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At SFG Productions, we believe that every event can be incredible while staying true to our core value: Help Do Good. Today, we explore a topic that aligns perfectly with our values: sustainability in events. As event professionals, we have a unique opportunity to contribute to a sustainable future. Our industry significantly impacts resource consumption and waste generation. By recognizing this, we can actively integrate sustainable practices into our events, setting a positive example and fostering a culture of environmental consciousness. By embracing these practices, we can create memorable and environmentally responsible events, showing our commitment to a healthier planet for future generations.

If you’re eager to understand why hosting sustainable events is crucial and how to do it successfully, you’ve come to the right place. By the end of this article, you’ll know how to operate more ethically and in an environmentally friendly way as an event planner. Let’s dive in.

Why Make an Event Sustainable?

It’s trendy right now to host an event that’s sustainable, but that doesn’t mean sustainability should be a trend. In other words, as event planners, its our responsibility to host events that are sustainable moving forward. The very heart of sustainable practices means we’re sharing tips that can be used again and again, fostering a cycle of continuous improvement that benefits both the environment and the event industry. Here are a few reasons why event planners need to prioritize planning sustainable events:

  • Environmental Benefits: Hosting a sustainable event is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Whether you work to minimize waste, use sustainable materials, promote eco-friendly transportation, or do it all, you are making an effort to reduce your impact on the environment when you choose sustainability. Oil, coal, and gas are the biggest culprits in the fight against climate change. And it’s simple to say that you’ll work on reducing your energy and water consumption, but how do you do that on a grand scale? 
  •  Brand Reputation:
  • If you garner a reputation for planning events that are good for the environment, clients who appreciate your eco-friendly efforts will be more likely to work with you in the future. Attracting environmentally conscious clients will allow you to align your brand with your core values- something eagle-eyed prospects are sure to notice.
  • Attendees will be impacted for the better: 78% of consumers believe that sustainability is important. Hosting a sustainable event will be an educational experience for your attendees—they’ll leave having learned about your environmentally-friendly efforts and why they’re important. Too often, sustainability is only discussed when the event is centered around the topic, but if you make all your events sustainable, you can increase the discourse surrounding the environment in the event planning industry.

How Can I Make My Event More Sustainable?

Not only will a sustainable event impact your business for the better (55% of consumers would pay more to get a service from an environmentally conscious company) but it also benefits your customers. So, let’s go over some practical tips that will make it possible for you to bring sustainable events to life.

Keep it Local

One of the biggest considerations in making an event sustainable is travel. Transportation can account for around one-quarter of global carbon emissions from energy. Instead of flying people in from all over the country, or the world, create effective hybrid events or smaller regional events that limit travel emissions and food waste.

Flying is often one of the biggest contributors to your carbon footprint and it’s a major contributor to greenhouse gasses, accounting for 3.5% of all the planet’s warming. And remember that distance matters when it comes to emissions– an economy flight from Los Angeles to New York releases 1.9T while a flight from Los Angeles to Bali releases 8.4T. 

Determine if it is truly necessary to have everyone in the room or if a remote, or hybrid experience can be beneficial. A remote experience does not mean simply throwing a camera in a room and broadcasting – it must be well-programmed and coordinated for impact and engagement.  When streaming we have to create interactive environments that are remote. Instead of throwing money and carbon at the problem of getting audience engagement by traveling them in, instead, invest in creative approaches that elevate your remote show. Virtual programs don’t have to be boring or ineffective – imagination is the only limitation.

If you decide you need to fly, make sure to check out the flights with the lowest relative emissions possible. You can use Google Flights to compare CO2 emissions from any flight available. Take it a step further by actively choosing flights that are flown on new airplanes that consume less fuel, fly economy and take up less space on the airplane, choose average-sized planes if possible, and fly directly to the destination instead of having layovers. It may not always be possible to adhere to all of these suggestions, but choosing to do something is always better than doing nothing.

Reduce Your Waste

The best way to get rid of waste is to not produce it in the first place. Food waste accounts for 8% of all global emissions. This one area is costing our planet and your pockets unnecessary pain when it shouldn’t have to. Beef, lamb, and cheese have the highest carbon footprint to produce, with chicken, pork, and fish trailing behind, and vegetables, fruits, and nuts being the least offensive food sources. Some nuts can even be carbon negative!

