As event professionals, we witness massive structures that are temporarily erected for an event, often lasting only a few hours or days at most. A lot of the materials are single-use, with the majority of items ending up in the landfill after being torn down. I’m here to tell you that this does NOT have to happen. While we may be the only ones that get to see what goes on behind the scenes, it’s not always pretty, not in the least. But without visually showing our clients and attendees all the garbage created, how do we convince them to go green?
Work Towards Awareness
As an eco-conscious event professional, you might be aware that there are greener options, however your clients might not. It all begins with awareness, and it is our duty to inform them of What Event Sustainability is, Why Does it Matter and what alternatives are available. Another obstacle that we typically face is that our clients also don’t realize how accessible these eco-friendlier options really are. In fact, you can order compostable cutlery made of bamboo or other plant-based materials right off of Amazon (although not recommended, it is best to always find a local source)!
Remind Them that Substitutions are Easy
A word of caution though, there unfortunately isn’t an end-all be-all government standard for companies to abide by when selling “green” products. Greenwashing is something to be weary of! One thing that is important to differentiate between, are the terms “compostable” and “biodegradable.”
Compostable: with the right level of heat, water and oxygen it will break down within a reasonable amount of time (1 week to a few months) without leaving any toxins behind
Biodegradable: will eventually breakdown due to naturally occurring microorganisms, however this may take hundreds of years and usually leaves behind high levels of toxins
Always, always, always, do your research and ask lots of questions. You want to be able to carefully vet your vendors so that you can confidently recommend them to your clients. And if you can’t do the research yourself, then hire an expert!
Once you have found your eco-friendlier options – for example, substituting plastic utensils for plant-based alternatives or rentals (depending on the type of event, the scale and budget) – and you’ve presented the information to the client, sometimes it’s the price difference that catches them. They don’t want to spend more on a compostable item if they can get a plastic one for much cheaper.
BUT not only are these options very accessible sometimes they’re actually cost comparable because of the growing climate change movement. From the chart below, you can see that the price difference between plastic and bamboo cutlery is only three (3) cents per item.
It’s important to explain to your client that the dollar amount of four (4) cents/utensil will not only divert X amount of waste from their wedding, baby shower or festival but that they can showcase their green initiatives to their target market.
In addition to a fairly comparable price point, you can both purchase sustainable items for your event, and also find multiple uses for it (my personal favourite). This will make the budget stretch much further (yay!) and extend the longevity of the piece.
Step 1. Finding a local florist that utilizes organic, local and in-season flora
Step 2. Utilize the flowers at the end of every other aisle in the ceremony
Step 3. Repurpose the flowers from the ceremony chairs as the centrepieces for the dinner reception
Step 4. Donate the flowers to a hospital, shelters or retirement home (Re-used again)
Step 5. Ensure that the flowers are tossed into the organics (green) bin for composting
Highlight the Positive Impacts
Once your clients are aware of their green options and understand how easily accessible these items can be, it will be straightforward to present how small, incremental changes can have such a huge impact. By simply dividing the weight of the food and compostable materials in the organics bin against the weight of the total amount of waste (organics versus garbage), you’ll be able to find the percentage of disposables that was diverted from the landfill!
Furthermore, all stakeholders involved can sleep better at night knowing that by choosing greener options we are ultimately using our purchasing power to buying local, supporting small shop owners and our local economy. This means that money is staying in the local community, fair wages are being paid and good working conditions are ensured.
Whatever the budget is, there is always a vendor or substitution that can be used to make an event more sustainable. As event professionals we must educate our clients by bringing awareness, showcasing how accessible these options are and how we can all ultimately feel good about these decisions.
** Thanks again to Romina from Eco-Friendly Events for gifting us this amazing post! Based in Toronto, Romina is an advocate for environmental and social justice. She empowers and inspires others to act through education. She never lets the pending doom of Climate Change prevent her building her own green empire.**