Eco Anxiety in event management

With growing pressure on us all to reduce our carbon footprint, every company and organisation in the land is striving to embed sustainability practices throughout their operations. And this, of course, includes events.  While internal teams are required to contribute to their organisation’s commitments, it’s usually the responsibility of the harassed event planner to ensure implementation – and that’s where sustainability anxiety can creep in.

In the US, the phrase ‘eco-anxiety’ is gaining currency: the Journal of Climate Change and Health describes it as “the distress caused by climate change where people are becoming anxious about their future”.

Responsible planning

In the life of an event planner, this translates to the added worry of minimising carbon footprint on top of ensuring speakers are properly briefed, the schedule runs to time and the air conditioning in a listed building can cope with a 34-degree heatwave. Should you even have the air conditioning on? Is there an alternative?

Whether you are new to your job or a seasoned event organiser  this means getting your head around reducing emissions from unnecessary travel, minimising food miles, sourcing ethically and locally, avoiding single-use plastics, minimising paper use and, wherever possible, recycling or re-using materials. Not forgetting being responsible for efficient and environmentally friendly waste disposal. You may also need measurement tools to quantify each event’s carbon footprint.

The good news, though, is that there’s a plethora of information available on the subject. Even so, absorbing it, and applying it to a sustainable event strategy can be confusing, time consuming and challenging to achieve on a restricted budget.

The right balance

How do you reconcile the benefit of using recycled stage set materials against having to source them from the other end of the country, racking up fuel emissions in the process?  Is it really a benefit to hold a meeting in an ‘eco lodge’ if it’s so far off the beaten track that delegates, speakers and contractors can’t get there on public transport?

Thankfully, the events community was one of the earliest sectors to embrace sustainability and has been working for decades to meet climate change obligations. COP 26, The UN Climate Change Conference, was of course an event itself. Every one of the hundreds of companies and contractors involved in its planning needed to demonstrate it was not just complying with but championing the UN’s objectives. The food strategy at COP26 was devised and implemented by our sister company Levy UK and set a clear example to the world as to how to promote sustainability whilst providing a low-carbon, diverse and delicious menu.

You can get help in developing your own sustainable events strategy from a variety of sources: isla is an independent body founded by events professionals and industry leaders. It draws expertise from across the sector to provide organisers with practical guidance and support on environmental issues. Green Tourism is a membership organisation that has produced an awards certification programme and offers practical advice and support. A quick online search will also take you to a number of a number of sustainability consultants that specialise in event planning.

The events industry trade associations, mia and EVCOM feature training and virtual and in-person events on sustainability on their events calendars.

Supplier support

But a great starting point (and time-saver!) is to choose your partner well; work with the companies and suppliers who have already embraced and can demonstrate sustainability credentials.  We at The Venues Collection have made a commitment to creating sustainable meetings by signing our seven conference and training venues to the Green Tourism Meetings Standard.  Our parent, Compass Group UK & Ireland has committed to be Net Zero by 2030. As part of that drive, The Venues Collection  has a target to make 80% of our food ingredients grown, reared or made in the UK.

We’ve also introduced a day meeting and 24 hour residential package focussed on sustainability, meaning it’s one less thing for you to think about. You can find out more about these packages here:

It’s understandable to be anxious about meeting your organisation’s sustainability requirements and embedding them seamlessly into your events but help is available and remember that your audience will almost certainly thank you.  More and more of us are aiming to safeguard the planet for future generations and that will certainly include many of your delegates and guests.  

We’ll be delighted to assist you in your sustainable journey – please contact our team on:

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