Make Your Events More Green (Without Spending It!)

Green, heart-shaped leaves on a vine

So, you’re thinking about greening up your act. 

As an association, you have to consider how your environmental outlook will be viewed by your industry, your members, and non-members alike. While it, of course, looks good for an association to go green, it’s important to recognize that organizations hold the power to make a difference as they hold positions of power and influence in their respective industries. 

Unfortunately, associations also participate in creating an enormous amount of waste–especially during events! According to MeetGreen, a typical three-day event with 1,000 attendees produces an average of more than 5,500 kg of waste. 

For associations looking to make a difference and develop a green initiative that members can get behind, a green-focused venue is a great opportunity. To help you realize this goal, we’ve outlined several ways that you can green up your next venue–without breaking the bank! 

1. Team Green 

When you start developing your venue and considering everyone who will be involved, you should examine the environmental policies of every person and organization attached to the event. Remember, they’ll be representing your association!

You can:

  • Ask them to give some background on any green initiatives or efforts they’re currently running. 
  • Review their policies and look for 3rd party sustainability certifications (such as LEED, APEX/ASTM, or Green Leaders).

Remember, every speaker, vendor, and exhibitor should be accounted for. The more effort you put into the research and planning in the beginning, the more cohesive your event and your message will be in the end!

2. A Healthy Venue 

Just as your association has to select its partners carefully, your venue choice can greatly impact your event’s environmental impact. 

Locating an environmentally friendly venue may be easier than you think. In fact, many venues today will readily offer up that information in advance–especially if it’s a point of pride for them. 

You can also research green venue reports, sustainability indexes, and ask for more information from the venue administrators. Among other things, look into their waste reduction and energy efficiency policies before you make a decision.

While the venue itself plays a massive role, the location of your event is also important to the overall initiative. You’ll want to consider, for example, where attendees will stay and dine while there. 

  • Are there hotels and restaurants close by? 
  • Are they environmentally friendly, or are there greener options available? 

You can also consider setting up a carpool project or providing a shuttle during event hours to cut down on car use and pollution. Every little bit helps!

3. Make it Digital

In most settings, going digital can have a significant impact on green initiatives. Additionally, there are multiple options for going digital–and perhaps just as many benefits! 

Associations may consider developing or using an event app, as well as emailing out presentation notes instead of using paper. Meanwhile, speakers can integrate technology into their presentations as much as possible and/or encourage attendees to connect to the event webpage through their smartphones. 

As for the benefits, incorporating digital options can dramatically cut back on paper and other waste during an event. Cost-wise, digital events can end up saving your association  money in the long term. 

Since event apps and other technology can be used for multiple events, your overall costs can be reduced considerably over time. Adding technology can also add to the experience: event apps are powerful tools for networking and communication, as attendees can chat in a less intimidating environment and even ask questions of speakers, exhibitors, and administrators. Less waste, more value!

4. A Green Theme

Once you’ve established that you’re pushing for a green event, you’ve recruited the best of the best to represent your association, and you’ve found your venue, you can now look at developing a green theme to really make an impression on your guests. 

Discuss your themes with the different speakers and exhibitors. Ask them to incorporate some type of environmental theme into their messaging to develop a more cohesive overall product. 

Just as a rising tide raises all boats, this type of consistency can improve the event’s green goals and improve each individual presentation and product.

5. Food and Drink 

One of the biggest waste producers at any event is the food and drink.

You can cut back on this waste by seeking out recyclable or compostable food and drink containers. Consider meatless menus for less carbon production, bulk condiments for fewer packaging requirements, and organic food options to promote healthier farming and eating practices. 

Another great option to promote sustainability is to buy from local food and drink producers. Buy only what is needed and serve only what will be eaten!

6. Start an Initiative

While cutting back on waste and developing a green theme can go a long way, your association can further enhance its impact by getting everyone involved. 

Leading up to the event, think of ways of generating interest in environmental change. Consider creating a green contest of some sort. Celebrate the winners and their stories during the event. To stir up involvement, offer prizes for winners, such as course or event discounts (or even free admission!). You can extend the initiative after the event as well, encouraging attendees to keep the momentum going. 

If you continue this green initiative, you can even track the event’s results year over year, finding new and better ways to hone your environmental skills. 

You may also like: 5 Benefits to Live Streaming Your Association’s Event


When it comes down to it, adopting eco-friendly practices and implementing green initiatives for events can not only improve the reputation of an association but also create a positive impact on the environment. 

By carefully considering every aspect of the event, from venue selection to waste reduction strategies, associations can pave the way for more sustainable practices within their industries. Engaging all stakeholders–including event partners and attendees!–in the green mission can also amplify your effort and inspire others to follow suit. 

As leaders in their fields, associations can (and should!) embrace sustainability and set an example for members–while maybe even saving some coin in the process!