A guide to making your event more sustainable

Blog | Face to Face Event Management, Sustainability

Sustainable events – not something the event industry is well known for!

To help counteract this, we at ZiaBia work hard to make the events we deliver be more sustainable. There are so many resources and options out there now, there really isn’t any excuse when making proactive steps to being greener.

When putting a sustainable event together, the first thing to do is plan

Start the conversation early

We do this at proposal stage to set requirements for the project. Build these goals and discussion points in your project plan. This will ensure actions are actively monitored and don’t become a tick box exercise. Think about the conversations you will need to have with suppliers, so they can help you achieve the clients’ goals.

When setting your event’s sustainability plan here are some main areas for consideration:

Your venue (and other suppliers)

Undoubtably one of the most important, and largest spend on the budget, is the venue so the more they can support your needs the better. There is a lot of areas to consider when working with your venue and other suppliers.

  • Most venues and suppliers will have their green policy on their website. Read it and see whether it matches your needs. Even if it doesn’t ask the question – if more bookers ask them to improve then it is in their interest to do so
  • When choosing a venue, advise on public transport options at proposal stage. Including links to local travel networks in joining instructions and refunding attendees’ public transport costs could be a different approach to take
  • If you are going to a more remote location, then set up a car share scheme or organise coaches
  • Can people bring their own water bottles to refill? Same for coffee cups – can people bring their own for the refreshment break?
  • You can also insist on no single use cups – proper crockery, cutlery and glassware all the way!
  • Many swag providers now wrap items in compostable bags. If not, are you able to request delivery without each item being individually plastic-wrapped?

Managing waste

There can be so much waste generated for, and at, an event so taking steps to try to reduce this will make a big difference.

  • Print on 100% recycled paper and ensure that the print process doesn’t render it unfit for recycling at end of life, i.e., plastic coatings!
  • Gradually move to online event brochures. Pop a QR code on the name badges for people to access agenda and event information. And if your event is large or complex, could an event app provide this functionality?
  • Technology is rapidly developing, making more options more affordable. Seeded paper is a great way to get involved – menus, welcome letters, information sheets. You name it your delegates can plant it!
  • Work with the venue to cut down on food waste. Can you order less food for the numbers attending? Do they have systems in place already to manage their surplus? At a recent event in London, Olio took all our surplus catering and distributed it to those more in need
  • Do attendees have access to recycling bins and if not ask how the venue what their recycling policy is?


An integral part of an event and lots of areas to consider as much of the physical branding is single use.

  • There are a number of suppliers that produce cardboard banners and signage rather than the plastic roller versions. All fully recyclable at end of life
  • For vinyl banners and backdrops use generic messaging that can be used at other company events, or the same event next year
  • Make it portable. At a recent event we rotated banners around the venue rather than producing more than we needed
  • Use the venue’s digital signage for content and messaging! You can also show the agenda on the conference main screen at main points during the event

Green goody bags

Previously a staple of events, but these are getting a bit of a plastic tat bad rap these days. So how can you still have them at a sustainable event?

  • Bags can now be made from bamboo, recycled plastic, organic cotton. So many options to fit all styles and budgets!
  • Have a useful or desirable giveaway – metal water bottles, bamboo phone chargers, an umbrella?
  • Link the chosen charity to the client, industry or theme of the event and donate the budget of the goody bag
  • Do something different – at a recent event at London Zoo all attendees received an animal adoption pack


Whilst it would be good to not use anything disposable, this sometimes needs to be considered in terms of longevity.

  • If you have a multi-day event, name badges made of card may not last the duration. Using plastic wallets will reduce reprints and can be used again
  • Recycled plastic or bamboo lanyards can be used multiple times if they only have the company logo printed on them
  • Ask people to bring their own lanyard – everyone has at least one or 20 lying around!

Offset your travel

We have been working with COCO+ for nearly a year now. We book all our travel – flights and trains – through them. They add a small fee to the ticket price which offsets the carbon for that particular journey.

Throughout the year they track the  Co2 generated on your journey and how much they offset. Then they send you a regular update on what projects they have supported to offset against. In our first 6 months we have offset 4.306 tonnes of CO2 to the Gold Standard Global Portfolio of Renewable Energy and Bhadla Solar in India.

As you can see, there are lots of areas for consideration when making your event sustainable. Some are quick wins and others which take a bit more planning to implement.

If you would like to speak to us about how we can help you start to make your event more sustainable and environmentally friendly then contact us for a chat.

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Paola Davis

Senior Project Manager
Author Bio:
I have been working in the events industry for the past 15 years in various guises. In-house corporate and non-profit, freelancer and co-founding an events trade show. Working with ZiaBia gives me a fantastic opportunity to bring all this experience together.

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