Hosting a truly eco-friendly event starts the moment you begin planning. The event's location, venue, and vendors will all factor into how green your meeting will truly be. Making purchasing decisions to minimize food and material waste as well as promotional items and signage is one of the easiest ways to reduce your event’s carbon footprint. We’ve picked out some of the trendiest environmentally conscious alternatives to the most widely used materials at events across the country. Take a look at what helps these particular items make the world a more sustainable place and how they may be able to help elevate your next event.
When determining how green a product is, generally, we look for at least one of the following characteristics: reclaimed, reusable, recyclable, and sustainable. Understanding what each of these terms actually entails can help us better understand just how eco-friendly an item actually is and can help you better prioritize what specifically you’re looking for when considering green options:
Reclaimed - This is a material that can be reused without any type of reprocessing. We don’t see this much in meetings or events, but this is highly valued in the construction industry, where things like lumber, bricks, and glass can all be taken from one project and moved to another without having to recreate the material.
Reusable - Similar to reclaimed in the sense that the material can be used again without any type of reprocessing when we see “reusable,” it's usually indicative of an item that can be reused often, such as a tote bag, water bottle, or travel coffee mug.
Recyclable - Recyclable means that after an item is discarded, it’s able to be processed and transformed into an entirely new product. In many cases, recyclable items are often made from recycled materials themselves, meaning they’re green from the start!
Sustainable - Sustainability refers to the ability of a resource to be harvested and used to meet our current needs without compromising future generation’s access to the resource. This usually means low impact, low upkeep or harvesting costs, and ease of replacement are all important factors when determining how sustainable a material is.
With these terms in mind, let’s take a look at some of the practical applications of these characteristics and some promotional or giveaway items you could consider for a green meeting.
The idea of taking trash and transforming it into something more functional is both infinitely renewable and incredibly sustainable. We frequently see recyclable options are already produced from recycled materials, which is especially great when you consider how much waste a typical event is capable of producing. By choosing items for your meeting that are made of recycled materials, you’re helping to ensure that your event is eco-friendly from the beginning. When these items are also either biodegradable or compostable (assuming they’re unable to be reused or recycled again), you’re left with a product that is earth-conscious even after you’re done with it. Here are some ideas for products capable of being made of recycled materials and can be naturally broken down once discarded.
Did you know that the average American uses about seven trees a year in paper, wood, and other products made from tree byproducts? This means that approximately 2,000,000,000 trees per year are used by the US alone. The good news is that for every ton of paper that is recycled, we can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, and 7000 gallons of water. With paper being used from everything from invitations and agendas for the event, journals for giveaway gifts, or even just notebooks to jot some key takeaways from a speaker into, opting to use recycled paper for your event is a really simple and effective way to reduce your meeting’s carbon footprint. These are just some of the available applications of recycled paper you can use at your next event or even just day to day use when planning your meetings or events in the office:
rPET Plastics & Polyester
Let’s face it, plastic is everywhere. Our food containers, our personal care products, and even our clothes are all generally made from polyethylene terephthalate or PET, one of the most common types of plastic in the world. This is problematic largely because of the resource-intensive process it takes to create PET and the incredibly long decomposition time of 450 years. So what recourse do we have? Recycled PET, or rPET, is exactly what it sounds like - a recycled material made from existing plastic in a process that takes 50% less energy than creating PET plastic from scratch. In fact, just 7 soda bottles can provide enough rPET to create an XL polyester shirt. Although rPET isn't biodegradable (since it is still technically plastic) it keeps plastic out of our landfills and is a much "greener" option in situations where plastic is necessary. Here are some common event items you can opt for in an rPET material rather than traditional plastic or plastic-based material like polyester:
Humanity has been using cotton for over 7,000 years. It’s durable, comfortable, and extremely versatile in its uses, but did you know it can also be environmentally friendly? While there is still a lot of debate about the amount of water it takes to both grow and treat cotton before it’s a functional textile, organically grown cotton is gaining a lot of traction within environmentally conscious circles for several reasons. Organic cotton means no pesticides which of course is better for the environment as a whole. Additionally, since organic cotton is a natural fiber that doesn’t require a chemically extensive treatment process, it’s completely biodegradable and discarded cotton only takes about 5 months to decompose fully. Overall, the renewability and biodegradable nature of organic cotton make it a great option for an event that is striving to be eco-friendly. Here are some great cotton ideas you might be able to make use of for your next event:
While we usually consider sustainability in terms of resources required to create a certain product, the ability to reuse something over and over without having to create a new product is the most sustainable option of all. While you’ll likely no doubt be able to make extended use of some of the recycled options we’ve listed above, below, we’ve selected some trendy and environmentally friendly items that are designed specifically for reuse.
When it comes to sustainability and renewability, bamboo is easily one of the trendiest eco-friendly materials on the market to date, and rightfully so. This self-regenerating plant requires very little water to grow, grows extremely fast, and requires no pesticides or fertilizers. The real benefit to bamboo, however, is simply how versatile it is as a material. Everything from utensils, drinkware, reusable straws, household accessories, fashion accessories, and even clothing are all possible with bamboo. Even when discarded, most bamboo can be composted and breaks down in just 3 years. If you’re looking for a reusable product for an event, bamboo is an option that is sustainable from inception and can easily make items we typically would consider one-time use (like straws, for example) something you and your attendees can take home with you and use after your event.
