, recycling in Canada doesn’t always end up where we think it does…
From the video, you can see that even if our plastic does end up being properly recycled, harsh chemicals are released in the process. Yes, no new materials are being extracted and used to create a new product and it is a wonderful thing to see brands using and labelling their products “made from recycled plastic” BUT did you know that you can’t actually recycle plastic again? Yup. Unfortunately, once the plastic is broken down and molded into something new, the bonds are too weak and cannot be molded into something else for a third time.
2. Human Health
If your plastic name badge doesn’t get recycled or can’t be recycled again, where does it go? Much of it ends up in our oceans and sadly sea creatures have consumed these items and ended up starving to death because their stomachs are full of plastic rather than food.
If animals do manage to survive from minimal plastic consumption, plastics like your name badge release chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA) which is linked to a variety of health issues such as the disruption of hormone levels, cancer, brain and heart problems. These chemicals are absorbed in the animals’ fats and muscles then they travel up the food chain. Not only are predators absorbing these toxic chemicals on their own, they’re also consuming BPA via their prey. This means that there’s a higher concentration with each increasing step on the food chain. As a result, we ingest the greatest amount of chemicals into our bodies as we are at the top of the food chain.
Although some precautions in countries like Canada are taken to provide some personal protective equipment to those who work in the industry of extracting raw materials, there are still a high number of chemicals that are released and absorbed into the human body that can cause permanent damage to human health. Furthermore, for those of us who do not work in these industries, eventually the toxic chemicals make their way into the ground water. The same ground water EVERY SINGLE BEING uses for drinking, cooking and bathing. If you think you’re not affected, think again.
So apart from the natural environment and our own health, why would you as brand or company care about ensuring your events are sustainable?
3. Branding and Corporate Social Responsibility
Apart from you know, morals – taking incremental yet impactful actions will make a huge difference for both your brand and the environment. Rather than just greenwashing your brand to deceive your customers into thinking you’re doing better by the environment, do the actual ground work!
As the awareness of how the actions of one individual can have an impact on the climate crisis, increasingly more consumers are making conscious choices to spend their money on brands that align with their values. This includes finding brands they feel they can trust because they are doing their part to minimize their impact on the environment as well as providing eco-friendly options that can support their lifestyle choices.
At an event, rather than handing out another pen, keychain or plastic pop socket – utilize that money for an environmental cause. Prove to your customers and show your target market that you’re not just talking the talk, but you’re also taking action. Not only will there be transparency between you and your clients, this will continue to help build trust with your customers. And as any businessperson knows, building trust helps clients move from the intentional phase to purchasing in the customer buying cycle. Because at the end of the day, no matter what your company’s mission is if you’re in the for-profit sector, you’re here to make just that – MONEY. Do us all (yourself included) a favour, reduce your carbon footprint, align your brand with real green actions and continue to reign in all that money.
4. Supporting the Local Community
Not only will your own business thrive by making a conscious effort to realign your values to complement your customers, but being eco-friendlier entails sourcing products and services from that local community (within 100km of the venue). This is because it significantly lowers the distance of transport and thus decreasing the amount of carbon emissions being released into the atmosphere.
By minimizing carbon emissions to produce your event, you will simultaneously be contributing to the local economy. The community is more likely to embrace and welcome events in their neighbourhood because when money is spent there, significantly more of that money remains. For example, for every $100 that is spent at a local business, $68 will remain in that city, while only $43 of each $100 spent at a big-chain retailer.* Increased monies remaining in the local economy enables the community to thrive because you’re employing community members. Additionally, by incorporating local businesses you are able to develop lasting positive contributions that work within the framework of the current community rather than disrupting the neighbourhood. The idea is that you’re involving the local people in the decisions in how their land and resources are going to be used. It becomes a win-win situation for all stakeholders.
If you’d like your event to be an annual one, it is also equally important to carry out socially responsible decisions by creating an accessible event for the surrounding community which includes both the physical location and the cost to attend. Have an easily accessible event through multiple modes of transportation enables not only a greater number of local attendees to attend but offers the opportunity for utilize public transportation rather than driving. This also contributes to a lower levels of carbon being released into our atmosphere. Secondly, by keeping the prices affordable (within the livable incomes) to the local community, they are able to enjoy the event you are hosting but will also support the return of this event year after year!
There are a ton of moving parts when it comes to event sustainability. As long as we now know the importance of making socially and environmentally responsible decisions when planning your next meeting, holiday party, festival and trade show then that’s what counts. Just remember that we want to collectively minimize the impact of the events we are planning at every stage of the process so that we are:
Supporting the fight against climate change
Reducing the effects on our health
Doing good by our brand and being transparent with our clients
Supporting the local communities