What does ‘going green’ mean?

An introduction to event greening: Part 1 of a 4 part series by the Event Greening Forum (EGF).
‘Green’ has become a blanket term for anything that has environmentally friendly features. It’s quite broad and vague, so it’s always good practice to ask what an organisation means when they claim to be green or are going green. Most likely you’ll find a huge amount of variation in the answers you receive, which is why the green space can be confusing. So part 1 of this series is all about unpacking what going green means, specifically in the context of events.
Event greening 101
If you are trying to green your events, you are practicing ‘event greening’ – which is also known as sustainable event management.
Event greening, when done properly, should run through all aspects of event management, from the planning, organisation and implementation of, and participation in, an event. This means event greening starts in your office, and is not restricted to what happens at the event.
There is a lot of scope in how you can decide to green your event, limited only by your imagination. (This is why some form of event greening can be done for any type or event, regardless of size, location, industry or budget.) However, the motivation behind all event greening decisions should always be the same: to make responsible decisions that promote positive outcomes and minimise negative ones across three broad categories, which are people, planet and prosperity.
People (social development): What social impact will your event have on the local host community? Bearing in mind that your event will inevitably have an impact (perhaps more traffic congestion, or more employment opportunities), you want to make sure these are largely positive impacts.
Good practices here include buying locally produced goods and services for fair prices, and ensuring your event is respectful of local customs and traditions. You could also have a legacy project that improves people’s lives in some way.
Planet (environmental protection): Minimising harm done to the environment is perhaps the most commonly understood aspect of greening. This means conserving the local biodiversity and habitat, improving resource efficiency (such as minimising water use, energy use and the amount of waste produced), and trying to decrease your event’s carbon footprint. Some events also aim to be carbon neutral by offsetting their carbon footprint, after trying to reduce it as much as possible.
Keep in mind that your environmental impact isn’t only about what you are doing, but also about what your suppliers and service providers are doing further down the supply chain. You can have a greater positive impact by choosing to work with more environmentally savvy companies, a strategy known as eco-procurement. A useful tool for eco-procurement is the online event greening directory: www.greendatabase.co.za
Prosperity (economic value): Very obviously, events must be economically profitable to guarantee long-term viability. Event greening must be done with the event’s success in mind, and by sticking to the event budget. This is definitely do-able. While some event greening options are costly, many are not, and others offer cost savings. Also keep in mind that the host region should also benefit financially from your event. This will also help ensure its longevity.
A fine balance
As you’ve probably realised, these three categories don’t operate in isolation, but overlap and influence each other. For example, if you reduce your water use (planet), you should reduce your costs (prosperity), and at the same time limit any excess pressure you are putting on the local community’s water supply (people). This means all actions need to be considered in the broader context.
Keep in mind that event greening is a verb, as it’s an ongoing process that can always be refined and improved upon. In a nutshell – event greening is a journey, not a destination.
Don’t forget to look out for part 2 of this series in the next issue, which will look at why it is a good idea to implement event greening. Part 3 will offer guidance on how to get started, and part 4 will be a case study to illustrate event greening in context.
Want to know more?
If you would like to know more about event greening, look at our free resources, sign up to the monthly newsletter, or contact us directly with any queries on info@eventgreening.co.za.


A note on greenwashing

Greenwashing is a term used to describe false or misleading claims about how green something is. This is why it is a good habit to always ask questions before making a purchasing decision – why is something labelled “eco” or “green”? Is the green leaf on the label indicative of something meaningful, and if so what?

Keep in mind that calling your event a “green event” during the planning process is also greenwashing. Why? Because you won’t yet be able to confirm that your event is green. You can only confirm this after the event has happened, and you have measured its impact and the success of your event greening efforts.

One way to safely avoid greenwashing when purchasing products or services is to look out for authentic certification labels, such as WWF-SA Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI), EcoStandard, Energy Star, Fairtrade, Fair Trade in Tourism (FTT), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Heritage SA and Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI). These give the reassurance that something has been thoroughly checked and vetted, and conforms to the high standard of the certification label.

The EGF is currently busy developing criteria for certification of green events, so look out for this in the near future.


Photo courtesy of Nick de Partee via Unsplash.com

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