Six Ways Make Conference Sustainable


Attendees at mid-sized conferences reportedly send an average of 1.16kg (each) of waste to landfills throughout the event. When combined with the fact that 70% of attendees travel by aeroplane to reach these conferences, the event and conference industry needs to think about how it can be more sustainable.

Here are our top six ways to make your conferences more sustainable.

Why is sustainability important for attendees?

Today’s consumers are actively researching ways to make more environmentally friendly choices in their lives. Potential conference attendees will evaluate all the options and make a conscious choice to spend their time (and money) on more sustainable events.

By choosing a more sustainable conference, attendees feel more comfortable and confident throughout the whole experience.

To ensure you keep sustainability front-of-mind with your attendees before and during the event, share checklists and tips to remind them of your goals (and rules) for a green event.

Why is sustainability important for organisers?

Consumers expect the organisations they support to share and demonstrate the same values. By trying to host more sustainable conferences, organisers can gain more support, publicity, and advocacy from their target audience before, during, and after the event – all of which contributes to greater profits and success.

ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) factors are increasingly important to investors, ambassadors, and stakeholders in organisations of all sizes so acting more sustainably can have significant benefits when building relationships in these areas.

Need more support internally for sustainable conferences? Read our article Rethinking The Mindset For Green Meetings

1. Go paperless

One of the simplest ways to make your conference more sustainable is to go paperless. Instead, consider e-tickets, downloadable digital resources, and digital presentation screens.

By cutting out the amount of paper you need for your event, you are saving both the materials that go towards production and the emissions that would come from transporting it to your venue.

2. Host a hybrid event

Hybrid events will inevitably be the answer for many organisers who want the benefits of online events combined with the undeniable advantage of in-person events post-COVID. But hybrid events can also help you and your conference attendees be more sustainable.

Since some attendees will attend virtually rather than in person, there are fewer travel emissions and waste from the event.

RELATED: How to Ensure Hybrid Conference Success

3. Choose a venue with sustainability in mind

Choosing the right venue for your conference can be the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful event overall. And by selecting a venue with sustainability in mind early on in your conference organisation schedule, you can make your efforts to be sustainable significantly more manageable in the future.

Start by finding a town or city with sustainable practices in place, e.g., public transport links, recycling programmes, low emission schemes, sustainable energy sources.

RELATED: Sustainability Projects

Locations that already have sustainable practices in place will make it much easier for you and your attendees to take environmentally friendly actions during the event. For example, if there are good public transport systems, you will be less likely to require event-specific shuttles or individual taxi trips to get to and from the venue.

For this reason, you should also try to avoid venues in isolated locations. Not only can this make it more difficult for your attendees to get there, but the additional transport can also contribute to higher carbon emissions.

When researching venues, investigate what energy sources they use, what sustainable practices they already have in place (e.g., the energy rating of their equipment, the use of solar panels), and how you can best use the space to create a sustainable experience for your attendees. E.g., do they have lots of windows to utilise natural light in the venue? Is there a space outside that can be used (in good weather) to reduce how much energy is used for lighting and heating/cooling an indoor space?

Need support sourcing a sustainable venue for your next conference? Get in touch with our team of professional conference organisers.

4. Reduce food waste

Food can account for 20%-60% of total event waste, so you can make a huge difference to the overall sustainability of your conference by simply making changes in this one area. Some ways to reduce food waste at your conference include

  • Getting attendees to pre-order their food during registration
  • Avoiding food & drink that is individually wrapped
  • Prioritising vegetarian and vegan options on the menu (they have fewer emissions than meat)
  • Choosing a caterer that makes use of surplus food via donation, composting, or anaerobic digestion
  • Sourcing ingredients from local providers to reduce travel emissions

5. Ban single-use plastic water bottles

Similarly, to food waste, plastic water bottles can be one of the most significant environmental blows at any conference. Luckily, the fix is relatively simple.

RELATED: Sustainability Projects, Part II

Eliminate the need for plastic water bottles by having plenty of water-refill points located throughout your venue and providing recyclable or re-usable cups for your attendees to use.

Better yet, provide each attendee and guest with a branded water bottle from yourself or a sponsor that they can continue to use in the future.

6. Make smart choices about your conference materials

When choosing the materials, you are going to display in your conference venue, there are some key things you can do to make more sustainable choices, such as:

  • Repurposing materials from other events – you only need to showcase your name and contact details. There is no need for a date once your attendees are already at the event!
  • Source locally – if you need something to be custom made for one conference, try to source it from a local vendor to reduce the cost and emissions of transport.
  • Choose sustainable materials – there is a range of environmentally-friendly materials you can use for conference visuals, including cardboard and green cast acrylics. You can even make simpler swaps, such as using projections rather than custom light signs.

The conference industry will not become sustainable overnight, but by starting now, organisers will begin to see benefits for themselves, their attendees, and the environment even with the smallest changes.

Get in touch with Congrex for support in making your next conference more sustainable.

Congrex Switzerland is an internationally operating agency delivering customised solutions. Annually Congrex Switzerland organises approximately 45 events with over 73’000 delegates. This encompasses the overall organisation of conferences and meetings, including the management of hotel rooms and strategic consultancy. Amongst our clients are international associations, governmental organisations, and corporations.

Request for proposal

Are you ready to take your next conference to the next level?
Request your individual proposal now and let us organise an unforgettable event together.

More news on this topic