How to be green – What is a green event?
Despite the recession, there are not signs that the ‘green pound’ has dwindled away. According to the Co-operative Bank’s Ethical Consumerism Report of November 2008, the overall ethical market in the UK was worth £35.5 billion in 2007, up 15 per cent from £31 billion in the previous 12 months. “The economic downturn will not halt the growth in ethical consumerism”, the report states. Shoppers are still buying Fair Trade goods, for example, and making ethical decisions when shopping, even though their ethical spend at £35.5 billion is still a small proportion of the total annual consumer spend of more than £600 billion. The government in the UK is also paying more attention to green issues. In an interview with the Guardian in March 2009, Ed Miliband, the Climate Change Secretary, recently announced a new green strategy that could create 400,000 jobs in the UK with the emphasis on keeping Britain in the lead in the race to create a low-carbon economy.
This is all good news for the burgeoning ‘green’ events industry, where venues and specialist companies are springing up to meet the demand for ‘green’ events and trade shows. But what exactly makes an event green? It’s an important question, for event planners, exhibitors, and visitors alike, as no one wants to be accused of greenwashing or getting it wrong, and no one wants to pay to attend a green event and feel that it is not taking environmental concerns seriously. Specialist East London-based event planner Seventeen has organised the Observer Ethical Awards for three years and has an environmental and ethical policy which extends to refusing any third party commission from suppliers, for example, and working from an eco friendly office (a building made from recycled shipping containers). I asked their managing director Andrew Williams what a green event meant to him.
“It’s still a very difficult area, everyone (venues, organisers, exhibitors) is doing a bit, but I doubt anyone would claim to be fully committed to sustainability. The main focus in the events industry at the moment in terms of sustainability is on BS8901, which is a new British Standard for sustainable
event management. Not everyone loves BS8901, but it is probably the best
chance the industry has to get a bit of momentum behind the idea ofsustainable events.” Seventeen trialled the BS 8901 Standard, and is now fully compliant.
According the BSI, “BS 8901 is the new British Standard which has been developed specifically for the events industry with a purpose of helping the industry to operate in a more sustainable manner….It is important that all aspects of an event are sustainable. Event organisers need to consider the social, economic and environmental impacts of organising their event. Every choice, from the venue and travel arrangements, through to the content of the delegate packs should be designed to be as ecologically responsible as possible.”
As someone running a small business who attends a lot of these events, either as a visitor or as an exhibitor, I have noticed that not all events seemed to have used ‘joined up thinking’ about sustainability: I went to one last year which had a whole section devoted to eco design but apparently no recycling bins at all. I was impressed, however, by my visit to UK Aware , the UK’s main green consumer event, which had organic food and Fair Trade coffee on offer and recycling bins galore as well as showcasing all the best energy conservation, green consumer and green business ideas out there. Jodie Carnegie of UK Aware has this to say about what a green event should be:
“A place where people can see more sustainable alternatives to everyday products and services and get inspiration about changes they can make in their lives to live in a more sustainable way.
What should it provide to the visitors? Maybe recycling facilities, ticket codes as opposed to tickets, links to ways of travelling to the event by public transport.. .As for how visitors can tell an event is truly green, the term green is very vague but some pointers would be if the venue provides recycling facilities and if they bombard every visitor with a bag full of leaflets.”
According to Mary DuQuaine, who runs the Linked In Greener Tradeshows group and a blog at www.exprt.com, an US based green events supplier: “There are many new businesses entering the green economy these days. Trade shows are the traditional place to introduce new products. There are trade shows exclusively for green products. And, most trade shows offer a green section of the show specifically for the businesses offering eco-friendly or sustainable products. The trade show industry as a whole is working to clean up its act by encouraging sustainable business practices, reducing waste, and encouraging new ways to network at the show so that people get the most out of face to face marketing. Green strategies include everything from recycling bins and paper cups, eliminating bottled water, alternative power sources, and reducing paper waste at the show. Companies are encouraged to use light-weight trade show displays to reduce the energy costs of shipping and handling.”
She also suggests virtual tradeshows (which can take the form of a ‘webinar’, or a moderated chat, for example) as an economical – and green - alternative to the “in person” shows. “Virtual trade shows are a great alternative to traditional shows especially when people want to maintain brand recognition and keep up a presence in their industry. There are limitations to virtual shows, however, because you lose the physical connection to the products, which can be an issue, especially when introducing new products.” So showing your wares at a virtual stand at a Second Life event might be one way forward, despite all that negative publicity last year about a Second Life avatar using more energy per year than a South American!
Tabitha Potts is the Director of Mimimyne an eco friendly company specialising in children’s clothes, furnishings and toys. In her next articles for TGF she will be looking at planning a green event, and giving tips for being a green exhibitor.
This article was originally published on thegreenfamilia: the home of green shopping and family life