Green Events

The checklist to running an environmentally sustainable event on a sustainable budget

Please use this guide to start a green event policy within your company, which will lead to reducing the impact the meetings and events industry has on the planet.

This information can be implemented today with immediate results.

This document was compiled from information supplied for a presentation at RSVP Sydney on 17 July 2007.

The following people and / or companies supplied the information:

  • Clare Donovan of Australian Conservation Foundation
  • Jeremy Garling of Great Southern E-vents
  • Larissa Moore of Department of Environment & Climate Change NSW


What are we aiming for?

Scientists report that the Earth’s temperature is rising unusually quickly. Climate change has the potential to threaten millions of lives, and to affect the capacity of the world to feed itself, the availability of fresh water, the control and spread of disease, the survival of species, the direction in which our oceans flow and the severity of our weather. Evidence that global warming is happening in Australia today includes rising average temperatures leading to increased frequency of hot days; increasing severity of drought and bushfire; increases in the frequency of intense cyclones; and rising sea levels.

When we talk about Going Green, the ultimate aim is to make our actions sustainable – using less of everything now so that it lasts longer and choosing to use products, suppliers or procedures that have less of an impact on the planet.

This applies to all facets of events management, particularly the areas of water, energy, air, waste, transport, procurement. Many of these areas are interlinked and provide opportunities to make environmental and cost savings.

Australia has the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases in the world today, with a significant proportion of these due to our reliance on coal as the fuel of choice to produce electricity. Through the use of electricity for lighting, air conditioning and other systems, events consume a lot of electricity. The ultimate aim for your energy consumption is zero emissions. Another aspect of climate change is alterations in global and regional water patterns. Evidence of this can be seen in the continued drought in NSW. What water is your event using and how could you use less? The ultimate aim for an event’s water consumption is minimal use of sustainable rain or recycled water.

In a world of finite resources, waste management is also a very important issue. Waste or rubbish is generally a sign of inefficiency or poor design. Not only does it waste resources, but landfill gases also contribute significantly to global warming. Recycling, for example, is not only beneficial from a sustainability perspective, it can also reduce the cost of waste disposal because it’s generally cheaper to have recyclables removed than it is to have general waste removed. The ultimate aim here is to have a Zero Waste event, where everything is either reusable, recyclable or compostable.

Remember, it’s not all or nothing. You can start with a single initiative if you choose, and work from there. To better understand where your event needs to do work, it may be a good idea to start by reviewing your event’s energy, water and waste bills to get a handle on where resources are going and waste is coming from. If you Google “Green Calculator” there are over two million hits and they calculate everything from water to food to cars for you instantly and free. There are a lot of tools and resources already developed about Going Green so you don’t need to re-invent the wheel

Travel procedures and offsetting

  • Use public transport, walk or ride to the event;
  • Have the ticket cover the cost of public transport;
  • Set up a car pool for your event;
  • If you’re planning a public event, make it easy for people to use public
  • transport to get to your venue, and offer an incentive for them to do so;
  • Clearly convey information about public transport on the invitation or send out this information when they accept;
  • Have bike racks, bike storage areas or bike concierge at your event;
  • Have change areas and lockers at your event to encourage bike travel;
  • Use shuttle buses to and from your event to the nearest public transport hub;
  • Schedule your event to take into account peak travel times, faster travel means less impact which occurs in off-peak times;
  • Offer teleworking as part of your event. This includes services like podcasting, webcasting and video conferencing;
  • Use hybrid cars or cars that use alternative fuels;
  • Supply transport that ensures minimal empty seats but monitoring RSVP’s and attendance numbers;
  • Reduce trucks and vehicles going onto sites and pool resources where possible. Trucks that are not at full load is waste, arrange one truck to collect all equipment from suppliers and have their teams wait at the venue to unload;
  • Reduce site inspections and use local ‘scouts’ to obtain the information you need;
  • If you need to travel somewhere try combining it with other meetings to reduce the number of times you travel;
  • Travel only with travel companies that have green policies and are active in their reduction of impacts on the environment;

When considering a provider for air travel: 

  • Choose direct flights where possible;
  • Consider the age of the aircraft (new aircraft are more efficient);
  • Fly economy class (business class has higher emissions per seat);
  • Choose airlines with higher load factors (ratios available);
  • Choose airlines that are active in their green policy

Offset your carbon emissions produced by the plane, boat or car where travel is essential. There are now over eighteen companies operating in Australia where you can offset your emissions (pay a fee calculated on the amount of carbon you will use). Only chose companies that offset your emissions by investing in renewable energy.

