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Tips for Greening your Events

Published Mar 20th 2008, 3:39pm by Patty Streeter in Featured Articles

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Have you noticed how much trash is usually generated after a party and thought about how it sullied an otherwise wonderful atmosphere? Ballparks, night clubs, birthday party, even sometimes, green events, can create tremendous amount of waste, pollution, and emission from all those things we toss away, all those miles we commute to get to them. If your family or your company is hosting a green event, make sure it is backed up by equally responsible eco-actions. Otherwise it could appear hypocritical (walk the talk), and could contribute to an image problem. Studies have shown that there is a backlash building with green washing and you don't want to be the target of a backlash. Events with eco-friendly footprint also tend to generate a feel-good atmosphere for guests, since we all like to know that we are doing our part in being eco-responsible.

The recent "Chevy Rocks the Future" event in Los Angeles, which brought together hundreds of schoolchildren, celebrities, and Chevy green vehicles, is an example of how to green your events. The bash was designed with the environment in mind. Most items associated with the event are either organic, made of sustainable materials, recyclable or biodegradable materials.

For example:

  • The invitation was a mouse pad made from 100-percent recycled tires, and the information printed on recycled paper with soy ink. The invitation has been inserted into the mouse pad; when removed, guests can replace it with a photo they will receive at the event.
  • The traditional red carpet has gone green, manufactured from recycled materials and lined with a hedge row that will contain the step-and-repeat on recycled paper. Chevy’s fuel-efficient vehicles will be on the green carpet.
  • Food and food service items were environmentally friendly. In a normal landfill, food service items will bio-degrade in about a year.
  • Forks, knives and spoons are made primarily from 80 percent potato starch or cornstarch and 20 percent soy or other vegetable oil.
  • The cold cups at the bars are made of corn, which use up to 50 percent fewer fossil fuel resources in their manufacture than conventional plastic cups.
  • Paper plates and bowls are made of the pulpy byproduct of the extraction of sugar from sugar cane. The plastic-like plates and bowls are made of corn, wheat or rice.
  • The menu features organic and locally grown ingredients. Leftover food goes to Angel Harvest, a local agency providing emergency food for those in need.
  • Guests received a bag of environmentally friendly gifts:
  • The bag itself is a woven cotton tote – perfect for grocery items, carrying books or after-school practices.
  • Gifts included American Apparel’s Sustainable Edition of T-shirts made from 100-percent USDA-certified organic cotton, reusable aluminum water bottles and organic snacks such as granola bars and fruit roll-ups.

This is a very extensive list that covers many aspects of being eco-friendly. Being green is really using your common sense. It takes some research for alternative vendors but you would need to do it only once if the information is properly retained. More and more sustainable products are coming on the market that makes it easier. However, here are some tips on how to prevent your eco-friendly efforts from going to waste.

  • Don't overuse the color green in your marketing, especially on your key product or your logo. It is too tacky and sends a message of "green washing". If you have a truly sustainable product or service, do not cheapen it with inappropriate imagery. I don't know about you, but I get a bad reaction whenever I see companies simply slapping the color green on their adverts. My gut reaction is that it actually makes me not want to buy their products because it must be more spin than substance!
  • Make the goodies you give away be truly essential items that don't add to the landfill. Here's an interesting blog about an airline green giftaway program that backfired when the International Herald Tribune writer did an analysis on its impact.
  • Provide recycling AND compost bins. Cans, bottles, and paper should go into clearly labeled recycling bins. Bio-degradable utensils (e.g. potato starch materials), food scrap (no meat) are compostable and can be returned to the biological cycle as soil. These should go into the compost bin. Even though they decompose much faster in a landfill, they still take up space and remain trash. Better still, use reusable utensils and plates.Compost2
  • Reduce packaging: avoid wrappers if possible.
  • Reduce paper trail: use email for invite. Evite.com is a great website that sends out beautiful electronic invitations while allowing you to keep track of RSVP.
  • Consider requesting that guests not bring gifts, but indeed donate the amount to charity, or bring cash instead.
  • Buy carbon offset for the mileage traveled (by guests and for event logistics)

Have fun planning your next bash! If you have more tips, we'd love to hear from you.

Extrazoom Marn-Yee Lee
Contributing Editor
AskPatty.com

Marn-Yee Lee is pursuing an MBA in Sustainability at the Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. After spending a decade in I.T. and on Wall Street, she is now pursuing her passion for the environment. She sees business as a partner for creating innovative solutions to pressing environmental issues. In her spare time, she writes a blog to inspire others to consider the impact of their daily lives on the environment at busythinking.blogspot.com.

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