This article looks into what makes an event a sustainable event. It is based on the analysis of Meegan Jones, who has a great book titled Sustainable Event Management. You can find a picture of the cover below.


Meegan picks out 5 themes that make an event a sustainable event and we will look into them in turn.

1.     Purchasing

Events like other activities consume resources. But the temporary nature of events means that sustainability is often sidelined in favour of other parameters. Lots of important decisions need to be taken in the run up to the event to make it as sustainable as possible.

Where possible all products should be purchased with responsible sourcing schemes. This provides third party assurance of their sustainability credentials.

If possible, all materials should be sourced locally so that the event contributes to the local economy and it cuts down on unnecessary miles being travelled.

2.   Waste Management

The waste generated by events is probably more visible because of large volumes of people in a small area without permanent waste management infrastructure. But those people would have also generated waste if thy were at home and not at any event. That being said, the propensity for people t0 eat out of takeaway packaging means that the per capita waste generation is probably higher for someone who is at an event, rather than in their daily life.

The key for waste management is really communication and making recycling as easy as possible for people at the event. Work also needs to be done to streamline the amount of different types of packaging that vendors bring to the event. As mixed messaging will confuse attendees.

I am a big fan of cup and bottle deposits and you can read more about my thoughts on this topic below. I think it is a good way of incentivising people to recycle and getting them involved in the process.


3.   Energy production

The nature of events means that they are large consumers of energy. However, if procured sustainably this doesn’t have to be bad for the environment.

Making sure that contracts with generator suppliers are structured so as to incentivise sustainability rather than excess would be a start. Also, making every effort to get temporary power supplies to every corner of the site to cut down on generator use to the greatest extent possible would be another bonus for sustainability.

There are also lots of opportunities to use solar powered technology for perimeter fence lighting and for other purposes.

The main energy intake should also be sources from a 100% renewable supply and if this was done it would make a really big difference.

4.   Water management

Depending on the location of the event this could either be an important or extremely important consideration. In arid regions water scarcity could threaten the viability of an event.

Water conservation is therefore key. This can be done through water saving devices and other measures. Capturing grey water is also very important.

As with everything else, communication is key. If people are unaware water is scares, they are more likely to use it wastefully.

5.    Transport

Transport is a very visible sign of unsustainability at events. Rows and rows of cars parked in enormous car parks demonstrate that the vast majority of people did not come by public transport. Research shows that transport is often the largest contributor to carbon emissions for live events.

The main options for making the events transport more sustainable are encouraging public transport, walking or cycling, or incentivising cars with high occupancy rates.

As with most aspects of sustainability, these won’t happen by default. Large events can put on specialist busses from destinations to the event. There may even be scope for chartering trains from large urban areas to the event. Where this is possible it should definitely be explored.

Overall, all events need to come up with initiatives to make the most sustainable transport options the easiest and cheapest.

What you need to know

This article looked into what makes an event a sustainable event. It was based on the analysis of Meegan Jones, who has a great book titled Sustainable Event Management.

Overall, the sustainability challenges at events are not so different from the sustainability challenges elsewhere.

The temporary nature of events means that people will likely only have one chance to prepare for it each year and it means that there are fewer learning opportunities for everyone.

I would say that the overall trend for sustainability at events is positive, but there is a lot more work still to be done.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think makes an event a sustainable event?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s