Whether you’re the client behind the event RFP, the planners developing its vision and strategy, or the vendors delivering the logistics and details, the priority for every member of this industry is to ramp up environmental TLC practices 100%+ ASAP.
Here are a few areas for proactive, and daily, eco-consciousness, along with ideas and sources for making it happen:
Where you host is the foundation of all that follows. Staging in a LEED certified building signals a venue’s commitment to facilitating end-to-end green events. There are many Toronto venues not formally recognized, though, that are proactively working to reduce their carbon footprint. Ask all potential event sites about policies for energy efficiency, recycling, and waste minimization.
- Super-sized Sustainability – The Metro Toronto Convention Centre is an award-winning leader in building and event sustainability. Other conference-size heavy-hitters include The International Centre, Enercare Centre, the Beanfield Centre, and the Toronto Congress Centre.
- Good Moves – From green roofs and energy-efficient lighting, heating and water systems to low-waste recycling processes, earth-friendly building materials, décor and other features, here are a few more of Toronto’s venue eco champions: Artscape Wychwood Barns, Evergreen Brick Works, Fairmont Royal York, Gladstone Hotel, Kortight Centre for Conservation, Steam Whistle Brewing, The Richmond, and Toronto Botanical Gardens.
Dish Up Healthy
Event food and hospitality is ripe with environment-friendly opportunity. Capitalize on the popularity of plant-based eating, ban single-use plastics, offer refillable water stations, ensure proper compost, recyclables, and trash stations are on-site and visible. If not using china, then use only biodegradable, compostable dishware. Here are a few other earth-saving sources:
- Green Chefs – Most caterers and restaurants now have robust green initiatives in place, from using sustainable-certified, seasonal, local products and ingredients to service, waste and recycling policies. Several introduced pro-environment business models long ago, including Jayne’s Gourmet, L’eat Catering, Café Belong, and Hearty Catering. Make environmental policies one of your first points of inquiry.
- Request Local – Not only does locally sourced and produced food and drink require a smaller carbon footprint to transport, but it supports community farmers, food artisans, and beverage producers. Check out the network of 100km Foods Inc. for sourcing ideas, or stock the bar with local sips like Niagara’s Tawse Winery, and Toronto’s Spirit of York vodka.
- Donate Food – Don’t trash perfectly good leftovers, share them with those living with food insecurities. Register events, catering kitchens and restaurants with volunteer-driven LiftOvers, a new initiative that will pick up extra food and deliver it where it can be used. Feed It Forward, founded by local chef Jagger Gordon, will also take excess food-safety approved meals and ingredients, to re-purpose, re-use and distribute to those who need it. Several local restaurants also partner with Mealshare’s buy-a-meal, share-a-meal program.
Designing events on-theme often requires a lot of stuff. Be conscious of being one-purpose wasteful. Minimalism, lighting, projection mapping, rentals, and upcycling. Yes please! LED lighting and video panels have been game changers in reducing the use and cost of power in staging live events.
- Hats Off To A-V Pals – Today’s audio-visual pros, like Pure Audio Visual, AV-Canada, and Toronto Audio Visual Rentals have the ability to instantly costume-change a room with visually stunning, immersive images, light, colour, and sound, with nary the need for props.
- Rent – Furnishings and tableware rentals are an obvious eco-friendly option, especially with great sources such as Chair-man Mills, Higgins Event Rentals, and Table Tales. But what about that one, unique piece? Before commissioning a one-off check out the rental inventory at places like Custom Engineered Arts, Imagine it, and The Prop Room.
- Be Thrifty – Scour places like Value Village, Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and other second-hand shops for décor pieces that can be paid forward through post-use re-donation.
Along with catering, flowers and centrepieces present lots of eco-friendly possibilities and post-event recycling opportunities. Team up with floral pros who opt for local, seasonally inspired blooms, fruit, vegetables and foraged finds. Keep waste and budgets in check by doubling down on floral installs by repurposing them from one function room to another.
- Living Greenery – Potted foliage – leafy palms, ferns, bird of paradise, boxwood, etc., – purify the air, is a proven sound buffer, adds presence to a room, and can be reused or rented from places like Amherst Greenhouses, and Valleyview Gardens.
- Fake It – Before you say no to faux, check out how far imitation greenery, paper, silk and dried accents have come. Check out inventory at Flower Walls Canada, Landscape Sculptures, Filmgreens Toronto, and the Paper Flower House .
- Pay It Forward – Give a call to Rebloom or The Violet Heart Project. Both organizations collect event florals, repurpose, drop off to retirement homes, hospitals, hospices, etc., and re-collect for proper composting. Or gift centrepieces to guests via a fundraising auction or competition.
Down With Paper
CityScape Displays that use recyclable materials and offer a sustainable post-event waste solution.Don’t be a paper waster! Make every effort to reduce its use with online tools to blueprint all aspects and processes of an event. Or work with companies like
- Go Digital – Not every event has the budget for proprietary digital signage, so definitely look into options the venue may have available. Or explore companies like Big Digital that rent custom-programmable touch-screen wayfinding kiosks, information screens, etc.
- E-registration and e-ticketing – Eliminating the need for in-person sign up and ticket printing maximizes a huge reduction in paper wastage, plus it encourages earlier registration and saves guests the hassle of standing in line. There are many e-systems available, including Attendease, and Eventbrite.
- Get The App – Every attendee expects event information to be accessible from their devices. Tech whizzes like TheAppLabb help create content, upload everything from program details, materials, hand-outs and help maximize guest engagement by pushing real-time updates, alerts, gamification, etc.
Say thanks for attending with meaningful, eco-friendly takeaways that guests will actually want to use day in and day out, while saving the planet at the same time. Quality refillable water bottles and coffee containers, and stylish, sustainably made bags destined for a lifetime of shopping errands are obvious choices. Here are a few more nifty ideas:
- Plant Love – Everyone appreciates adding a touch of natural splendour to their home and work space, so consider a cute potted succulent, a terrarium, or other thoughtfully styled plant gift from the creative team at Crown Flora Studio. Or encourage DYI green thumbs to feed Mother Earth and the bees with wildflower seeds to plant.
- Handy Kitchen Hacks – Help eliminate plastic household waste with sustainable storage wrap options from Earthology, and BeeBAGZ, which donates a percentage of its profits to several environmental protection organizations including the David Suzuki Foundation. A set of bamboo cutlery from Boho & Hobo in a washable storage pouch adds dining panache to take-to-work food.
- Skip Gifts – Donate that part of the budget, or a percentage of proceeds, to a local environmental initiative, charity or cause instead. Share details with guests in an educational, empowering, take-action-now message.