Waste management

Implement a waste reduction policy that addresses:

1. Reduction of waste altogether;

2. Reuses waste where possible;

3. Recycles waste where it cannot be reduced or reused.

  • Reduce waste in the event by accurately supplying options that are best fit;
  • Ensure recycling is in place at the event and monitor the effectiveness;
  • Ensure your waste management plan addresses all types of waste;
  • Ensure you compost food or get it collected and given to charity;
  • Signpost, educate and encourage event reuse and recycling policies, thereby extending the life of resources and products;
  • Monitor RSVP and attendance numbers to ensure supply is tailored to the numbers thereby avoiding waste;
  • Reduce the amount of printed promotional material used and supply electronically;
  • Do not use gift bags at the end of events;
  • Encourage the design of your event to be based around standard hire items with minimal construction or an approach that will not be useable in other situations;
  • Investigate outlets and avenues for recycling your unwanted or excess items, materials or products to reduce waste;
  • Make informed purchasing decisions – research and prioritise supplies and equipment that support the use of recycled materials or has end-of life recycling potential;
  • Buy products made from recycled materials;
  • Prioritise and consider purchases – refurbish items and reuse rather than replace or discard;
  • Ensure that all equipment uses recyclable paper and vegetable ink;
  • Ensure all printers and photocopiers are set to double-sided printing;
  • Work with your company, industry bodies and government to herald any new waste management concepts and support initiates from key stakeholders and suppliers;
  • Keep up-to-date with strategies and recycling industry improvements – adapt, adjust and improve your recycling efforts and strategies;
  • Reduce use of packaging material, or where required ensure the material is reused or recycled;
  • Make arrangements with suppliers for the return of unwanted or unused products and materials – arrange for the return of printing cartridges, containers and packaging;
  • Submit proposals and quotes electronically and reduce hand outs in meetings;
  • Ensure the use of non-toxic cleaning products at the venue or with cleaning contractors;
  • Find out how to make the most of your recycling policy in your event;
  • Publish your commitment to the environment.

Power and water supplier selection and consumption reduction

  • Ensure your event and event business is buying 100% accredited Green Power.
  • Only use venues that offer 100% accredited Green Power;
  • Encourage your staff to buy 100% accredited Green Power;
  • Ensure you have shower timers in all showers;
  • Ensure your toilet suppliers are using ‘grey water’ and correctly disposing of ‘black water’. Ensure the toilets use urinal technology that replace water in bathrooms;
  • Ensure your generator suppliers are using modern, fuel saving and environmentally friendly units. Monitor the use of generators to reduce running time, and use Town Power (Power supplied in the ground) where possible;
  • Ensure practices are put in place for minimal use of resources – signs help remind and educate people;
  • Appoint a staff member to be responsible for ensuring unnecessary lighting and power is turned off and reduced;
  • Ensure all equipment is turned off at the switch when not in use.
  • Exhibitions are a major sources of excess power by leaving equipment on overnight;
  • Don’t use the air-conditioning in venues during the set-up and pack period and see what alternatives are available during the event to air-conditioning;
  • Encourage your events to occur during the day to reduce power consumption;
  • Ensure your event reduces damage to grass and outdoor areas to avoid waste and impact on the environment;
  • Ensure your technical suppliers are using modern technology that is energy efficient and design systems that reduce excess equipment.

Printed material and information communication

  • Ensure the reduction of produced printed material at every stage of your event by using technology;
  • When printing is unavoidable use recycled paper. This paper must be 50% post consumer waste recycled paper, printed using vegetable inks and double sided;
  • Ensure your printed material is produced on the minimal size and requests guests to recycle when finished;
  • Encourage replacement of printed menu and programs with information given by presenters, wait staff and event staff;
  • To reduce printed material send out a disc after an event with relevant information, presentation, papers and web-site links to all attendees;
  • Ensure your events uses electronic communication at every opportunity;
  • Ensure printed signage is reusable and reduce the printing of dates on signage;
  • Encourage the use of plasmas, projected or electronic signage to reduce production;
  • Ensure your event does not lay out pens and paper on tables for attendees.
  • Prior to the event communicate that attendees are to bring their own;
  • Ensure your event collects and reuses name badges;
  • Encourage the reduction of gift bags and satchels at events. Where required reduce information within, ensure bag is durable to extend life and only offer to attendees when asked;
  • Encourage the use mobile phones to give seating and registration details, reducing the need for printing.
  • Ensure your event communication includes a green message reminding people to think before printing;