Some attendees may not be used to seeing a menu devoid of beef and lamb, but just dropping these two items would get your CO2 consumption close to a purely vegetable meal. And if you don’t want to give up beef, lamb, and cheese for the entire event you can choose one or two meals to substitute out. The things to keep in mind are the choice of meat, frequency, and portion size. Remember that societal change begins with shifting societal norms.

Conserve All Resources

It is crucial to find a venue that practices environmentally friendly habits, so ask your venue how they work to save energy and conserve water. 

Another big area where we see waste is in the set design and scenic elements. If your set is being built in Chicago and your event is in Los Angeles, it’s likely the materials will be trucked to the destination. The average freight truck in the U.S. emits 161.8 grams of CO2 per ton-mile. To find the greenhouse gas emissions for a truck you’ll also need to multiply the grams of CO2, the distance, and weight of the shipment. In this example we can say the distance is 1,750 miles and 20 tons, which means this shipment would create  5,663,000 grams or 5.663 metric tons of carbon. We encourage working with local shops to help reduce truck emissions, but if that’s not possible then think of re-using the same set next year to help save on set materials. 

Sustainable Sales kick off Event


Offset Your Carbon Use

Offsetting your carbon simply refers to the act of performing an environmentally friendly action that offsets the carbon you emitted while planning your event. If you plant oak trees after a party the trees can absorb the same amount of carbon you emitted—making your event carbon neutral. As reported by ClimateTrade, guests at your event can emit between 200 kg and 1000 kg (a ton) of CO2 per day. Because this number is staggering, companies like Heirloom have found new ways to remove carbon dioxide from the air.

There are two kinds of offsets that are offered– one that prevents carbon from being emitted and one that sequesters or sinks carbon. It’s important to know what your contribution is going to be supporting and for how long. If you pay to plant a tree, will it still be there in 40 years? Projects that deal with fertilizer management, methane capture, and refrigerant destruction have lasting effects on the environment and will do good for a long time. Take your time to research the specific project you’re supporting and try to commit to a monthly or yearly subscription to keep these efforts alive all year long. 

SFG offsets our employees’ carbon footprint every year by participating in programs that help combat the negative environmental impact of carbon. For 2023, we worked with Cool Effect to help teams in rural India to capture and then use methane emissions from animal waste for clean gas cooking. This project creates a more sanitary environment, provides free fertilizer, and reduces deforestation of fragile areas.

If you want to know what your personal carbon footprint is, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has a site that will help you break down your energy, transportation, and waste and give you your carbon footprint. You can use this number to guide how many offsets to purchase. 

Get Creative with Other Strategies

When it comes to hosting sustainable events, get creative! Just because we didn’t go over a certain method, doesn’t mean you can’t implement it into your event to make it more environmentally conscious. There are so many different things you can do, like sourcing food locally to reduce the amount of milage your food has to travel. You can also create a photo booth that focuses on digital Instagrammable pictures that go straight to your cell phone, instead of offering traditional paper ones.

You could provide guests with small edible party favors, for example. The party usually dies down a little bit toward the middle of an event, so to avoid this, give your guests a little bit of sugar, like cookies from an eco-friendly bakery in town—this will get the energy back up. To ensure you’re doing all you can to be sustainable, always track your sustainability statistics, so that you can continue to improve.

Save the Planet, Host Sustainable Events

Event planners should keep in mind the fact that even small changes can make a big impact. So, as you’re planning your next event, try conserving, reducing waste, offsetting your carbon, and using as many sustainable practices as possible. When you do these things, you’re going to make a positive impact on the environment.

After reading, do you think that the event planning industry will continue to focus on sustainable events in the future? At SFG Productions, we sure hope it will, but let us know your thoughts—we’re curious to hear what you have to say, so reach out to us with your comments or questions about sustainable events!

Additional Resources:
Planning Sustainable Events by Stanford University
Sustainable Event Planning Checklist by Lehigh Sustainability
Sustainable Event Certification by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

We Look Forward to Keeping in Touch!