Moving Toward a Zero-Waste Convening

It’s the unspoken elephant in the room at most social impact convenings; how can we justify the environmental impact of bringing people together to convene around creating positive social impact? During our call this month, our members gathered to share challenges, ideas, and opportunities around moving toward a zero-waste convening (without breaking the bank). 
We kicked off with a wonderful presentation by Andrea MacNeil (Fit On Tour), an independent consultant in the music industry. One of her clients, the Corona Sunset Tour, put on a zero plastic waste festival last year, and she shared some of the keys to their success:

    • Minor Changes in Materials Make a Huge Difference – You need to focus on every single detail of production when it comes to waste; .signage, plastic cups, and straws, etc can add up to a lot of plastic waste. 
    • Create Instagrammable Sustainability Moments. – get attendees actively involved in learning about the campaign you are driving and sharing it out to the rest of the world.  At the Corona Sunsets tour, they created a large glass wall filled with water and microplastic bits so people could actually see what plastic waste looks like in the ocean. 
    • Go Local Whenever Possible – Think about the materials you have to ship to your event, the caterers/vendors you use, as well as minimizing staff travel by using local staff. 
    • Be Prepared to Pay More – being plastic-waste free means paying a little more (unless you want to up the ticket price for your attendees) but the payoff is worth it, both in terms of your environmental impact and marketing. 

At the Pavillion, festival-goers can learn more about this increasing environmental threat and then make their own plastic-free commitments (Corona Sunsets Tour) 
During our smaller group discussions, we spoke to some of the challenges and opportunities around reducing waste at our convenings. The topics ranged from food waste to paper waste, to messaging to attendees. Here are some of the main takeaways:

    • Manage Your Venue – whether it’s specifically looking for a venue that meets your needs and requirements or working with a well-known corporate vendor, don’t compromise on the things that are most important to you. Even larger chains will work with you on issues like plastic bottle waste (and your influence might even spark changes throughout their line of venues.) 
    • Go Paperless – reducing the amount of paper waste at your convening is an easy step toward reducing overall waste. Perhaps you use an app instead of printing a program book or let your attendees know they should bring a notebook to the event instead of providing one for them. Using recycled materials for signage,  or creating reusable signage, also makes an impact. 
    • Calculate Your Carbon Footprint – and Offset! – Some venues can actually help to calculate the carbon footprint of your event and there are many offset tools and programs. Make sure to find one that uses the proper calculations for air travel (which is 3x the carbon created at sea level)–yikes! 
    • Rethink single-use Materials – whether this is signage for your event or decorations for a creative happy hour, try and reduce the amount of materials that can only be used once. Reusable lanyards and nametag holders are an easy fix in this department 
    • Get Everyone on Board – for more efficient change across your organization, make sure all team members are aware of the changes you wish to make and get their input! 
    • Consider a Digital Option –  thereby reducing the number of physical attendees, and eliminating their air travel carbon altogether (Skoll World Forum & SOCAP both have digital passes)

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