SUSTAINABILITY ISSUES

DESTINATION  |  VENUE  |  POWER  |  CIRCULARITY  |  MOBILITY  |  SOURCING  |  WATER  |  FOOD  |  CLIMATE  |  INCLUSION


Water and amenities

Managing water well at your events is critical for those that are being held in water-scare destinations. Regardless, you should do all you can to reduce chemical use and the need for energy-intensive waste water treatment.

Water is a an increasingly scarce commodity.
Be careful with precious water supplies and waterways.

It has been estimated that by 2025, 1.8 billion people in the world will live in water scarce areas. Including water conservation and waste water management into your event will be an integral part of its sustainability, now and in the future.
Over-drawing and unfair or ecologically damaging water distribution are some of the issues surrounding water use throughout the world. Access to water is a basic human right, with profound health, sanitation and prosperity consequences.

Reducing water consumption, managing waste water well and protecting waterways are the goals.

Whether your event is in an indoor venue, a park, school, club grounds or in a greenfield site, your event will use clean water and produce waste water. 
Water is used for standpipes and free drinking taps, catering and food stalls, cleaning, toilets and other amenities, misting stations/dust suppression at hot and dry events and of course grounds preparation and gardening. It may also form part of the event experience, or in fact some events are held in or on water.
Apart from conserving water, managing wastewater responsibly and protecting waterways, also consider the water footprint of purchases of materials and food. Is your event complicit in contributing to negative water use impacts through its purchasing choices?

So What Can You Do?

1

Use less
water

Respecting and adhering to local water conservation protocols or regulations is especially important if your event is in an area where livelihoods depend on adequate water supply.


Firstly think about what is water required for during the entire event life cycle? How ‘water intense’ is your proposed event, activity, site or venue?  What is the likely water intensity of the event – per person per day?


If your event plan predicts that it is going to use more than its fair share of water, or is going to draw an unusually large amount from local water sources, investigating whether there is water scarcity in the event destination is your first duty.


Techniques to reduce water use include using low flush or waterless amenities, using water-saving devices and mechanisms on taps and for those with temporary water distribution systems, not having the pressure too high. Have central stand-pipes at outdoor events for caterers and vendors rather than plumbing everyone straight in. Supply hand-sanitiser at toilets.


In some venues and climates, condensate capture is an option to harvest water.


To engage water users by using the event as a showcase for water conservation, and to inspire contractors, stallholders, bars, caterers and site owners to adopt water conservation tactics. 

2

Water management

How will water be supplied to the event/venue? Is it from town mains supply, drawn from an onsite natural source, or is rainwater captured and provided through water tanks? Perhaps it comes from a desalination plant. Consider the climate impact of the water source - how energy-intense is water provision?


If you have your own event site year round, it is advised you consider capturing rain water and storing it in tanks for use.


Events can produce large peaks in wastewater and is a big management issue for many events.


What types and volume of wastewater will be produced? How will wastewater be disposed of and treated? Does wastewater removal need to be transported by tanker/truck?


Can more sustainable techniques for wastewater capture, treatment and re-use be innovated at the event site or venue? Consider reedbed systems.


Capturing and reusing grey water is the ultimate in wastewater management.


Be sympathetic to local wastewater treatment facilities and restrict toxic substances from entering wastewater.


This means no chemical ‘toilet blue’ and overuse of bleach or other cleaning chemicals. 





3

Protect
waterways

Are there natural waterways that need protection from event activities? Is the event held in a watershed (water-capture zone)? Are any chemical/toxic substances used? What are the contamination risks?


Ensure you manage event activities so that they don’t negatively affect waterways, watersheds, riparian zones, coastal dunes and beaches, and other land/water interfaces. Avoiding erosion, pollution and habitat destruction or disturbance are key.


Ensure there is no liquid waste run-off from your event, or rubbish blowing into waterways.


Prevent trampling by event attendees and vehicle impacts on the water's edge. Conduct a waterways protection campaign at an outdoor event to protect the riparian zone, and prevent urination and other emissions to surrounding waterways.


Use chemical-free cleaning products, and have strict protocols onsite for chemical use, including paint wash-up. Use environmentally sound fertiliser and water wise grounds and gardening techniques.


Adhere to strict protocols to protect waterways such as exclusion zones, careful use of soakaways for waste water and other techniques which should be mandated by local environmental management regulations.


Moving people, infrastructure, equipment, supplies, food, waste and water are all essential aspects of most event logistics! Without these things you have no event.


