As pc/nametag's in-house Word Wizard, Meaghan creates educational content that brings people together and drives meaningful conversations in the events industry.
For many people, there’s nothing more fulfilling than giving back to the community and creating a positive impact on the environment. The good news? You can accomplish both of these things at your next event as long as you have the right activities and strategies in place.
Incorporating social responsibility, philanthropy, and sustainability into your gathering is possible. If you’re unsure of where to start, we’ve rounded up a list of our favorite ways to go green and give back to the community at your next event.
Host a DIY terrarium or succulent workshop as a breakout session.
People love green event activities, so why not test their “green thumbs” with a handmade terrarium, fairy garden, or succulent planter workshop? A mini terrarium is a fun, eco-friendly way to help your attendees incorporate greenery into their homes or offices. Not to mention, they’re fun to look at, decorate and care for once completed.
To make a terrarium, pick up containers from a craft store or garden center, gravel, moss, soil, and plants (like an air plant, cacti, or succulents). Provide instructions on how to assemble the planter, or feature a local agriculture aficionado as a speaker. No matter your approach, this environmentally friendly giveaway is sure to be a hit.
- Tip: Personalize each planter with an event-branded sticker. Mirror the geometric shape of your terrarium container with a 4" Pentagon Satin Sticker attached to your packaging or to the bottom of the container.
Create the perfect Instagram photo op with a live plant wall.
Today, social media marketing plays a big role in a successful event strategy. People want to post photos of themselves having fun and enjoying your event, so make sure to use event design and installations to your advantage. This is especially important if you plan to invite social media influencers to your event.
One of the easiest ways to create an “Instagram-able” event is to give people the best photo-ops possible. Featuring a live plant display is a unique, sustainable way to create a gorgeous portrait opportunity that your attendees will be eager to post! You’ll also be able to advertise your organization and event branding in an eye-catching way.
Photo Source: BizBash
Create excitement with therapy animals or local rescue dogs.
Studies have shown that the simple act of petting an animal can help decrease blood pressure, lower anxiety, and make us feel happier. Inspired by emerging research pointing to the health benefits of spending time with animals, many planners have begun to incorporate animals into their event schedules.
Partner with a local animal shelter to see if they’d be willing to bring adoptable pets to your event for meet-and-greets. This is a great way to add that “philanthropic” element to your event. Alternatively, work with a therapy dog association or take this activity one step further by partnering with a local farm to feature miniature horses, alpacas, goats, or rabbits in your venue’s outdoor space.
Support vendors and service providers from locally owned businesses.
Hosting a green event starts with cutting down on travel whenever possible. In addition to providing local transportation options for your attendees, try to hire vendors within a short distance from your venue. This may involve a bit of detective work, but the effort is worth it especially for organizations looking to decrease their carbon footprint and emissions.
Once you’ve selected your vendors, choose food options with smaller carbon footprints. Chicken, turkey and vegetable dishes tend to be more sustainable than beef or lamb dishes, which carry higher environmental costs. Work with your caterer to identify ways to keep food miles to a minimum.
Organize a food recovery program to donate excess products to those in need.
If there’s one thing people really look forward to at events, it’s the food and beverage options. While many planners prefer to over-cater to ensure there is plenty of food to go around, this can lead to an incredible amount of food waste. Uneaten food is sent straight to the landfill, creating an unnecessary amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, throwing away perfectly good food means that more food must be transported into the area.
Millions of children and families in the United States face hunger and food insecurity every day. That’s why as event planners, it’s important to accurately estimate how many people you’ll need to feed. Do your best to donate any clean, uneaten food to local causes like homeless shelters, food pantries, food-insecure neighborhoods, or other charities.
Did you know?
The Events Industry Council has excellent resources for planners who are interested in learning how to make their events more socially and environmentally responsible. There, you’ll find an online resource library that features live and on-demand webinars, how-to guides, infographics, whitepapers, and information on food waste awareness campaigns.
Get crafty with living herb centerpieces on banquet tables.
When it comes to decorating tables at your meeting or event, you want the items at the center of the table to draw attention and make a statement. If you’re looking for a long-lasting centerpiece option, consider creating a living herb centerpiece! Not only are they a fun focal point of a table, but they can also be created well in advance of your event. Once your event is over, guests can take the potted herbs home with them to plant in their own gardens as an environmentally friendly giveaway.
Looking for a more traditional approach to centerpieces? Work with a local farm or garden center to source flowers and greenery for centerpieces. Choosing plants that are in-season and locally grown is a great way to cut costs and decrease travel-related emissions.
Use signage to educate attendees on your sustainability initiatives.
If your event is taking steps to become more eco-friendly, your attendees will want to know about it! Not only is this information great PR for your organization, but it’s also the perfect way to build credibility and trust with your attendees. They’ll feel proud to support an event that’s taking active steps to reduce its negative impact on the environment.
Using printed signage is a great way to educated your guests on your event’s approach to going green. Use retractable banners to show how you’ve planned to offset emissions. Use signage to encourage attendees to use public transportation to access the venue, or use name tents to show attendees where their locally sourced food came from.
Give attendees eco-friendly event swag they’ll love.
One of the most exciting parts of attending a conference is getting to take home fun event swag. Unfortunately, many giveaways end up in the garbage once an event is over, especially if attendees don’t see an immediate use for the item. Luckily, offering eco-friendly promotional items can be a win-win for your organization: You’ll be helping the environment while also giving attendees gifts that they’ll be eager to use over and over.
If your organization wants to focus on eco-friendly marketing materials and promotional items, try giving away something made locally like items made from local wool, small jars of honey, or a branded packet of native plant seeds. Here are a few ideas we love for eco-friendly event swag, promotional items, and giveaways:
- Branded Cotton T-shirts
- Recycled Cotton Drawstring Bag
- Reusable Glass Water Bottles
- Recycled Notebooks
- Reusable Tote Bags
- Reusable Mugs
- Reusable Tumblers
- Reclaimed Material Backpack
Don’t forget to explore other ways to make your event more sustainable. Choose eco-friendly products and event essentials for your next meeting, including recyclable name badges, biodegradable name tag holders, organic cotton lanyards, paper-based registration packets, and more.
Rent furniture and décor to set the tone and ambiance of your gathering.
Furniture and décor are two of the most essential elements of a successful event space design plan. You want to create a great first impression and ensure guests are comfortable, but where exactly should you start? We suggest renting furniture and décor for your event since renting is considerably cheaper than buying. You’ll also find comfort in knowing that the items you rent can be used time and time again, without being sent to the landfill after.
Another great benefit of renting event furniture and décor is that you don’t need to worry about incurring extra costs to manage and maintain supplies. By renting table decor, tents, tables, chairs, and other items, you’ll avoid spending money on repairs, storage, and maintenance of these items.
Incorporate clean, leftover fruit items into a juice bar.
While day-long events are filled with fun and excitement, your guests will more than likely need a nutritious pick-me-up to keep them awake and ready to participate in activities. A creative way to incorporate nutrition and sustainability at your event is by featuring a juice bar for attendees to enjoy. The key to a sustainable juice bar is to use as many elements of the fruits and vegetables as possible. This leads to less waste and a very delicious drink people will love.
If your event has a morning breakfast buffet or brunch, make a point to repurpose clean, untouched products by using them later in the day at the juice bar. For example, yogurts and hand fruits that have not been claimed make the perfect addition to your juice bar later in the day.
Get attendees involved in sustainable volunteerism opportunities.
Volunteering is one of the most rewarding things you can do, both as a person and as an organization. Giving back to the community can have a real and valuable effect on everyone involved. If you’re looking for ways to make a difference at your event, consider creating a volunteer opportunity that attendees can get involved with.
For example, plan a voluntary activity to plant trees, pick up litter, serve food at a homeless shelter or collect canned goods for the local food bank. No matter the charitable activity you choose, your attendees will appreciate having the opportunity to take their social and environmental stewardship to the next level.
- Social Media Tip: While volunteering, don’t forget to encourage attendees to take photos and share them using your event’s hashtag. Spreading the word about your organization’s dedication to philanthropy is a great way to inspire others to do the same.
Green Events: Have fun. Get inspired. Save the planet. 🌎
Hosting a sustainable event doesn’t need to be a headache or cost an arm and a leg. With the right strategies in place (like the ones listed in this article), your planning team can have an incredible impact on the environment. Don't be afraid to take creative risks and have fun with sustainability.
What sustainable event ideas did we miss? Let us know your eco-friendly event ideas in the comments below. We’d love to get inspired by reading your ideas for a more eco-conscious gathering.
Top Resources to Help You Meet Your Event's Sustainability Initiatives
- How to Host a Sustainable Event” eBook: In this guide, we reveal the key to reduced usage, fewer unnecessary purchases, and less waste.
- Read our List of Sustainability Ideas to Help Your Organization Go Green: Read what 15 eco-conscious business professionals had to share about how their organizations are giving back to the planet this year.
- Discover Eco-friendly Conference Tips for the Sustainable Event Planner: Learn the tools and resources you’ll need to reduce your event’s negative impact on the environment while also giving attendees the same exciting experience they’ve come to love and expect.
- Shop Eco-friendly Products for Your Next Gathering: Take steps toward a more sustainable event or office with supplies from pc/nametag.