How to make an event sustainable

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Looking to improve sustainability at your event? Learn how to "turn your event green" and reduce the negative impact your event has on the environment whilst considering economic and social issues.

How to make an event sustainable

It’s never been more important to make events greener. With so many people now aware of how their actions might impact the environment, their carbon footprint and climate change, it’s time for you to factor sustainability into your events.

In this article, we’ll share some ways in which you can improve sustainability at your event as well as highlight the benefits you (and the planet) can look forward to. 

What is sustainable event management?

Sustainable events are events which are planned and carried out with the environment, economic and social issues in mind. For example, sustainable event management could involve limiting the use of plastic or hiring local food vendors. Essentially, sustainable event management involves taking actions to ensure that eco-friendly practices are adopted and the event is both inclusive and supports the economy. 

7 ways to make your event more sustainable

Saving water is a great way to save energy (as energy is needed to filter, heat and pump water so that it’s safe for use) which will help to reduce your carbon footprint. As an event organiser, you can reduce water waste in the following ways:

  • Opting for waterless urinals and portable toilets that use recycled water for flushing.

  • Hold the event at a venue which has water-saving measures in place (such as sensor taps in bathrooms).

  • Hire food vendors that are selling foods which don’t require much water for preparation.

  • Avoid serving drinks with ice (unless requested).

  • Offer hand sanitising stations over hand washing basins that use water and soap.

  • Use eco-friendly cleaning products. 

  • Use  biodegradable containers and utensils to save water used in washing up.

These are just a few ways in which you can limit your use of water at your event but they will certainly be impactful. It will also be a good idea to make attendees aware of  your water-saving measures and communicate why you’re implementing them. Not only will this help to spread awareness of water wastage, but attendees will also be more prepared for the day(s) ahead.

According to National Geographic, it is estimated that there’s around 150 million metric tons of plastic in our seas. Event organisers can do their part to reduce the amount of plastic which finds its way into the ocean by reducing the amount of plastic used at their events. Here’s what you can do:

  • Provide water stations, encouraging attendees to refill their bottles.

  • Only offer compostable cups, plates and cutlery.

  • Avoid using plastic straws - paper straws have already taken over, however, it would be best not to offer straws unless requested.

Try to think about how your attendees will get to your event and what form of transport you could offer to help reduce the transportation footprint. Some things you can consider include:

  • Encouraging users to share rides.

  • You could hire coaches that attendees can travel to the event on - for example, Big Green Coach is a popular events travel company in the UK which is carbon neutral.They are also committed to sponsoring and protecting the Amazonian Rainforest. Perhaps you could offer people a package which includes their ticket and coach journey for a reasonable price?

  • Consider running virtual events or provide attendees with the option to enjoy the event remotely.

  • Try to discourage travelling by car or find a venue which has charging points for electric cars.

Offering locally-sourced foods and beverages at your event is a great way to reduce the negative environmental impacts due to transportation. Not only will this help to reduce the event’s carbon footprint, but it will also offer local businesses in the area the opportunity to sell their produce and reap the rewards as much as the planet!

Carefully consider where you’re planning on hosting your event. Some venues will already have eco-friendly measures in place which will help you on your mission to become more sustainable. Look out for the following when deciding where to hold your event:

  • Recycling sorting stations so attendees can dispose of their waste appropriately.

  • Eco-friendly toiletries and products.

  • Water stations/dispensers so people can easily refill their bottles.

  • Venues which have green values or are a part of a sustainability scheme.

If you can find a venue which makes your job to “keep things green” easier, it could be worth looking into. You can also think about the venue’s location and whether this is likely to involve a lot of travelling/be difficult for people to get to. It will be better to hold an event that’s closer to those expected to attend.

As reported by Events Base, findings from a survey which interviewed 60 event organisers in the UK indicated that nearly a third of event professionals admitted to throwing away at least 15% of the food they commissioned at their events. This is an alarming amount of food waste that events contribute to. So, you’re probably wondering how you can cut this down; afterall, you need to be able to have enough food to cater for your guests (and make a profit with food vendors). Here are just a few tips that can help you manage food waste at your event:

  • Make attendees aware that you’re trying to limit food waste.

  • You could consider finding out any dietary requirements beforehand so you can cater for this.

