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  • Olga Teixeira

Sustainability in events: Change is inevitable

On the return to face-to-face events, sustainability is once again at the top of concerns.

After two years in which issues related to health and survival have come to the fore, it is time to (re)think about events that contribute to a better world.


The pandemic seems to have definitely changed some habits and, even if in an unintentional way, it may also have created conditions for events to become more sustainable.

The normalization of hybrid formats, the rethinking of travel and the increase in demand for outdoor spaces may have contributed to the events being able to reduce their ecological footprint and contribute to the faster climate goals set at a global level. hit.

The urgency of this change is clear, not least because if nothing is done, the consequences will be disastrous. We have already suffered some effects from the mistakes of the recent past, but there is still time to avoid the worst.

Event Point shares these concerns and we wanted to share with you some ideas so that our industry can make its contribution to a more sustainable future.

We hope this ebook is a way for us to reflect on the environmental impact of our industry. But above all, to act together.

The ecological footprint of events

Facts and figures:

A three-day event for 1000 people produces:

5670 kg of waste

530 tons of CO

3480 kg of garbage

Each participant in a congress produces, on average:

1.89 kg of waste per day

1.16 kg are not recycled

176.67 kg of emissions per day

Source: Meetgreen

How to calculate impact?

All events have an impact on the environment. If in some cases it is more obvious, for example when events involve air travel or generate high levels of noise or waste, in others it may be more difficult to calculate and measure this impact.

However, just think about the closing of a fair, congress or even a festival. How much merchandising is left behind? How many plastic bottles were used? How much food is wasted? How much energy was consumed?

These issues become increasingly relevant, not least because they end up intertwining with the social responsibility of the company or organization itself. Without forgetting that sponsors and participants attach increasing importance to environmental issues.

There is also, of course, the economic impact that an unsustainable event has on the organization itself. Saving resources is also a way to save money.

As it is not always easy to measure and be aware of the environmental impact of an event, we share some resources that may be useful. Then, we give you some ideas for making green the color of your future events.

Some resources to measure/calculate impact:

. Checklist and FAQS on the environmental impact of the event

. Carbon Trust's Carbon Footprinting software

. Festival Fuel Tool

. Creative Green Tools (carbon calculator)

An analysis: the impact of festivals

The study by Greener Festival, a non-profit organization whose mission is to make events, festivals and venues more sustainable and with less environmental impact, is a good illustration of the consequences that festivals have on the environment.

The document A Greener Festival Juicy Stats, released in 2020, presents data for 2019, the last year in which these initiatives took place without any restrictions. They were collected at festivals in 16 countries (including Portugal) on four continents (Europe, Asia, America and Australia).

According to this study, a trip to a festival can involve a journey of more than 200 kilometers, in a vehicle with an occupancy rate of 2.83 people, and more than one kilo of garbage produced daily by each participant, in cases where that there is the possibility of camping. Factors such as waste production, travel or water consumption mean that each event has a carbon footprint of 2299 tons, equivalent to nine kilos/person/day.

Why be more sustainable

In fact, the question should be asked in reverse. Is there any reason not to? Issues related to sustainability end up being almost omnipresent: from food to fashion, from architecture to tourism, from industry to urban planning, there is a transversal concern with environmental issues.

If for some time the priority was to make known the potential effects of global warming, today the question is already raised at the level of emergency. In other words, to act quickly, with clear goals already set.

Looking only at Europe, it is inevitable to refer to the European Climate Law, which aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, and by 2030, there should be a reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions that allows reaching values ​​55 % lower than those recorded in 1990.

In order for these goals to be achieved, it is necessary to change individual and collective habits, so the legislation works as an “engine” for this change to happen. The charge for the availability of bags and the end of disposable plastic tableware are just recent examples of rules that have changed ingrained habits.

© Hans Braxmeier

In Portugal, the Climate Base Law, which came into force on 1 February, sets targets at the national level, naturally in line with European ones, and determines economic and financial instruments for climate action, as well as sectoral policies. Circular economy, green taxation, sustainable mobility and clean technologies are some of the concepts mentioned.

The PRR itself has a climate transition component, with an allocation of more than €3 billion, covering areas such as sustainable bioeconomy, sustainable mobility and energy efficiency in buildings.

But how to move from concepts to practice? How can we go beyond legal obligations and ensure that, in our daily lives – including at a professional level – practices are adopted that contribute to achieving all environmental goals?

