WOW Factor at a Zero Waste Event? It Can Be Done!

zero-waste-eventsEvery event planner’s goal is to wow their audience. While you can always do more to impress them, you can also do less. Nothing, to be exact!

Zero Waste events are a big deal these days, for both event hosts and attendees. Announcing “This is a Zero Waste event” is a great way to attract and enthuse the audience, and your event will positively impact the environment, too. But can you get the wow factor you’re looking for in event production and be sustainable at the same time? You bet!

Why Zero Waste Is Important

This Zero Waste movement aims to eliminate all types of waste that would be sent to a landfill, incinerated, or wind up in the oceans. So, it’s all about the Three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. You’re already doing things at home or your office to be more environmentally-friendly, and putting these principles to work throughout your event is the logical next step. It’s also surprisingly easy.

Can you make it to 100% Zero Waste the first time around? Not likely, but you can get a good start, and then do even more to do less in the future.

Zero Waste isn’t only for the few or the funky. It’s hitting a high note with events of all sizes and types from meetings to festivals to black-tie galas. Sustainability resonates with audiences, and knowing they’re doing something about it while attending your event elevates their experience.

Zeroing in on Waste at Your Event

Start with the biggest and easiest targets:

  • The venue. If possible, choose a location that’s already environmentally-friendly, so you can piggy-back and expand on their efforts. Indoors or out, replace all trash containers with specially-marked receptacles for compost (for organic waste) and recycling (for paper, plastic, glass), and assign a monitor to help ensure proper usage at each location.
  • Food and beverage. Compost organic waste from prep and meals, and donate all unused food. And skip products in packaging that cannot be reused or recycled.
  • Vendors. Let them know up front that you expect them to adhere to your zero waste standards, too. If your local garbage/recycling company isn’t already a vendor or sponsor, partner with them to create maximum zero waste opportunities for every aspect of your event.

Get creative with your AV partner to incorporate wow-worthy sustainable options:

  • Ditch paper/plastic signage wayfinding, printed materials, etc. in favor of LED signs and screens. LED lights are amazingly versatile and major league energy-savers, reducing your event’s carbon footprint.
  • Amp up your event with projection mapping instead of using throw-away scenic background materials.
  • If you can source renewable power for your event, even better. Or budget to buy carbon offsets.

Recognize that not everything can be “zeroed out” – yet. Gloves required for food prep and service, for example.

In the AV business, we deal with things like gaff tape and batteries that typically get thrown away. The key – for us in our work and for you as an event planner – is to keep looking for more sustainable options.

Here are some of the things we do at Heroic Productions to be more sustainable:

    • Batteries. We often use them only about 50%, so we give them to our team members for general office/home use. We’ve also donated them to Toys for Tots, which is a pretty cool opportunity.
    • Gaff tape. Sometimes we can use Velcro to secure cable, etc. to carpet, depending on the type of flooring involved.
    • Carpet. We donate it to local community theaters or schools who may need it for a stage production. Environmentally friendly carpet is also available, but it costs more.
    • Scenic. We try to find a second home for it, as we do with carpet.
    • Trucking and flights can always be matched with carbon offsets. We use Lyft for ground transportation whenever we can, since it inherently offers carbon offsets.
  • Office and warehouse: This fall we’re investing in a total office and warehouse lighting change, moving all work areas to energy-efficient LED.

It’s a work in progress. So if you don’t hit 100% zero waste at your first event, no worries. Think of it as “on our way to zero!” You’re making the effort. Your audience appreciates that as much as Mother Nature does, and that gives your event double the WOW factor.