  • Donate any excess food which isn’t used to charity - some venues may already work with local charities. 

  • Reduce portion sizes (but don’t charge unfairly for this!).

  • Ensure you know the number of people attending your event to understand roughly how much food will be needed.

Many events are going paperless, not just to improve sustainability, but to improve the overall experience of attendees. For example, if you send people paper tickets to gain entry to the event, these could easily get misplaced. If, on the other hand, you have tickets emailed to guests, they can quickly get this up on their phone to be scanned - no printing required! You can take steps to go paperless by:

  • Having e-tickets and online check-ins.

  • Promoting your event on social media channels opposed to handing out leaflets or displaying posters.

  • Investing in an app - for example your app could include a map of the location which pinpoints attractions instead of printing out physical maps or programmes.

Importance of sustainability in events

The pressure on event organisers to be more sustainable is growing. Not only should you consider becoming more sustainable for your events’ image, but you should actively be looking to help protect the planet by making smarter choices. Here’s how you can benefit from making your events more sustainable:

  • You’ll reduce negative impacts on the environment.

  • Your event will be more inclusive (as people concerned about the environment and climate change will feel more comfortable).

  • You’ll help to raise awareness of the importance of sustainability in a proactive way.

  • You’ll demonstrate to staff, attendees and event partners that you care about your event’s impact on the environment.

  • If sourcing local produce, you’ll help to boost the local economy.

  • You can save money from reduced energy and water consumption.

  • You’ll demonstrate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), a strategy which sees you assess and improve your event’s effect on the environment and social wellbeing of the community. This is becoming more important for event organisers - particularly those planning festivals or shows. Find out more about CSR and how you can implement a CSR strategy here.

Examples of sustainable events



Event organisers in the UK can take note of what Munich’s famous festival does in the way of large-scale sustainable events. Despite the millions of visitors they see each year with beers in hand, it’s an event (lasting just over two weeks) which is commended for “being green”. For example, Oktoberfest has banned the use of disposable tableware, sources organic produce for sale, recycles water (water used for cleaning utensils is used to flush toilets afterwards) and they use green energy to power public areas.

Burning Man

Burning man festival

The Burning Man festival usually takes place in August and September every year at Black Rock Desert in Northern Nevada (US). Each year, a giant temporary infrastructure is built and set on fire by the organisers. Despite this, the festival is extremely hot (excuse the pun) on “Leaving no trace”, meaning that the entire community who attends the event clears up after themselves, until it appears a festival never even took place there at all. 

To help them do this, they have a camp which is dedicated to recycling and waste from toilets is used as fertiliser. Many of their camps are also solar powered and they have bikes available to hire so that attendees can get around via pedal-power opposed to driving. 


Glastonbury festival

Finally, we have an example of an event which encourages sustainability in the UK, Glastonbury Festival.

This is a festival you are likely to be familiar with, but do you know about some of the  sustainable measures they have in place? Since the event takes place on a farm in Somerset each June, organisers try their best to protect the beautiful countryside area. Some ways they try to “keep things green” include:

  • Banning single-use plastic bottles.

  • Running a ‘Pee-Power Project’ where electricity is created from urine (we’ll let you investigate this in your own time!).

  • Donating money to charities such as WaterAid and Greenpeace.

  • Encouraging attendees to travel by public transport.


Whilst the above examples are all of festivals, you can certainly take note of their methods and make any event more sustainable. For example, even if you’re planning a conference, you can think about going paperless with e-tickets and resisting the urge to hand out plastic bottles of water alongside your branded notepads.  

Final thoughts

Sustainable events are the future. If you’re going to continue to attract guests to your events, help save the planet and benefit the economy, your event needs to be planned with sustainability in mind. Even if you’re organising a small event, your choices can play a big part in helping to preserve the environment. Your event can inspire others to be more conscious of their carbon footprint and have a lasting positive influence. 

Looking to insure your sustainable event?

If you’re planning a sustainable event in the UK, you should consider taking out insurance to protect yourself against potential third-party claims. Whether you’re looking to organise a festival, sporting event or street party, we can provide you with the comprehensive event insurance you need to give you peace of mind if things don’t go to plan.

Get in touch with us today to see how we can help.

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