As we’ve hosted events over the years, we’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way about sustainability. Each event gets better and more environmentally friendly as we put these lessons into practice.
This past April 2023 we hosted our Everyday Eco Festival here at our Eagan, Minnesota headquarters. While our primary goal was to help educate the attendees about sustainability, you can host a sustainable event no matter what your goal is.
Here are seven ideas for you to get started successfully hosting your own eco-friendly events:
First, Value Sustainability as a Company
Sustainability isn’t an event, it’s a mindset. A value. It’s a continual process of looking for and practicing ways to help build toward a healthy planet in the day-to-day life of your business.
So before you decide to host a sustainable event, look at your business practices. Can you improve sustainability within your workplace? Those practices—and the mindset they encourage—will then carry over to any event you host.
This doesn’t happen overnight but through a succession of choices.
Here are some things we’ve done that may help spur ideas of your own:
- Sustainability has been a company value since the beginning of Storm Creek. It’s always part of our decision-making. If that hasn’t been the case for your business, you can start today!
- With our textile factory partners, we encourage and jump on board with innovations in the recycled polyester yarns we use in our products. When their researchers design new textiles from recycled yarns, we’re ready to test them.
- When we moved into our current building, we furnished our staff breakroom with good used countertops, cabinets and chairs rather than buying them new. We built the tables out of wood pallets we already had in our warehouse.
- In that same breakroom, we provide a Bevi machine for our employees. They can grab water, flavored water, sparkling water or vitamin water using their own bottle or one of the glasses we keep in the room. Since implementation in March 2023, we’ve saved nearly 6,000 plastic water bottles!
Educate, Educate, Educate
If sustainability is an important value in your company, you’ll also attract employees who value it. And you’ll attract customers who value it if they know it’s part of your DNA. So educating your employees and customers will be an important part of your sustainability practices.
You can do this in a variety of ways:
First, dedicate a page of your website to explain what your company is doing for sustainability. We keep it in the forefront with a link right on our homepage and a link in our footer where visitors can find it easily.
Second, produce content about it: why it’s a company value, what you’re doing to be more environmentally friendly, ways your customers can help. This content can be written blog posts, videos, social media posts, infographics, podcasts—whatever your business already produces.
Third, when you plan an event, communicate the environmentally friendly aspects of it in your promotions. Put it in your press release. It doesn’t have to be front-and-center but if you plan to have recycle containers there, say so—and say why. If you’ve chosen a caterer that uses recyclable materials, say so and say why.
One thing we did leading up to our Everyday Eco Festival was offer a shopping discount to those who completed our online Sustainability School Quiz. During the event itself, we invited speakers to share on the topic. These speakers came from a renewable energy organization, a recycling organization and a local park organization.
Set Sustainability Goals for Your Event
Once you’ve adopted a sustainability mindset it will come naturally to set sustainability goals for your events, just like it has in your day-to-day.
Think about objectives you can adopt for your next event to ensure it doesn’t add environmental harm. Is it to produce less waste? To support local suppliers that won’t use as much gas or won’t involve shipping? Is it to conserve energy? To reduce your carbon emissions?
Maybe you want your event to be close to public transportation or a local bike route. Maybe you want a recycling program on-site. Maybe you want your event attendees to participate in sustainability by bringing their own water bottle or avoiding single-use plastics in other ways.
One thing we did during our event was offer a plastic bag recycling station. Plastic shopping bags are a nuisance for consumers to discard because they can’t put them in their home recycling bin—but they’re very harmful to the environment. Offering the recycling station was a win-win for everyone. We even gave a prize to the person who brought in the most plastic bags.
There are many possibilities. As you plan your event, brainstorm ideas with your team and choose those that are accessible to you. If this is your first foray into sustainability, don’t worry about tackling every possible idea. Focus on one or two as a foundation and build from there for your next event, and your next one.
It’s easy for paper communications to get out of hand rapidly, both during the planning stage and during the event itself.
As you and your team plan your event, try to use mostly digital communication tools like online project management software, email, instant messaging—the tools you already use within your company.
For the event itself, keep paper handouts streamlined and to-the-point. Encourage recycling when users are through with the information—in fact, have paper recycling bins on-site and accessible.
Take advantage of QR codes to send participants to your online spaces when it can work just as well as giving them something printed.
Work with Local and Eco-Friendly Suppliers
If in-person events are part of your business strategy, one of the best ways to incorporate sustainability is to develop partnerships with other local businesses that also value it.
You can be assured that those businesses will be doing their best to keep their part of the event environmentally friendly, too. This can go a long way in supporting each other as well as encouraging potential vendors to think more sustainably if they want to work with you.
This article from Entrepreneur.com shares other advantages, including these:
- Local suppliers decrease shipping time, costs and gas—sometimes drastically. They can sometimes offer flexibility and quality assurance that isn’t possible with suppliers across the country or overseas.
- When you invite local business partners the money stays within the local economy. Goodwill and stronger business relationships will almost surely result as well.
One of the food trucks we invited to our Everyday Eco Festival is a nonprofit business that raises funds to help children battling illness. While not specifically environmental, it was a rewarding partnership with another business doing good.
It may take a bit of research, but it’s worth it to make the impact.
Donate a Percentage of Profits to an Environmental Organization
Local charitable giving is already one of our core values, so it was natural for us to highlight a local environmental group for our most recent Earth Day event.
Our headquarters is just a few miles from the Mississippi River in Saint Paul, Minnesota. So we chose a nonprofit organization called Mississippi Park Connection, part of the National Park Foundation, as the recipient of a percentage of our event’s profits.
You can do this, too. If you already have a giving program it’ll be easy for you to incorporate giving to an environmental group or park system in your area. If this is new to your company, we can assure you there are vast numbers of worthy organizations that will appreciate donations from businesses like yours and put your gift to good use.
When you promote your event, let your audience know which organization(s) will benefit from it. It may even provide an incentive for some to attend who otherwise wouldn’t have.
Do What You Can
When it comes to sustainability, most of us need to improve step-by-step, not all in one big leap. This is true whether it’s in our business or our personal lives.
If you can’t incorporate all the sustainable practices you want to right away, don’t let that stop you from doing something. What’s one step your company can take that will either stop hurting the environment or will help it? Start there.
With your next event, choose one sustainable practice you can include. Maybe it’s to partner with a local recycling company. Maybe it’s to avoid single-use plastics where you can. Maybe it’s to work with a caterer that sources their food locally. Choose what’s the most important to you and your company.
Whatever you start with, that’s just the beginning of your growth toward corporate sustainability.
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(these links are for the Distributor website