Caterer selection and menu choices

  • Ask to see the caterers’ green policy, this includes a Hotel situation where catering is handled internally;
  • Ensure your event uses water glasses and jugs, and does not use bottled or unnecessarily imported water;
  • Ensure your event does not use individually wrapped items, such as mints, lollies, salt, pepper or sugar satchels.
  • Ensure your caterer addresses the following areas with each menu and their business as a whole:
  • Fresh, local and in season organic food or food that is fair trade;
  • Uses minimum animal products (ie. Meat) and clearly offer vegetarian options;
  • Uses fish selected from sustainable fish supplies,
  • Avoids use of packaging and plastic bags;
  • Provides reusable crockery and cutlery;
  • Offers reusable or recycled napkins;
  • Requires minimum transport to the venue.
  • Where disposable cups, plates and cutlery are absolutely required buy ones made from recycled fibres and corn starch that are recyclable;
  • Ensure your caterer has reviewed their cooking equipment and procedures to reduce excess equipment and increase efficiencies;
  • Ensure your fridge units are used the minimal amount of time required and reduce the chilling of products in cardboard as that lengthens the chilling time;
  • Clearly signpost vegetarian food, the recycling and food waste systems and any other initiatives you have put in place;
  • Encourage, educate and involve attendees in separating the waste into containers;
  • Inform your attendees about these environmental initiatives so they can learn from it.

 Venue selection and requirements

  • Ensure your venue has a green policy;
  • Ensure your venue uses 100% accredited Green Power;
  • Ensure your venue is near public transport;
  • Ensure your venue has easy access for all types of people;
  • Ensure your venue adheres to the catering requirements listed above if catering is handled in-house;
  • Ensure your venue uses as much natural resource as possible. This includes natural light, water recycling and catchment and the use of fresh air;
  • Take into account the Green Star (accreditation based on construction criteria and running requirements of the building) rating of the venue and what procedures are in place to improve the rating. Currently 6 Star is the highest;
  • Ensure your venue has air-conditioning that can be controlled in each room and activity and reduce the use of this during ‘down times’;
  • Ensure your venue actively implements changing linen procedures that reduce excess cleaning;
  • Accurately plan your event taking into consideration expected numbers, length of days and number of rooms to ensure best fit and minimal use of additional venues or unnecessarily extending the length of the event;
  • Ensure your management team works with the venue in reducing power and air-conditioning use when not required;
  • Ensure your venue has waste reduction procedures as per the waste section above. There is a lot of waste management in venues that we event mangers don’t see and therefore don’t address.

Tendering for and procurement of each segment relating to an event

Ensure your tender clearly outlines your commitment to the environment and requests all responses to outline their policies. This will be like a spider-web and will result in this becoming standard in our industry.

A good Green Policy will request the following:

  • A formal Environment or Sustainability Policy;
  • A formal Sustainability Management System;
  • Accredited and / or audited systems as listed above;
  • Commitment to measure their impact on the environment for the service they are to provide and outline targets;
  • A system to ensure their suppliers have the same responsibilities and systems regarding the environment;
  • A statement of commitment from all staff towards these policies and help to implement them;
  • Policies that address the main headings listed in green in this document.

Ensure when asking for nominations and entries in Award Events or Prizes that all entrants must state their Green Policies and this goes towards part of the Award judgement (weighted accordingly).

Encourage the purchase of products and raw materials based on recycled content. These include toilet tissue, wood and plastic composites, packaging and containers, printer cartridges, office paper and stationery supplies.

Encourage the purchase of refurbished, recycled and reconditioned products as this will save money and also help to support the recycling industry and the development of new markets for recycled products.

The information you need is here. START NOW…


Green Event industry information

Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre

Greening Australia

Australian Conservation Foundation

Oz Harvest – a Sydney based charity that collects excess food and delivers it free of charge to organizations that feed the needy.

Federal Government

Green Power for Events

State Government

Zero Waste – SA

Environment NSW


Sustainable Event Management: A Practical Guide