An event greening case study: Meetings Africa 2018

The Meetings Africa 2018 Sustainability Village.

An introduction to event greening: Part 4 of a 4 part series by the Event Greening Forum. If you’ve missed the previous articles, you can find them here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3
The best way to understand event greening is to see it in action. Therefore part 4 of this series is a case study of Meetings Africa 2018, South African Tourism’s (SA Tourism) annual business tourism show. Meetings Africa has implemented event greening since 2011 with the support of the Event Greening Forum (EGF). Here’s an outline of what it achieved this year, and how.
Transport: Meetings Africa is an international event, and cannot avoid the long-haul flights needed for many delegates to attend it. The organisers minimise this impact in the following ways: booking direct flights; choosing to host the event at the Sandton Convention Centre so delegates flying in can catch the Gautrain from the airport to the venue, and can stay at hotels within walking distance to the venue; and arranging shuttles for offsite events.
Eco-procurement: SA Tourism’s procurement policy gives preference to local black-owned SMEs, where possible. For example:
  • For the past six years, Future Link (a black female owned SME) has handled the onsite cleaning and waste management for the show. The organisers have supported them with event greening training and resources, to ensure their success in this role.
  • For the past two years, the Soweto Sewing Company (also a black female owned SME) has manufactured the Meetings Africa staff uniforms.
  • This year, the organisers contracted a new security company, SGS Solutions, for the event.
  • The Skills Village is a co-operative that teaches young people practical skills. They manufactured wooden certificate frames from upcycled wood for the various show awards.
Energy: The organisers purchased eight Renewable Energy Certificates (8 000 Kilowatt hours) to power the event. This amount was based on last year’s energy use, and included a little extra to cover all set-ups and side activities.
Exhibitors were also encouraged to buy ‘mini’ Renewable Energy Certificates for a small fee of R30 each. This was to motivate greater buy-in and create more awareness around the initiative.
Water: It takes roughly three bottles of water to produce an equivalent single bottle of water for the supermarket shelves (while also requiring energy for manufacture and transportation for distribution, both of which have an associated carbon footprint).
To promote more responsible water use, water coolers filled with free, clean tap water were available throughout the venue. Bottled water was still on sale, but with a R10 surcharge. The money raised from the surcharge was donated to a co-operative farming project in the Western Cape, to help them manage the water shortages they were facing at the time.
Waste: Paperless contracting was used to manage the registration process for exhibitors and visitors, reducing the amount of printing needed. During the show, bins were provided to separate landfill waste, recyclables and organic waste at source. The organic waste was composted. This set-up allowed for 62% of the event’s waste to be diverted from landfill.
Exhibition: The organisers encouraged all exhibitors to create eco-friendly stands. To help them do this, SA Tourism sponsored free event greening training sessions in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, which the EGF conducted. Those exhibitors who excelled in this regard were recognised with Green Stand Awards.
Social upliftment: For the second year running, responsible gifting became a fun activity at Meetings Africa. A Sustainability Village showcased artisans and their beautiful handcrafted goods. Instead of gifts, gift cards allowed recipients to choose their own special take home souvenirs. This avoids the risk of unwanted gifts. Aside from direct sales, the artisans also benefited from the opportunity to market themselves to an international audience.
Communication: Meetings Africa consistently communicated its event greening efforts to its stakeholders, attendees and the media. This helped to raise awareness about sustainable issues, and get everyone’s support for these activities.
An independent sustainability consultant, Steadfast Greening, carried out an eco-audit of the event. This measured how successful its event greening efforts were. Heritage Eco Events then used the audit to assess and certify Meetings Africa 2018 as a Green Event. It scored 84.6%, with the ‘pass’ for a green event being 75%.
Positive legacy: The event organisers and some exhibitors and suppliers purchased a total of 61 trees, as a partial carbon offset for Meetings Africa 2018. Food & Trees for Africa planted the trees in Johannesburg, and will provide ongoing support to the recipients to make sure the trees thrive and give authentic long-term benefits.

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