Mobility

Moving people, goods and equipment are all necessary, and the greenhouse gas impact of travel and transport  is a major issue the events sector must urgently working on .

The impact of mobility is likely, in fact, to be the largest greenhouse gas contributor for many events.

Despite the fact that we know that urgent decarbonisation across every sector is needed, convenience rather than anything else is a main influencer in travel and transport event decisions.
The good news is though, that cities are taking action to decarbonise urban mobility, the global freighting sector has a major focus on efficiency, and even the airlines are investing heavily in R&D to innovate a fossil free future.
But while we wait for these innovations to come, events must take every opportunity right now, to optimise the use of any existing low or zero-impact travel options,  to design-in efficiencies in event production freight and travel impacts, and of course to be measuring and taking responsibility for their (currently) unavoidable travel and transport impacts.

Reducing the greenhouse gas emissions impact of event mobility is the goal.


The reality is, unless we all stop throwing events, or go completely virtual, people will always need to travel to our events, as does equipment, food and beverage, temporary infrastructure, merchandise, talent, volunteers, stallholders and crew. Waste will likely need to be transported away, as might sewage. Everything that was temporarily taken to the event will need returning.
The impacts of moving all these people and things around of course include the use of fossil fuel in vehicles and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions. Other impacts include local traffic congestion and disruption to neighbourhood amenity, traffic noise, localised pollution, pedestrian and road safety, and protection of unpaved surfaces. The issue of actual availability of convenient sustainable transport and travel options faces many events.

So What Can You Do?

1

Design in efficiency

Decide on an event location, format or target audience that reduces the need for travel and transport all together.


Obviously having an event in a destination with excellent urban mobility and mass transit is key. Then choosing an event venue or site which connectivity to the public transit system, bike lanes, easy to walk to etc, is essential. 


Travel of attendees aside, the delivery and freighting impact of infrastructure, event content and of course food and beverage all add up. 


Look to source as locally as possible on all the big stuff. And where there is a large food and beverage impact, design-in reduction of food miles through seasonal menus and local produce sourcing. 


For those events selling tickets you can bundle public transport options into the ticket purchasing process and make it relatively more attractive. Alternatively if you have an event that always sells out, simply put a quota on the tickets that come bundled with mass transit options and don't let them get there any other way! 


You can also reward people that come in full cars, with the best parking spots and priority exit lanes, or rewards such as vouchers. And of course electric vehicles should get pride of place with renewable energy sourced charging stations in place!


Partnering with electric car companies might be an option for crew or guest shuttles. 


Provide site bikes and encourage cycling by all. Set up a bike valet and secure bike parking. have a bike bus, where event attendees can cycle together.


A walking group with a host to take delegates on a guided walk from venue to hotel is also a popular option for conferences. 

2

Change habits

It may be difficult but if the first impulse is to jump in a car to drive to the event, and you're sure that the more sustainable options are safe and convenient, then go hard on designing in mobility to the event in such a way as to dampen enthusiasm for driving and therefore making public transit, cycling or walking much more attractive. 


Restrict the number of parking spots, and charge for parking.  Place the car parks at a relatively less convenient location than direct-to-gate entry for public transport. Incentivise coming on foot or by bike. 


Of course you need to make sure the availability, capacity, timing etc is all in place if everyone decides to come on public transport, or that you have enough safe bike parking.


But assuming your house is in order in that department, communication is key. People need to know in advance, and at just the right time (eg when they are making their travel decision) what options are available to them. Don't make it too hard to go by public transport. Put on special services for sure, but make sure people know about them! Publish maps, timetables, integrate with the event app. Consider convenience, and barriers (too many things to carry, kids to wrangle).


Large workforce groups such as security, cleaning and volunteers should all be focussed on carefully and catered for. Pay special attention to roster times so staff won't miss the last bus or the first bus is too late. Limiting staff parking spots will mean staff have to self organise car pooling. And to that point, get this system set up for your event attendees too.


Of course don't forget to arrange sustainable travel options for your talent such as shuttles from hotel to venue. Remember to activate a 'no idling' policy in loading bays for delivery vehicles. 

3

Measure & report

Without measuring you can't manage. Set up what you need to collect, in advance, so that you have a rich data set to analyse for future improved planning.


You'll need things such as: number of people arriving by each mode, number of vehicles and occupancy rates, number of shuttle runs and occupancy, travel distance (postcode?).


In analysing this data you can assess the final number of people that travelled by sustainable or active travel, and ultimately the greenhouse gas emissions associated with that travel.