What does the industry say?

“The events sector generates an immeasurable volume of waste that goes far beyond the bottles, cups and straws that are used. It also includes treadmills, pop-ups, banners, fabrics, floors, furniture, screens, merchandising items, stands, booths, food, clothing, etc... This has to change.” Guy Bigwood, Director General of the Global Destination Sustainability Movement (IMEX Group report)

The IACC 2022 Spring Barometer Report reveals that concern for sustainability is one of the post-pandemic trends, and that despite everything that has happened in recent years, environmental issues are among the main concerns.

In the 2020 edition of the “Meeting Room of the Future” study, the IACC asked venue operators what would be the most important elements for the future of spaces that host events. Sustainability and ethics emerged as the most important.

Since then, and despite all the public health, economic and social issues, respondents continue to recognize that growing concerns about climate issues make it imperative to think about a sustainable way of life.

87% of venues have a policy in terms of environmental sustainability and 82% have a statement in terms of social responsibility. The report highlights a practice that has grown considerably since 2020: the delivery of uneaten food and meals to local institutions.

Don't invent (n)an event!

By Maria João Ramos, Strategic Management and Communication of projects focused on sustainable development

The integration of sustainable criteria in events has long ceased to be a “nice to have”. Society is increasingly looking for ways to minimize its impact on the environment and save resources. And this happens in all sectors because the path of sustainability is the path of the future.

Gone are the days when event organizers had as an excuse the financial investment necessary for not organizing a sustainable event.

Sustainable events have many benefits and clearly contribute to sustainable development. Not only do they help reduce CO2 emissions, they also promote equal opportunities, inclusion and local economies.

According to the United Nations, a sustainable event is an event conceived and organized to fulfill two objectives: to minimize all potential negative impacts on the environment and to leave a beneficial legacy for the host community and for all involved.

The first thing to do? Don't invent an event! A sustainable event is an event with a purpose. Having a purpose is the first sign of sustainability. The second thing? Don't invent at an event.

A sustainable event requires planning and coordination to meet specific objectives and actions that must be regularly evaluated and, ultimately, verified by competent authorities.

Considering the United Nations definition, I believe that the best way to address all aspects of sustainability is to include the United Nations’ own Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ( in the planning of events and understand how your event addresses these challenges locally. Use the 17 goals fearlessly, even when your event appears to only address a few of them. The truth is that if you look at the 17 SDGs your perspective on sustainability will likely reach new and different levels.

Concretely, let's take the example of environmental impact. The reduction of CO emissions is clearly an advantage. Many sustainable events are also carbon neutral, meaning they take into account the emissions that could not be avoided during the event.

Minimizing environmental impact is directly related to SDGs 11 and 13 (sustainable communities and climate action), but there are other aspects that must be considered. Reduce the amount of waste and ensure proper management; reduce water and electricity consumption; mitigate air pollution, noise and light, favoring spaces with natural light and clean air; ensure a place where safe, healthy and sustainable mobility is possible and which encourages public and shared transport; ensure that selected catering companies are obliged to avoid packaging, using reusable tableware, giving priority to the use of dispensers and bulk bottles for food and beverages and promoting local, seasonal products that are organic or fair trade; or even preserving biodiversity are all issues directly linked to SDG 12 on production and consumption, SDG 7 on energy, SDG 18 on biodiversity, in addition to SDG 11 and 13.

But sustainable events can go beyond concern for environmental impact.

Promoting inclusion and equal opportunities for men and women or translating events into sign language, encouraging barrier-free access for people with reduced mobility, boosting the local economy, promoting events with all conditions of public health and safety assured and respecting the local or business culture will necessarily contribute to various SDGs linked to health, education, inequalities, decent work or peace and justice (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 or 16).

Finally, promote transparency through communication and avoid greenwashing at all costs, because a sustainable event involves effort and commitment that must be shared with society, or finding new partners and supporting small and medium-sized companies locally, ensuring participation. of all stakeholders, are factors that will definitely contribute to SDGs 8, 9, 11 and 17.

The purpose of an event is important to be clear and justified so that the message is also clear. Inspiring climate awareness is everyone's duty and each of us may be surprised at what a small change can do to influence the perception of many. Organizing entities have the power to demonstrate the benefits of a sustainable event, including the economic benefits they derive from it. This is also called “leading by example”.

