Going green is more important today than ever before. As individuals, we have a responsibility to act. As corporates, it’s even more important that we take up the green charge and lead by example. Thompsons Travel strongly encourages and supports the TreadRight Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes sustainable travel. As one of South Africa’s leading corporate travel companies, we believe that green thinking can be applied to every aspect of corporate travel and conference planning.
“Before you plan your next event, ensure that you have a green policy in place,” advises Chantal Kliche, Retail Manager of Thompsons Travel, Cape Region. “This will inform every decision you make, from your venue to your vendors.”
There are two significant benefits of planning green conferences: decreased cost and increased public relations. With the myriad green options available to you in the market today, there’s no reason not to take a more sustainable approach to every event you host. Green your conference with these 10 tips from Thompsons Travel:
Be Water Wise
With South Africa in the grips of a devastating drought, every drop of water counts. This is especially true for the Western Cape region, where dams are running dry and “day zero” is fast approaching. If you’re hosting a conference in or around Cape Town soon, it’s important to be mindful of the city’s current water restrictions and plan accordingly.
Host a water-wise conference by ensuring that you choose a venue with water-saving policies in place, such as reduced water pressure in taps and low-flow showerheads in accommodation. Check with your chosen venue on how they are using recycled water for sanitation facilities and greywater for gardens, and discuss how you can further support their efforts.
Be Energy Efficient
Reducing your event’s energy consumption goes beyond merely changing the light bulbs to more energy-efficient LED models (although this should be done regardless). Choose a venue that provides you with options to make use of natural lighting or minimises the need for heating or air conditioning.
When it comes to the food served at your conference, ensure that your caterers are using locally-sourced produce that is in season. Be mindful of how food will need to be prepared, and discuss innovative energy-saving menus with your chef. Don’t stop there. Have a plan in place on how to deal with the food waste once the conference is over.
Take Travel Into Account
We know all too well the toll which road and air travel take on the environment, but travel is an unavoidable reality of hosting events. Unless your conference is an online webinar, your delegates will be travelling to your venue in some form or another. This is true for your vendors too.
Consider how you can offset the carbon footprint of your event by selecting a destination city that is served by direct flights, as multiple take-offs and landings result in higher emissions. Additionally, choose a destination with a reliable public transport system that connects the event venue with major transportation hubs and accommodations. Even better, negotiate room blocks with hotels that are within walking distance of the venue.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
No matter how green you go, an event of any size will inevitably create some waste. However, you can reduce the waste produced by your conference from the get-go with some extra planning and green thinking. All the waste generated by your conference can generally be classified into three types of materials: recyclables, compostables, and garbage.
Instead of providing plastic water bottles to delegates, give them branded refillable containers that they can reuse long after your event. Ensure that you have labelled bins for glass, plastic and paper to deal with the recyclables and that you have arranged with a recycling company to remove these at the end of your conference.
For compostables, such as food waste, speak to your venue about recommending a community food garden initiative that will gladly take the waste off your hands for their worm farm. Earthworms dispose of compostable waste within days and produce a liquid commonly known as “worm tea” which is used to great benefit in organic gardening.
When it comes to general non-recyclable or non-compostable garbage, however, there is little that can be done other than to transport this waste to a landfill, where it will decompose over decades. While generating some garbage is unavoidable, be proactive during the planning phase to educate attendees on your green strategy and encourage them to support the sustainability efforts of the event.
One of the hottest trends in green conferencing is to go paperless. Digital technology is taking the place of bags filled with printed schedules and information. This shift is not only more cost-effective as it eliminates printing and shipping costs, but it also promotes post-event engagement as attendees can save everything on their smartphones. From e-vites and online registration portals to a specially-designed conference app, you can host a paper-free conference with minimal fuss.
Going green means finding sustainable solutions to common problems. Whether you conceptualise a decor plan that only includes recycled materials or “unplugged-only” entertainment, your innovation is limited only by your imagination. Scout around for local service providers who are already innovating in the green space. For example, use the solar-powered Sunshine Cinema to screen video content instead of a traditional energy-dependent audio-visual provider.
“Depending on the nature of your event, you can make a big impact with small decisions,” says Kliche. “Instead of hosting a sit-down dinner at a hotel, for example, we invited clients to a braai (barbeque) and encouraged them to get involved in the cooking process.”
Vet Your Vendors
If you’re going green, go all in. Select vendors whose green policies align with yours and who actively support your green goals for your conference. Specific environmental governing bodies (such as complying with ISO 14001 standards), or ecological sustainability initiatives, such as SASSI, can provide you with a benchmark against which to measure your vendor selection decisions.
Do Something Good
There’s no better time than now to impact the environment positively. Use your conference as a platform to showcase your commitment to sustainability with a green deed. As an example, for every registered attendee, you could pledge to plant a tree. Not only are you directly contributing to the environment in a practical way, but you can leverage these efforts and successes in your marketing collateral when you are planning your next event.
Less Swag, More Green Brag
From desk drops to goodie bags, conference delegates are accustomed to receiving gifts. While the nature of your conference will inform what these gifts are, you can still apply the same green thinking to how they are packaged and delivered, such as using bags made from recyclable materials that can be reused by delegates later.
“Your invitation can even be a tree, which arrives in a branded box and which can then be planted,” adds Kliche.
Need assistance greening your next conference? Contact Thompsons Travel today. We take the hassle out of corporate travel and event planning to suit all occasions and budgets.