You should also do exit surveys if that will help to validate your data or assumptions. On the way into an event people are too keen (unless you have long lines of people waiting), but at bus stops or in queues of traffic (no!) grab the info you need from your event attendees.


While we don't recommend trying to track every delivery that comes to the event site, it is prudent to estimate the proportion of impact that comes from the transport of equipment, infrastructure and supplies to the event. Identify in advance which will likely be your big impacts, and set up a system to capture that data. This could be the number of truck runs offsite to take sewage away. Or the number or distance for deliveries such as for staging, portable toilets, fencing, structures etc. 


Ultimately you want to measure the greenhouse gas emissions and you will do this by taking your unit of measure (distance, litres of fuel, type of vehicle, number of passengers or similar) and multiplying it by an 'emissions factor'. DEFRA (UK) publishes some great emissions factors spreadsheets or access those published by your country. If you choose to purchase carbon offsets then you have some good data to work with.

Energy Revolution

If you're wanting to balance your event's greenhouse gas emissions inventory, then you might want to go with Energy Revolution. Check it out! www.energy-revolution.org.uk

Choosing a venue for your event can be an overwhelming job. Added to the logistics requirements, now also needs to be sustainability performance!


Venues

For those organisers holding events in venues or sites owned and managed by others, choice of venue is a key decision that frames the event, the experience of attendees and the potential for sustainable event outcomes.

Events held in venues will often rely heavily on sustainability credentials of the venue.

For those organising events held within venues managed by others, the organiser may have little control over many of the typical sustainability issues and impacts. In this case, organisers wanting to produce their event as sustainably as possible should seek out venues can prove they are operated sustainably.
Luckily convention and exhibitions centres and hotels hosting venues have stepped up and are now providing impressive sustainability credentials and performance outcomes.
Most major cities will have venues and hotels which are at a minimum considering resource efficiency, as well as many that are over-achieving. As well as convention and exhibition centres, sports stadia, major concert venues, large hotels and resorts are all venue types with many examples of excellence.

Choosing a venue with sustainability credentials in place is the goal.

Look for venues which are been initially built sustainable (materials and design) as well that are operated sustainably (efficient energy and water operations, resource recovery systems). Obviously being powered on renewable energy is a massive plus. Rainwater harvesting, grey water recycling, onsite composting, green roofs, worm farms, passive solar, good air quality, is considerate to the natural environment and sensitive to protecting biodiversity, uses green cleaning products and processes, has water-wise gardening, does not have wasteful buffets (!),  offers sustainable catering, these are all aspects to look for.
Look for existing certifications such as LEEDGreenStar, or BREEAM for the building and sustainable operating certifications such as Green Leaf, Green Key Global, Green Globe, Green Star, EcoRooms & EcoSuites, Audubon Green Leaf.

There is a greenhouse gas emissions and therefore climate impact in almost every activity at events.


Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory

The urgent need for a reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the worst effects of climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing the event industry today.


Events bring people together and create awesome opportunities for collaboration and innovation - including advocating for a low-carbon society. Together, at events, we can take direct action and make a massive impact to collectively reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse gases come from many sources at events: electricity from the mains power supply or through burning fuel in our mobile power generators, from gas in catering kitchens, fuel in plant and vehicles, and of course from production and attendee air travel. They’re embedded in the materials and supplies we purchase, in the food we serve, the water we use and in the processing of the waste events create. Virtual events generate power from the servers used to broadcast the event, and the devices and their internet providers used to receive the content.
Whether you choose to lead with GHG reductions as your primary directive or whether you’re focusing on the consumption and processes and resulting GHGs, both viewpoints are getting us to the same point – a responsible attitude to GHG management by our industry.
The focus should be on estimating the potential GHG emissions impact, finding ways to reduce this, measuring our inventory and always focussing on drastically decarbonising, and fast.

Drastically de-carbonising your event is the goal.

Making a commitment to reducing an event’s GHGs, and actually successfully implementing this is probably going to be a bit uncomfortable a little inconvenient and might cost you some dollar. But it's where we need to be.
If you're running an event of any considerable influence, you should be wholeheartedly throwing your support behind climate change and GHG reductions campaigns. 

So What Can You Do?

1

Estimate GHGs 

The first thing to do is to understand what your measurement boundary should be.


You will have two considerations here - one is the GHGs you are actually in financial and operational control of. And secondly, looking from the outside in (from the viewpoint of a stakeholder or any other interested person), what does the entire GHG impact of the event look like? Who are those other parties that you need to engage on this GHG reducing journey? 