Crucial, too, is to get the message across that events are and should be sustainable and that, if they are, we will all be beneficiaries. Organizers avoid damage and risk to your brand, generate savings and revenue opportunities, attract more audience, more committed employees, new customers, sponsors and suppliers. Participants enjoy more convenient, more rewarding and valuable events, making them more aware and involved.

The planet benefits from saving resources.

How to have more sustainable events?

“Sustainability in events means taking steps to preserve our natural environment, promoting a healthier and more inclusive society and supporting the economy” - Events Industry Council's. (

Having identified the environmental problems that affect our planet and being aware of the impact of events on the environment - whether through travel, waste production or pollution - it is necessary to analyze what can be improved and make decisions that contribute to making sustainability a decisive part. of the equation.

The four principles of event sustainability, according to the Events Industry Council’s:

1. Event organizers and suppliers share responsibility for implementing and communicating sustainable practices to their partners.

2. Good environmental practices include conserving resources, including water, energy and natural resources; Waste Management; management and reduction of carbon emissions; responsible purchasing; preservation of biodiversity.

3. Basic social issues include: universal human rights; impact on communities; good work practices; respect for culture; safety; health and wellness.

4. Sustainable events support the economy through: collaborations and partnerships; support for local businesses;

equitable economic impact; responsible management.

Sustainability should, therefore, be one of the foundations of any event, being present from the moment the idea arises until the post-event analysis stage.

© ThePixelman

360º Sustainability

Planning and managing a sustainable event implies greater care in the many decisions that are made throughout the process. If it is true that all events are made up of details, in matters related to sustainability these details make even more difference.

However, it is from the combination of all these details that an even more significant impact can be created.

A sustainable event also depends on how the public adheres (or not) to this organization's effort. Therefore, it is important that you are sensitized and that you are an active part of the process.

As sustainability is a constant work in progress, there are some principles and actions that all organizers can implement so that their events, regardless of type and size, can have less environmental impact.

© Pexels


The “where?” it is often one of the initial questions in planning an event. Which means that the options related to sustainability can start right from the choice of the place where it will take place.

Hotels, congress centers, pavilions and other venues that host events may have already implemented sustainability policies, which makes it easier to understand what they do and how they act in environmental terms.

From the use of solar panels to reducing water consumption, passing through the ease of access, there are many aspects that must be considered when choosing. Details such as the fact that they favor natural light and ventilation or that they have a “no paper” policy are good indicators.

2. Accommodation

In cases where it is necessary to accommodate participants, the choice must be based on the same principles. A study by the World Tourism Organization, released in 2008, indicated that hotels were responsible for about 1% of global emissions. Among non-residential buildings, they are one of the biggest consumers of water and energy, reveals the Sustainability in Hotels report by the Urban Land Institute.

Therefore, it is important that this sector adopts good environmental practices, which range from the already widespread practice of reusing towels and sheets to LED lighting or optimization of the air conditioning system.

The choice of a hotel, as a venue or accommodation, must take into account the implementation of these environmentally friendly measures, which can be easily proven through certifications such as ISO 14001, Chave Verde or Green Globe.

The location and ease of access and the distance from the event venue are factors that should weigh in the choice, not only for the convenience of the participants, but also because they are equivalent to a reduction in carbon emissions.

The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance provides an online tool that allows hotels to calculate their ecological footprint. Comparisons can be made with other similar hotels and data received to be used in sustainability reports to be sent to customers.

3. Travel & Transport

The pandemic has shown that many trips can be avoided and hybrid events have proved to be a useful and satisfying solution for organizers and the public.

Given this scenario, and especially at a time when fuel costs are rising, does it still make sense to travel long kilometers, by car or plane, to participate in an event? Especially when the urgency of reducing carbon emissions increases every day?

At the end of 2020, in the e-book in which we anticipated trends for 2021, this awareness of the need to rethink travel was already clear. In 2022, the tourism sector is relaunched: after two years of restrictions, travel has resumed and not even the instability caused by a conflict in Europe seems to stop this desire to make up for lost time.

In this scenario, betting on events in a distant destination can be tempting, not least because it seems to be a way to attract a travel-hungry audience. On the other side of the coin is the issue of sustainability. A sustainable event will therefore have to escape this temptation of “further, more exotic” and bet on something closer, avoiding, if possible, long trips.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) calculator allows you to calculate carbon emissions, helping to find greener solutions.

The organization of the event must also draw up a plan that allows, for example, the sharing of transport, the use of electric vehicles, the availability of bicycles and the option of walking.

