So, how exactly do you go green with your marketing? Start out by doing your homework. There are multiple resources available to help you, including the Green Meetings Industry Council, the Convention Industry Council’s Green Meetings Report, and the EPA’s Green Meetings and Events Guide. Analyze your event, consider your strengths, assets, weaknesses, and determine what resources are available within your organization, the meeting venue’s management team and your own event team. Identify who already has the capacity for executing green strategies and engage them in implementing, monitoring and tracking the performance of your sustainability action plans.
When developing your goals, it’s important to set reachable objectives. Prioritize your efforts so that you put the most energy into green practices that are the least disruptive, least controversial and which yield the greatest return on investment. Here are some ideas that I’ve used with my clients to help them go green in their event marketing:
- How far from the airport is the convention center? How far apart are the convention center and your recommended hotels? The closer together, the shorter the ride to the convention center — which typically means a lower carbon footprint.
Another green option includes public transportation like high-speed rail. If public transit is available between the convention center area and the airport or around the city, that helps!
Finally, consider the walkability of the convention center district. How many hotel rooms are located within walking distance (less than 1 mile) of the convention center? What about restaurants? The more accessible the main venue is to attendees on foot, the lower the environmental impacts.
- Design your materials to reduce their environmental impact. At the production process, you can reduce paperweight, size and mailing format. You can even choose fonts that reduce the amount of ink used in printing brochures and flyers. Select graphic designs that use less ink and use white space in place of swaths of color where possible.
- Host your event at an impactful location. Today, many cities and counties have a dedicated event sustainability planning department or a climate action plan — and those things make a big difference. In general, that’s a sign that the community is more aware of their environmental impact. Better yet, the city might be running initiatives that will support your sustainability goals.
- Go with LED lighting for advertising displays, banners, and billboards. LED lights deliver all the lumens you’ll need at a fraction of the power consumption of tungsten or halogen lights. Bonus tip: Be sure to point out the power savings you achieve in your marketing materials for the event. Even consider solar-powered kiosks.
- Print graphics, flyers, handouts and banners on recycled materials. More and more, recycled paper, fiberboard, cardstock, and fabrics are being offered by printers in place of those made with virgin materials, and recycled materials often cost less these days. When using recycled papers, look for brands that list a minimum of 30% post-consumer content that is processed chlorine-free.
- Use digital marketing to replace those traditional ways of advertising. Add a substantial electronic media strategy to your overall marketing efforts. The Internet’s capacity to micro-target customers through websites, mobile apps, email, traditional outbound, and inbound online advertising, blogs, social media, and newsletters dramatically reduces the environmental impact of your marketing campaign and at a fraction of the cost.
- Clean up your mailing lists. Millions of advertisements and direct mailings go out too bad addresses each year. Use available tools provided by software and mailing services to clean up bad addresses, missing fields, incorrect zip codes, retired attendees and those who have moved or switched positions without leaving a forwarding address. Make it as easy as possible for your attendees to opt-out of your traditional mailing list in favor of receiving notices by email. Email is far cheaper and impacts the environment less than traditional letters.
- Remove potential waste from your events. Make it easy for your attendees to go paperless. Send invitations via email or set up digital ticketing — rather than sending paper invitations or tickets. Use an event app to communicate essential info about the event. Put your agenda online or in the app, too!
At the event, don’t hand out plastic water bottles and individually wrapped items to participants. Instead, place glasses and water pitchers in the meeting space.
- Go green in your planning. Do you still use a huge binder to keep track of all the details of an event? Save paper (and time!) by using a technology platform for planning purposes!
Here’s another detail you might not have considered: Do you need to have planning meetings in person? Virtual meetings are a great alternative for people who aren’t in the same place (you save gas too!).
- Lastly, make sure you do the obvious. We couldn’t leave good old fashioned recycling off the list! In the events world, recycling comes in many forms:
- Donate unused materials: Things like vinyl signs and poster boards could be repurposed. Look for organizations like Repurpose America or your local “hard-to-recycle materials” facility.
- Make it easy for attendees to recycle: Place recycling bins next to trash cans so guests can easily deposit recyclables.
- Choose reusables: Stay away from disposables. For instance, insist on reusable flatware and cloth napkins, or collect plastic name badge holders at the end of the event.