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by Heather Huey, CMP, Senior Program & Event Manager

Photo of Heather Huey, CMP.Sustainability has grown beyond just being a popular catchphrase. It's an essential component to minimizing the carbon footprint of your event. By adopting sustainable practices, you can showcase these efforts to your attendees and pave the way for other venues, vendors, and suppliers to follow suit.

During a recent industry gathering, we gathered the following insights from the experts at MeetGreen, a renowned sustainable event agency.

Key Guidelines for a Sustainable Event:

  1. Early Engagement is Crucial – Incorporate your sustainability objectives in your RFP from the outset. Ensure your specifications are lucid for all contractors.
  2. Broadcast Your Aims – Highlight your sustainability objectives and initiatives on the event's official website for attendees to see.


Did you know?
Compostable food service items like those made from corn or sugarcane don't break down in standard compost setups.


Universal Sustainable Event Recommendations:

  1. Choose Reusable Over Compostable – While compostable service ware sounds environmentally friendly, the truth is that in many places they can't be composted due to lacking infrastructure. For instance, compostable food service items like those made from corn or sugarcane don't break down in standard compost setups. They require industrial facilities. Unfortunately, of the 4,000 composting facilities in the US, only a fraction accept food scraps or bio-plastics. Prior to the event, check if the local facilities support genuine composting or if such items would be discarded as regular waste.
  2. Introduce a Plant-based Meal – Offering a single plant-based meal can significantly cut down your event's carbon footprint. Ensure there's a plant-based alternative during every meal or snack time. Moreover, reducing meat portions can further decrease the carbon footprint.
  3. Diverse Menu Options – Ensure your menu includes at least two of the following:
    • Local (sourced within 250 miles)
    • Certified Organic
    • Seasonal
    • Fair Trade
    • Plant-based
    • Water-efficient
    • Imperfect Produce
    • Procured from Minority-Owned Farms
  4. Eco-friendly Swag – Transition to digital, reusable, sustainably sourced, and locally made merchandise.
  5. Sustainable Water Solutions – Eliminate single-use plastics. Fill It Forward combines reusable products and charitable giving initiatives that amplify the impact of reuse. In addition, boxed water is an excellent sustainable alternative, and encourage attendees to bring their own water bottles. Ensure the venue is equipped with water bottle specific filling stations.
  6. Food Management – Donate any leftover meals, and report the amount donated post-event. The Careit app is a tool that connects you to organizations that collect leftover food or scraps for composting.
  7. Event Infrastructure – Opt for reusable or recyclable materials for event set-ups. Local organizations like Habitat for Humanity might accept materials like plywood, or the YMCA could reuse yoga mats.
  8. Printed Collateral – Minimize and rethink printing. Switch to an event application and consider electronic signage. For printed signs, Falconboard is a recyclable alternative.
  9. Go Hybrid – Provide a virtual alternative for your on-site event to cater to those who can't or choose not to travel. Fewer people flying significantly reduces the carbon impact. What's more, SHW Studios is a great resource for hybrid production services!

By adhering to these guidelines, you're not only hosting an event but also championing a sustainable future.

At SHW, we incorporate sustainability, accessibility and inclusion into our event planning process and plans. For more information, reach out to us directly.

Heather Huey, CMP  joined the SHW team in 2019 and is a sustainable events advocate. SHW is one of the original DMCs in the country and now handles all event and meeting services from site sourcing to full event and meeting planning to video production services.