From reusable bags at the grocery store to citywide recycling and compost mandates, sustainability is more than just a trendy buzzword. With sustainability and social activism playing such a huge role in our everyday lives, it’s no surprise that consumers expect the same from the companies they support. We all know that attendee expectations directly correlate to attendee experience at an event, but did you know that almost 90% of consumers say they’re more likely to support companies whose efforts help them personally be more sustainable? Green events are a surefire way to optimize not only your attendee’s experience but also bring value to you (and your sponsors’)!
Trying to find a good starting place can seem overwhelming if you're just beginning efforts to make your events more sustainable. With the events industry alone generating over 60 tons of plastic waste annually, there is an easy solution - ditch your plastics! In addition to making your meeting a little more green, utilizing plastic alternatives is a great way to give your attendees something they’ll be able to use long after the event is over. Below, we’ll dive into some of the basics of making the move to some of these plastic alternatives and how they fit into the three “R’s” of sustainability - Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Regardless of your company or event’s specific sustainable initiatives, you’ll be able to find a product that helps you elevate your efforts, event, and brand.
A recent California study showed that attendees at business events can produce up to 2.5lbs of waste before the event is over. This staggering figure is one of the driving factors behind many planners and venues moving towards “zero-waste” events. While using more eco-friendly coffee cups or skipping the printed agendas is certainly a great start to minimizing your event's waste, it is equally important to consider items that are less immediately disposable. We’ve all had to retire a well-loved tote or water bottle we received at an event or tradeshow. For an event to be truly zero-waste, a gift given at the event should be eco-friendly when it's time to dispose of it.
One of the most versatile eco-friendly material options is wheat straw. This plastic alternative is 100% biodegradable once it’s discarded and is made from the tops of discarded wheat, which has historically been treated as waste. This means that when you purchase a wheat straw item, you’re reducing waste even before your event begins! Like plastic, this material has a variety of uses and can be used in everything from pens and water bottles to speakers and sunglasses.
Click here to see some of our favorite wheat straw ideas
You may be familiar with the concept of net zero, or total carbon neutrality, as many cities and companies around the world have pledged to work towards eliminating their carbon emissions in the years to come. With production waste being one of the biggest culprits of carbon emissions, many companies are making efforts to reduce their footprint. Circular items that can go back into the supply chain, or better yet, ones made from recycled material, to begin with, can help you curve your event’s carbon numbers before the event even begins!
rPET is a versatile material that is made from recycled plastic, saving it from ending up in our landfills and oceans. In fact, most rPET is made from the material gathered from curbside recycling bins (which is a fun fact to advertise at your event as it helps attendees feel as though their personal efforts at home are contributing to a positive change globally). This material is also 100% recyclable, meaning it can go back into the supply chain once it's outlived its usefulness. rPET is largely used for fabric alternatives, making it a great option for totes or apparel gifts. It can also be used as a plastic alternative for items such as pens, water bottles, coolers, and even tech items.
Click here to see some of our favorite rPET ideas
Of course, it’s not just plastic alternatives that can help you boost your recycling efforts. There are a lot of stationery options that are made from post-consumer waste and are themselves recyclable. Did you know that the pulp and paper industry is the third largest industrial polluter of air, water, and land in the United States? Unfortunately, this includes recycled paper or paper made from recycled materials. This has led to the creation of tree-less paper, particularly that available from Karst Stone Paper. Stone paper is carbon neutral from the start as it’s made from construction waste and is biodegradable, 100% recyclable with no production waste (as burning the paper reduces it to its component state), and comes from a certified B corporation you can use to leverage your own brand’s social activism efforts.
Giving a gift that attendees can use long after the event is something that not only can support your attendee’s sustainable values but boosts brand visibility for you or your sponsors long after the event is over. One of the biggest draws of plastic is how reusable it is. Still, there are just as durable materials available that are also sourced from more renewable sources, making them a greater, greener pick.
Bamboo is a plastic alternative that is renewably sourced and extremely durable. While domestically sourced bamboo has a better carbon footprint than having it shipped from overseas, the benefits of bamboo start before the production process even begins. The bamboo plant alone can produce more than 35% more oxygen than the average tree, absorbs just as much carbon dioxide, and grows particularly quickly (like, 3 feet a day quick), so it’s incredibly sustainable compared to its plastic counterparts. When you couple this with the fact that bamboo is stronger than steel, you’ve got the perfect green gift material!
Click here to see some of our favorite bamboo ideas
It’s not just bamboo gifts your attendees will use long after the event. Other options like renewable cork, solar power items, and our previously discussed rPET and wheat straw options also make for great sustainable, reusable gifts.
Click here to see some of our favorite alternative eco-material ideas
Big Brands, Big Impact
While opting for a greener material is a great start to moving your meetings towards the greener end of the spectrum, making additional changes to how you approach promotional giveaways can bring a lot of extra value to your event, your company, and your sponsors. Like most things in life, with promos, the adage “you get what you pay for” is true. The difference between fast fashion products versus high-quality gifts from established brands with some type of social initiative is tangible. Opting for companies that offer sustainable items while adding the additional value of their name and humanitarian efforts can really help to elevate your gift far beyond just a gift made from sustainable material. By aligning yourself with certified B corp companies, you can show your guests you not only talk the talk but walk the walk as well. If you’re looking for more details on how to leverage brand equity to your advantage, check out our blog all about it here!
Let’s Get Started
The events industry is making a lot of great strides toward net-zero and overall sustainability at our meetings. In fact, maybe you’ve already gotten away from single-use plastics at your event, and everything we’ve laid out here is old news for you, in which case you may be able to make use of our sustainable materials blog for a deeper dive on all sustainable materials or our green meetings from start to finish guide for ways to make other aspects of your events a little more green. Whatever your situation may be, efforts in sustainability likely aren’t going anywhere in the near future, and making small steps to go green now can save you from having to make radical changes down the road. If you’re looking for suggestions on which material might suit your company’s specific goals best or have a particular idea in mind, feel free to contact us, and we’d be happy to help match you with a green gift your attendees won’t forget!