All this information must be made available not only on the event's website, but in all communication with participants, including the accreditation process.

The creation of an event app in which mobility solutions are disclosed may be a possibility to consider. Or create, at the event's own location, a meeting point where people who are going to the same place can gather to travel together. Carpooling can also be a form of networking.

Partnering with public transport companies, negotiating discounts or shuttle services helps to reduce costs and increase sustainability.

In the case of air travel, participants can be invited to offset their carbon emissions, using initiatives of duly certified offset programs, such as the ones you can find out about on the Verra website.

4. Catering

Sustainability in food can no longer be seen as a fad and it cannot be limited to having vegan options on the menus. The truth is that reducing environmental impact is not limited to not using products of animal origin. Even because, many times, the chosen alternatives are equally harmful to the environment.

Fresh, seasonal and locally produced products are always the best option: in terms of cost, promotion of the local economy, gastronomic promotion, but also sustainability.

Using pitchers instead of bottles of water, choosing products (such as chocolate) with the fair trade certificate and opting for fresh fruit juices instead of soft drinks or bottled juices are simple ways to make catering more sustainable, however small it may be. be.

And why not choose to innovate? A study by the University of Helsinki (Finland), published in the journal Nature, reveals that if Europeans introduced new products such as algae, lab-grown meat and insects into their diet, a reduction of around 80% in greenhouse gas emissions could be achieved. greenhouse effect, use of water and agricultural land.

Combating food waste should be a concern when organizing any event. Adapting the offer to the number of participants and opting, whenever possible, for individual doses, can help to reduce the amount of leftovers. In cases where the number of participants is uncertain and there is a possibility that there is a surplus, the organization can previously contact institutions or projects that can collect these surpluses and distribute them to those who need it most.

Sustainability in catering must also ensure the separation of organic waste and cooking oils, forwarding them for proper recycling.

The use of reusable and biodegradable tableware has reduced the amount of non-recyclable waste, but even so, it is important to ensure that the packaging and packaging of products contribute to this trend.

5. Materials used in the event

The use of recycled and recyclable materials at the event is a good principle to reduce its environmental impact. Whether it's a congress, a fair, a festival or a dinner, there are always choices in terms of the materials used that can minimize this impact.

When choosing the materials used in the various phases and aspects of the event, it is essential to apply the principle of refusing what is disposable and opting for the reusable.

Recycled wood stands or decorations that can be reused at future events, for example, are relatively easy solutions to adopt. The same goes for the use of all materials necessary for assembly and disassembly: transport and packaging materials can be reused or, if not possible, sent for recycling. At the time of disassembly it is important to ensure that anything that cannot be reused is sent for recycling.

Issues related to accreditation and ticketing should also receive some attention. In this case, the use of tablets and apps will be crucial to reduce paper consumption and waste.

Signage and other materials should avoid mentioning dates, so that they can be used in future editions of this event or other events.

The use of natural vegetation, in addition to creating a pleasant environment, will contribute to improving air quality.

The electrical appliances used must have high energy efficiency and, if there is no possibility of having spaces with natural light, low consumption lamps and presence sensors must be used.

6. Promotion & Communication

Paper dossiers or brochures, plastic giveaways, flyers and plastic bags should be left out of any event that seeks sustainability. If this is impossible, opt for cloth bags or covers made of recycled paper or plastic.

Technology allows most issues related to the promotion and communication of the event to be done electronically, so resources such as the QR Code or apps should be privileged. In addition to being more ecological, they are also more practical for the public.

Internal communication and the provision of information to journalists and the public must be dematerialized, using, for example, shared folders, emails and newsletters and the website itself.

If you have to use plastic, paper or cardboard in the promotion and communication, you must make sure that they can be recycled and make available, on site, appropriate containers to collect them and later recycle them.

© jplenio

10 simple ideas for sustainable events

1. Use reusable cups or bottles so participants can refill with water

2. Offer unpainted wooden pencils instead of pens

3. If you really need to print, use recycled paper and do double-sided printing

4. Instead of plastic gifts, offer seeds

5. Tents left behind at music festivals can be given to institutions

6. Prioritize the use of electric vehicles in transport to and during the event

7. Use ecological cleaning products whenever possible

8. Whenever possible, opt for daytime events

9. Prefer cloth napkins and tablecloths

10. Turn off the equipment after doing the tests



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