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October 12, 2023

The ROI of Green: Your Guide to Sustainable Events


As in-person events have experienced a resurgence in the past few years, there’s been an increased focus on their environmental impact. While research on event waste is scarce, many reach the same conclusion: Attendees at in-person events often generate a lot of waste. Just over four pounds (1.89kg), according to some studies. Sustainable events are a must. 

There’s a clear demand for more sustainable businesses, events included. Sixty-six percent of companies are trying to use more sustainable energy. And 87% of consumers will support companies who have a mission and stand by it. 

But there’s more to delivering sustainable events than meets the eye. Events are complex, with numerous processes and variables that make each one unique. And these aren’t the only challenges making sustainable events hard to deliver. 

Before diving into challenges and solutions, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of delivering sustainable events. 

Benefits of sustainable events

The primary reason behind any sustainability effort is typically reducing waste and helping the planet. While these benefits are true for sustainable events, there are perks beyond environmental ones, too. There are financial and brand motivations, to boot. 

  • 77% of consumers are more likely to support environmentally conscious companies. 
  • Consumers are also more likely to trust and recommend brands with environmental missions. 
  • Organizations with environmental, social and governance (ESG) related products can see up to 34% repeat sales over organizations without ESG attached. 
  • From 2017-22, 89% of consumers shifted toward more sustainable shopping and lifestyles. 

Focusing on sustainable events now not only helps you make an environmental impact, but it also sets you up to be part of a growing, popular movement that resonates with customers far and wide. 

Current sustainable event challenges

Events are incredibly varied, from size to venue location to attendees and beyond. Unlike the task of making an assembly line more sustainable, where the variables are fewer and more predictable, delivering a sustainable event is a nuanced process with various challenges. 

Beyond the variability of events, there are multiple larger challenges facing the industry: 

  • Car travel: Vehicles in the U.S. alone account for roughly 80% of CO2 emissions in the transportation sector. The more people that must travel for an event, the more emissions. 
  • Waste: Studies going back to the mid-2000s claim event attendees create roughly four pounds of waste each day. Event attendees need to eat, making food waste hard to avoid. 
  • Energy: Commercial energy use, including that used for events, has remained largely stagnant for decades compared to other sectors. Whether an event is indoor or out, energy is required, making it hard to get around. 
  • Reporting: There’s no agreed upon measurement for what defines a sustainable event. This makes it difficult for companies to set goals, track progress and report results. 

You can’t avoid travel entirely, nor can you eliminate energy requirements and waste. But there are ways to mitigate the impact events have on the environment. 

Delivering more sustainable events

Whether you’re a venue hosting events or an event planner scouting out future locations, there are a few ways you can help make sustainable events a reality. 

Use local catering

When possible, have your events catered by providers closest to the venue or event location. This reduces the number of trips required to transport food, thus lowering this portion of the carbon footprint your event leaves. 

Require food registration

If feasible for the type and size of event, have your guests register for food ahead of time. This reduces the chances you over-order and have leftover food. If you’re going with a buffet, partner with your caterer to ensure the amount of food aligns with estimated headcount. 

Recycle food

It’s unlikely all the food at your event is eaten, regardless of your food planning efforts. Before your event, see if there are any groups in the area that can help you safely donate leftovers to shelters, community groups, soup kitchens and so on. 

Choose convenient venues

If you’re not hosting the event at your own venue, choose one as conveniently located as possible. This includes any venue near major transportation hubs, restaurants and entertainment and lodging. Think about whether attendees have any necessary reason to travel far from the venue, or if everything they need is nearby. 

Find energy-efficient venues

If you’re selecting a venue for your event and not using your own facilities, look for one that’s as energy efficient as possible. Do they use LED bulbs? Are they getting any power from solar or another renewable source? Do they recycle? 

If you run your own venue, take steps to become as energy efficient as possible. This not only helps the environment, but also makes your venue more attractive to those looking to deliver sustainable events.  

Provide eco-friendly handouts

As tempting as swag is, a lot of it is bad for the environment. Before ordering your next batch of branded merch, look for more sustainable options. 

  • Instead of plastic pens with your branding, choose those made of recycled cardboard. 
  • Find shirt vendors that use recycled material and safe labor practices. 
  • Swap branded plastic bottles for those made of bamboo, or at the least, recycled plastic. 
  • Give out reusable bags made of recycled materials, perfect for those looking to pick up other booth swag or do some shopping after the event. 
  • Swap your business cards out for those made of biodegradable materials, or even eco-friendly plantable business cards using seed paper. 

Many sustainable options are slightly more expensive than their non-green counterparts. While the cost may be higher, consider the environmental good you’re doing, and the benefits to your organization’s reputation. 

Partner with a carbon offset organization

Whether you’re making other efforts to deliver a sustainable event or not, partnering with a carbon offset company is a great way to help further the good you’re doing for the environment. 

Keep in mind some carbon offset organizations aren’t as reliable as others. If you go this route, make sure you properly vet the company to ensure your efforts and funds are going toward the mission the company is promising.  

Remember: We can’t offset our emissions at a planetary level. Carbon offset organizations aren’t a “get out of jail free” card. You should still make additional efforts to deliver sustainable events. 

Whatever sustainable efforts you decide to go with, it’s never a bad idea to promote your actions on social media and on the branding of the event itself. If your event is helping provide food to the area or partaking in a recycling program, etc., make it known via a post that details your push to be more environmentally conscious. 

Proving your efforts with Momentus Sustainability

Momentus Sustainability takes the guess work out of event sustainability, giving you a suite of tools and dashboards that allow you to set goals, track progress, work cross-departmentally and enable full visibility into your sustainability efforts. 

See how Momentus Sustainability can help you discover the ROI of going green and schedule a free demo today. 



Tag(s): Sustainability

Peter Ward

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