Why Event Sustainability Matters

The event industry over recent years has as made considerable effort to provide guidance and education to its members on creating events that have minimal impact on the environment.

And the need for this focus is apparent when we consider past practice by global event organisers, exhibitors, venues and attendees:

  • A report ‘The Show Must Go On’, based on 279 UK summer festivals estimated 3.17 million people attended UK music festivals every year creating 23,500 tonnes of waste.

  • In 2017, Glastonbury hosted just over 200,000 people, with many of the festival-goers leaving behind mountains of waste. The clean-up cost came to a staggering £785,000, lasting a grand total of six weeks, with more than 1,000 cleaning volunteers chipping in.

  • Looking back only 20 years, The Sustainable Exhibitions Industry Project found there was little pressure to reduce waste: only 13% of respondents had taken steps towards waste minimisation; most respondents did not believe waste to be an issue; 95% of venues were not asked by organisers about waste disposal schemes; 94% of organisers said that there was no encouragement by venues to reduce their waste and 92% said that exhibitors did not check the contractor’s waste disposal arrangements.

  • Travel to international conferences in particular carries a significant carbon footprint dependent on the location of attendees; if they travel by car or fly across countries.

We are all aware of the tremendous damage that we as a general population have inflicted on our planet. Global Earth Day is one of many initiatives that have been created to bring our attention to what we can do to support our environment.

For those of us who love both the event industry and the planet, there are many specific challenges that we come across while delivering events. Just a few examples include waste water and solid waste treatment and management, air pollution, paper and packaging waste, damage to fields and nature (e.g. from outdoor festivals), non-recyclable materials used for exhibition stands, single use marketing materials including give-aways, single use plastics, travel and transport to and from events, waste from temporary structures. The list goes on....

Encouraging moves forward have been made by the events and tourism industry to stop or at least minimise negative environmental impact including: