Delivering sustainable events and exhibitions in 2024 

Caitlin Ryan
Caitlin Ryan
Group of event planners organizing a sustainable event and exhibition
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    In an era where environmental consciousness is more critical than ever, the exhibitions and events industry has a unique opportunity to lead by example. Global Exhibition Day 2024 embraces this with its theme, “Exhibitions are catalysts to sustainable futures,” highlighting the potential of exhibitions to drive positive environmental change.  

    Event stakeholders, from attendees to sponsors, have become more environmentally conscious so the demand for sustainable practices in events has surged. As we explore the intersection of sustainability and events, it becomes evident that the industry is not just an observer but an active participant in shaping a greener future.  

    Here’s a look at how sustainability is redefining the events and exhibitions industry.  

    The importance of sustainability in events and exhibitions 

    From endless printed handouts and swathes of signage to barrels of bottled water and mountains of food, organizing events historically hasn’t aligned well with sustainability. And, beyond the tangibles, traditional events also include extensive travel and high-energy consumption, resulting in substantial environmental footprints.  

    Now, sustainability is no longer just a buzzword; it is a necessity. And, thankfully, the events industry is moving towards greener alternatives, driven by the need to reduce its environmental footprint and contribute positively to global sustainability goals.  

    This approach involves implementing practices that reduce waste, conserve resources, and promote social responsibility. The goal is not just to mitigate harm but to create a net positive effect on the environment and surrounding communities.  

    Sustainability is also a defining factor for certain audiences.  With rising attendee expectations, any events or exhibitions that overcome sustainability challenges stand out in a crowded landscape. This not only appeals to eco-conscious attendees but enhances an event’s quality, value, and reputation. 

    The future of sustainable events and exhibitions 

    As we look to the future, the trend towards sustainability in the exhibitions and events industry is set to grow. The event planners have the unique opportunity to lead by example, demonstrating how events can be conducted sustainably without compromising on impact or experience. 

    Collaboration and innovation 

    Achieving sustainability goals requires collaboration across the industry. Organizers, venues, exhibitors, and attendees must work together in harmony to adopt and promote sustainable practices.  

    Collaboration with suppliers who prioritize sustainability is essential. This includes working with caterers who use locally sourced and organic ingredients, choosing eco-friendly décor providers, or selecting transportation providers with low-emission vehicles. 

    The Greenbuild International Conference and Exhibition provides a perfect example of collaborating with the local community via their Greenbuild Legacy Project – a yearly project initiative that leaves a lasting, positive impact on each host city.   

    Educating and engaging attendees 

    One of the most powerful aspects of sustainable events is their potential to educate and inspire attendees. Sustainable events not only practice green initiatives but also engage attendees on the importance of sustainability.  

    By raising awareness and encouraging responsible behavior, events can amplify their impact beyond the event itself, fostering a culture of sustainability. Workshops, panel discussions, and keynote speeches that draw attention to sustainability can provide valuable insights. This may motivate attendees to further adopt greener practices throughout the event and in their own lives.  

    Incentivizing green behavior 

    Encouraging attendees to participate in sustainability initiatives can enhance the overall impact of an event. They can also ensure your creative ideas aren’t put to waste (pardon the pun). This might include offering discounts for using public transportation, providing reusable water bottles, or organizing competitions that reward sustainable actions.  

    With a robust gamification system in place, higher points and lucrative prizes can be awarded to attendees who embrace sustainable activities. SXSW 2024, for instance, have implemented various green initiatives, such as bike-sharing programs and incentives for carpooling, to reduce their environmental footprint.  

    The role of technology in sustainable event planning 

    Technology plays a pivotal role in making exhibitions more sustainable. The availability of digital solutions and virtual offerings provides event planners with a powerful (and easy) way to instantly reduce their environmental footprint.  

    From mobile apps that provide digital guides and schedules to truly immersive virtual and hybrid events that reduce the need for physical travel, technology can significantly cut down resource use and waste. Here are a few great examples.  

    Event management software 

    Utilizing event management software can streamline operations and reduce resource consumption. These platforms help manage registrations, communications, and logistics efficiently, reducing the need for physical resources.  

    Recently, TCS Summit Europe drastically reduced paper waste by only printing name badges on arrival. By utilizing EventsAir’s real-time check-in functionality, they could also ensure every badge had the most up-to-date and correct information prior to printing.  

    Virtual and hybrid events 

    The rise of virtual and hybrid events has been a game-changer for sustainability. By allowing remote participation, these formats drastically reduce the carbon footprint associated with travel. They also enable a much wider audience to participate, vastly increasing accessibility and inclusivity.  

    EventsAir’s annual customer conference, AirTime, provides in-person and virtual options for attendees. With such a widespread customer base, this ensures that all audiences can be involved – and their experience is optimized, no matter their chosen format.  

    What’s next for sustainable event planning?  

    The path towards sustainable event planning is one of creativity and conscientiousness. It is no surprise that event planners will not only need to actively implement current sustainable practices but innovate new, inspiring solutions (hello AI).  

    In essence, the future of sustainable event planning is bright and dynamic. It promises to reduce the environmental impact of events and inspire and lead other industries towards more sustainable practices.  

    With EventsAir, you can manage every aspect of your event digitally while ensuring a seamless and efficient event experience. Schedule a demo with one of our team members today. 

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