Once this is identified, you will then be in a position to document exactly what is in your measurement boundary - such as power, mobility and purchasing impacts. 


To follow recognised approaches to robust GHG management, you must establish a baseline. In most cases this means estimating the GHG impact of your event (in advance). This then gives you a picture of your likely impact areas and something to work with to look for reductions opportunities. 

2

Reduce GHGs

It is widely accepted that the best way to reduce GHG emissions is to: reduce energy demand; 

replace fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy; reduce transport demand; reduce consumption of items with high carbon footprints; reduce consumption altogether; reduce waste created, and keep biodegradable waste out of landfill; reduce water use; reduce waste water created.


Some practical steps to take include choosing mobile power generator companies that use renewable fuels such as biodiesel, or zero emissions options such as mobile solar or hydrogen fuel cell. 


Keeping food waste and other biodegradable waste like disposable packaging out of landfill means that you will prevent methane from being created in landfill - a powerful greenhouse gas. 


GHGs are 'embedded' in the manufacture of things through their own energy used in production and transport impacts all along the supply chain. So using less saves GHGs.

3

Measure & Balance

Each event will have a certain set of circumstances, responsibilities and impacts, which combine to factor various GHG contributors in or out of the final 'footprint'.


Right now there's no straightforward, clearly defined, industry-wide accepted scope of inclusion for the GHG impacts of events. There are wildly varying methodologies. Some events include electricity only and call that a 'footprint', others go into great detail and measure everything that has a whiff of CO2 about it - such as the embedded (lifecycle) GHGs in food served.

 

None the less use the tools you can to establish your boundary (see some below). Consider balancing those unavoidable GHGs and engage delegates and other stakeholders to do it too. Balancing or 'neutralising' options for unavoidable emissions include investment in GHG-reducing technologies or techniques internally ‘compensation’, or externally 'offsetting’.

What should be measured?

Because of the huge range of events taking place every day across the world, and the corresponding huge variety of what could be interpreted as the event's responsibility, an industry-wide directive or methodology may not even be practical and could be impossible to establish for our industry. But we do need guidance on methodologies to follow and what claims are acceptable to communicate.

We could make a start by following guidance developed by such protocols and standards as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol prescribes that Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions are included. While Scope 1 and Scope 2 are valid and necessary inclusions in an event's GHG inventory, they are inadequate to authentically cover what common sense would say, should be included as part of an event’s actual GHG impacts.

You may also wish to review the National Carbon Offset Standard  (Australia) which gives some more guidance on process an inclusions for events. 

Other standards to review are ISO 14064 (international standard on company GHG measurement and reporting), and PAS 2060, a British standard on claiming carbon neutrality.

Scope 1

Scope 1 emissions are those from sources that are owned or controlled by the event – ‘direct’ emissions. For an event, this translates to 'onsite' activities such as;

  • mobile power generators (fuel consumption)
  • bottled gas and mains gas (ignition of gas occurs onsite)
  • fuel used in site plant, equipment and vehicles (onsite)
  • vehicles owned by the company (used on or offsite)
  • if waste is disposed of at the event site and emissions are estimated to be created (ie methane from buried waste) these could also be included in Scope 1 emissions.
Scope 2

Scope 2 emissions from ‘indirect’ sources – purchased heat, steam or electricity used by the event. For example most relevant to events is;

  • mains/grid electricity supply
  • fuel used for heating (indoor venues)
Scope 3

Scope 3 emissions are ‘other indirect’ emissions – these are emissions that occur because of an event’s activities but occur at sources owned by others. This could include:

  • transport of employees (including all paid contractors, talent, crew)
  • hotel nights for event production (crew, talent, staff, contractors)
  • 'significant additional' freight impact of equipment, goods and services required by the event or waste produced by the event.
  • hired transportation (shuttle buses, taxis, limos, boats, aircraft)

And then going deeper:

  • emissions embodied in the products and materials purchased by the event
  • transport of products and equipment for the event
  • energy used or emissions created in processing waste (liquid & solid)
  • transport of waste (liquid & solid)
  • energy and transport to produce and supply water

And then:

  • attendee travel – the single GHG contributor for many events
  • hotel nights of attendees (for example delegates at a conference/convention)

It's a comms minefield!

Many events are claiming measurement of their 'carbon footprint', but the important detail on what this means is lost or buried. To responsibly claim to have measured a 'carbon footprint', events must simultaneously declare and justify what they included their scope of measurement.

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