This is not the first time we have talked about sustainability – and it won’t be the last. Concerns around the environment continue to grow and it is the duty of everyone involved in booking not just travel but also meetings and events to review how much they are doing to help.

Many sustainability initiatives could actually save your business money. And those that don’t will increase your reputation as a company that takes its responsibilities seriously.

Here are some ideas that you could consider when planning your next meeting or event:

Travel

• Before you book a meeting venue consider where your attendees will be coming from then look for venues that are closer to the majority.
• Offer incentives for car sharing, or organise coaches to collect large groups from a central pick-up point.
• Try and run some meetings with no travel at all!
• Investigate online meeting services and run a pilot project with a small meeting before you scale up to a larger event.

Hotels

Many hotels are working hard to provide a level of “green thinking” that will reflect well on their bookers. So find out what your prospective hotels can do for you. Do they run shuttle bus services from local transport hubs, for example? Can they provide shampoo, conditioner and body wash in refillable pump dispensers rather than small guest bottles? Do they have a re-use towels programme, or recycle leftover soap scraps?

Conference and meeting venues are also keen to promote their own green credentials and will usually work with organisers to incorporate sustainable practices into their event, such as:

• Planning waste management processes for items that will be used during the event.
• Placing recycling bins in every room – if possible labelled with photos to make it obvious what should go in them.
• Positioning food waste bins near where trays are being stacked.

You can help to reduce energy consumption during your event by nominating you own ‘energy monitor’ to turn off lights and machines when you are not using them.

Food & Catering

Food that is sent to landfill releases methane, which is far worse than carbon dioxide in terms of its global warming potential.
There are two major concerns around the catering of meetings and events – first, the amount of food that ends up in landfill and second, the over-reliance on throwaway plastic packaging, plates and utensils.

• It’s easy to over-order food and drink so work with the catering team to plan how much of everything you really need.
• Offer tap water in reusable glasses rather than bottled water.
• Use China plates or alternatively biodegradable (eg wooden) plates and utensils.
• Work with the caterers to create a menu based on locally sourced ingredients. Better still, see if the local suppliers will deliver their goods straight to the kitchens unpackaged.
• Go for bulk containers and dispensers for spreads, jams, sauces, sugar, salt and pepper rather than individual sachets of everything.
• Plan ahead how to use leftover food, such as distributing untouched items to homeless shelters and composting scraps.
• Plastic straws and stirrers are unnecessary frills, so either find environmentally friendly alternatives or decide if you can do without them.

Materials

You can save paper by switching to digital communication channels and meetings apps wherever possible. Many of the materials you rely on for your events can be reused and recycled too.

• Use unbranded or generic lanyards, name badge holders and sign boards for your events so that they can be used again and again.
• Reuse note pads and pens rather than putting out new ones each time.
• Design modular sets using environmentally friendly materials (such as wood and natural fabrics) to make them easier to repurpose for multiple events.
• Be creative about signage – chalk boards and
re-usable letter boards work just as well as plastic signs and show your visitors that you are trying to be sustainable from the start.
• Investigate other events happening before or after yours in the same venue and see if you can share floral arrangements or other common aspects.
• For the elements that you really do need to be printed, try and find a local printer using vegetable oil inks and recycled stock.

Include details of your sustainability efforts in any communications so that everyone understands what you are trying to achieve and gets on board.