When wheat grain is harvested, it leaves behind a stalk that has traditionally been treated as waste. However, this material can actually be collected and processed into compostable “paper” products and reusable plastic products. What’s particularly amazing and green about wheat straw plastic is that (like its paper counterpart) this plastic is entirely biodegradable and will break down in just a few months when discarded. The process used to create wheat straw plastic does not include any harmful chemicals, so when composted, wheat straw plastic can be used to increase soil quality and regrow more wheat! Wheat straw is now being used for almost anything you would think of having been plastic before. Wheat straw silverware, straws, and cups are just a few examples of this year’s newest trendy products.
Cork is widely regarded as a miracle material in terms of sustainability. The tree in which cork comes from requires minimal resources to grow, and there’s no need for things like fertilizer, pesticides, or pruning. Since only the bark is needed to create the cork material we’re familiar with, the trees are not actually cut down, but rather the bark is delicately removed in a process that doesn’t harm the tree at all. The bark is regenerative and is ready to be harvested again in just 9 years (during which time the tree is soaking up more CO2 than usual to fuel the regeneration process). The material itself is incredibly versatile and can be used in everything from shoes to spaceship insulation. All in all, cork is a really great option for a reusable and sustainable product.
Solar power banks
While there is some debate about just how sustainable the process is for creating the tools needed to harness solar energy, there is no doubt that the sun is a renewable and readily available resource. Additionally, according to recent studies, the energy used to produce the unit is made up in just 5 years of use despite the costs of producing a single solar panel. When compared to the alternatives, solar energy comes out ahead in sustainability in just about every category, and with improvements to solar panel technology over the past decade, you can bring solar power to your giveaways as well. From solar power banks to watches and clocks, there are plenty of options to harness the power of the sun in at your next event!
In addition to your giveaway and promotional event needs, on-site directional and communication signage is another opportunity to improve the overall sustainability of your meeting and opt for greener, eco-friendly material. Below we’ve taken a look at some of the most commonly used materials and applications of onsite signage to get a better idea of the dos and don’ts for eco-friendly graphics.
When it comes to events, you’re likely all too familiar with foam core. An industry-standard in disposable signage, foam core is attractive almost entirely because of its low price point. Once the event is over, a single foam core sign takes up to 500 years to biodegrade in the landfill. The disposable nature of foamcore, mixed with its long-lasting carbon footprint, makes this a less than ideal choice for green signage.
The SMARTsign® ECO is designed to be an eco-friendly alternative to foam core signage while still retaining that low cost to fit into your disposable signage budget. Created from recycled wood pulp, the ECO is green from the very beginning and able to be recycled when it’s no longer needed. This cuts down on the new material needed to create the signs and saves your disposable event signage from spending hundreds of years in the landfill. The SMARTsign® ECO is an easy choice for any green initiative event you may be hosting.
We’ve discussed foam core and the eco-friendly recyclable Eco alternative, but when it comes to being reusable and the most sustainable, there is one clear choice. The SMARTsign® EDGE is widely regarded amongst its users as the best reusable sign on the market. The Edge is made from a highly durable but lightweight Maxxlite plastic and built for reuse over many years and events. When used in conjunction with a magnetic SMARTlens and a removable header and footer, the EDGE is capable of adjusting its image to match your event’s particular aesthetic or theme. Instead of spending the money and the resources to create disposable signs for each event, you can simply use the same sign across multiple events or multiple looks/uses across a single event. This sign can replace multiple signs and be reused from event to event for years to come making it the most sustainable signage solution on the market.
When it comes to large-scale signage at events meterboards have long been an industry staple. Meterboards are typically made of some type of reinforced foamcore, presenting the same issues of a non-biodegradable, disposable material. As a greener alternative, some signage providers offer the option to print this staple on a recycled cardboard substrate. Another option to update your large-scale event signage to be greener is to use recyclable or reusable banner stands.
Because the meterboard is designed to be disposable, banners that are capable of reuse are instantly going to be a more eco-friendly alternative. One of the strengths of reusable banner stands is the variety and versatility of the units available on the market. No matter the size or space you’re attempting to brand, be it a tabletop or hallway, there is no doubt a banner suited for the task. In the case where your particular graphic needs change from event to event, you can opt for a banner that facilitates easy changing. While most reusable banners do require you to send back the banner hardware in order to have the graphic properly swapped out, units like the freestanding 360 and Flex banners or retractable units like the Premium actually allow for on-site changing, reducing the carbon emissions from delivery to and from our distribution facility, ultimately making these particular units the most eco-friendly options in regards to reusable banners.
Let's Go Green Together
Whether you’re looking to build a full-fledged green event from the ground up, trying to make this year’s giveaways a little more sustainable, or simply just looking to take advantage of your company’s green initiative incentives, there is most certainly a renewable or sustainable product that fits the bill. What’s more, some of the eco-friendly items we offer come with the added benefit of partnerships with larger green initiative programs such as 1% for the Planet where 1% of all sales are given to nonprofits dedicated to making the world a more sustainable place for everyone. As with all promotional or signage options, there are a lot of options out there and our Customer Relations team is available to help.
Contact Us - We would love to help navigate the selection process with you and make the world a better place together!