Events and Sustainability: The Intersection between Green and Technology
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a growing and a strategic recognition towards sustainability and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. This has been accelerated by various game changers such as consumer awareness of ESG, the unexpected rise of consumer demands for sustainable products and services, and the growing realization among business leaders that sustainable practices can provide long-term financial value. Now more than ever, concerns about climate change, pollution, and social inequality have become mainstream issues, and consumers are increasingly demanding that businesses assume a central role in addressing these challenges.
Sustainability: The Events Game Changer
Event management and sustainability are two concepts that are becoming increasingly interrelated in today’s world. The pandemic has led to a “green events” wave and event organizers are incorporating sustainable practices such as reducing waste, conserving energy, and promoting local and organic food into their events.
Some of these emerging green practices include using recyclable and biodegradable materials for event concept and design, incorporating recycled materials for streamers and banners, and using natural materials for decoration.
Another impactful way of mitigating the carbon footprint of events and forging the notion of sustainability is the use of solar panels or wind power to power the event. However, the location plays a significant role in determining feasibility and energy requirements. The choice is also impacted by the number of attendees, lighting, sound, and any other equipment that requires power to operate.
Event managers can transform leftover food into nutrient-rich fertilizer for gardens and farms by composting food waste rather than sending it to landfills where it produces greenhouse gasses (GHG). Reducing the demand for meat and dairy products can also lead to a notable reduction in GHG emissions as animal agriculture is a significant contributor to GHG.
The Rise of Tech-led Solutions
Businesses are increasingly shifting gears towards sustainability and adopting eco-friendly practices and digital technologies to reduce footprint impact, minimize waste, conserve energy and resources, and promote circularity. This has led to an intersection between “green and technology,” and the events industry is rapidly following suit in the race towards net zero.
The notable growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is being leveraged as a powerful force towards greening the events industry. AI-powered sensors can be used to monitor energy usage and detect inefficiencies. This data can then be used to make adjustments such as turning off lights in areas where they are not needed, adjust heating and cooling systems, and optimize the use of audio and visual equipment. AI can also be used to minimize waste at events. AI-powered sensors can be used to monitor waste bins and alert staff when they are full. Furthermore, AI-powered algorithms can be used to create the most efficient routes for vehicles, reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions. AI-powered transportation solutions, such as electric shuttles and autonomous vehicles, can further help in reducing carbon emissions. Sustainable catering can be taken into the next level with AI-powered solutions that curate menus using locally sourced, sustainable ingredients and adjust portion sizes to minimize waste.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFI) and Near Field Communication (NFD) technologies
With RFI and NFD technologies, the events industry is more likely making informed decisions aimed at optimizing attendee experiences and minimizing GHG emissions and carbon footprint. With such technologies, attendees can simply scan their badge or wristband to gain entry, eliminating the need for printed tickets and reducing the risk of fraudulent entry. Additionally, event organizers are able to opt for cashless payment systems, which eliminate the need for paper receipts. More importantly, event organizers are able to track and monitor attendee behavior and reduce waste. For instance, event organizers can install RFID or NFC-enabled waste bins to track the amount of waste that is generated.
Choosing electronic communication and digitized ticketing systems over traditional paper-based methods is a viable and eco-conscious approach to curb paper waste and to contribute to environmental conservation.
With tech-enabled mobile apps, event organizers are able to provide attendees with all information about the event in advance. These apps enable attendees to navigate through the event and connect with other attendees seamlessly, reducing the need for printed maps and brochures.
With the advent of hybrid events the need for physical travel has reduced significantly leading to the reduction of travel GHG emissions.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technologies enable event organizers to create customizable, virtual spaces that can be easily reconfigured and reused for future events, reducing the need to build new physical structures and therefore reducing material waste.
Today, and like never before, the Gulf Cooperation Committee is showing commitment for green and sustainable events by setting quality standards and guidelines that outline best practices for minimizing impact. One of the promising initiatives that the Gulf Organization for Research & Development (GORD), UNEP, and the UNFCCC have launched is the Green Events Tool (GET).
The GET is an online sustainability assessment tool that helps event organizers to measure the environmental impact of their events and identify areas where they can improve their sustainability practices. This tool helps to drive innovation and progress towards a more sustainable future for the events industry.
The GET consists of a questionnaire that covers all aspects of event sustainability, including energy use, waste management, water conservation, transportation, and community engagement. After completing the questionnaire, event organizers receive a customized report that provides recommendations for improving their sustainability practices and reducing their environmental impact.
Green events aren’t just a trend, they aren’t just good for the planet, they are good for business. They are a win-win for everyone. They reduce the environmental impact of events, save money, and create a more engaging and memorable experience for attendees.
By Christina Khater, CEO and Founder of Kristies Lab and
Ayah Sharif, Regional Sustainability and Communications Manager at Kristies Lab