Sustainable Events: Top Tips & Ideas to Increase Sustainability at Events

The Elephant in the Room… Sustainable Events

Did you know? The typical conference attendee produces more than four pounds of waste and nearly 400 pounds of CO2 emissions a day. For a 1000-person, 3-day event, that translates into 1.2 million pounds of CO2 equivalents and 12,500 pounds of waste—the same weight as an African elephant.

an African elephant
Image by Wolfgang_Hasselmann from Pixabay

The global business events industry is valued at $1.6 trillion USD and garners over 1.6 billion participants annually—these numbers are huge, but what is even more mind-boggling is the amount of CO2 and waste that is produced industry-wide. The impact events have on the planet is profound, and so is our responsibility to make meaningful change. 

Making the Business Case for Sustainable Events

Event sustainability is certainly a hot topic but has been the elephant in the room for years. It is a very broad issue and can be challenging for some to address. Historically, the greatest barriers to implementing sustainable practices have been lack of funding, difficulty in measuring, and metathesiophobia (fear of change).

Fortunately, decision-makers are starting to realize that it doesn’t need to cost a fortune—and may even save money to employ sustainability measures. Metrics are still a work in progress, but more and more venues are onboarding new measurement tools, and many event professionals, including Castle, can provide you with a report outlining your sustainability initiatives, including waste and emissions estimates.

Stakeholders are looking for more detailed reporting to validate their efforts. Your event management team can also help you source an ESG reporting service. Given the amount of space sustainability is taking up in the headlines, fear of change will likely turn to fear of missing out, so the business case for event sustainability is building daily. If you still need a nudge, consider all the benefits of hosting sustainable events. 

Benefits of Hosting Sustainable Events


Sustainable events minimize their impact on the environment by reducing waste, conserving resources, and lowering carbon emissions. 

Positive Image

Green events showcase your commitment to environmental and social responsibility. This can enhance your brand image and help build a deeper relationship with your attendees and stakeholders who share the same values.

Cost Savings

Sustainable practices often lead to cost savings in the long run. Responsible sourcing, efficient use of resources, and leveraging new technologies can help reduce costs and eliminate unnecessary waste.

Innovation and Creativity

It takes innovative thinking and creativity to find new ways to achieve your goals while minimizing negative environmental impacts. Sustainable events can spark innovation, new event practices, and creative solutions.

Stakeholder Satisfaction

Hosting sustainable events can enhance engagement and satisfaction levels among various stakeholders. Attendees appreciate being part of environmentally responsible events, sponsors and partners value their association with sustainable initiatives, and employees feel proud to contribute to a greater cause. 


Many regions have regulations and policies in place to encourage or mandate sustainable practices. Sustainable events can reduce corporate risk by protecting reputations and staying in compliance with standards and laws.

Long-Term Impact

Sustainable events leave a positive legacy by influencing attendees and inspiring long-term behavioral changes. The impact of hosting sustainable events extends beyond the event itself, creating a ripple effect of positive change, which includes brand trust and loyalty.

As an event agency, we are tasked with helping our clients understand the impact of their events, arming them with information about sustainable practices, and helping to support implementation. Castle is committed to being socially and environmentally responsible and to promoting sustainable event ideas that help our clients make a positive impact.

While there are several initiatives we recommend, the top piece of advice we give all our clients is to start small and have a continuous improvement mindset. Even (seemingly) trivial adjustments add up to real change in this industry. 

5 sustainable event ideas 

Here are five simple things you can do now to improve sustainability at your events.

Green Event Idea #1: Choose Wisely

It’s all about sourcing. Include your requirements for event sustainability in all RFPs and pick partners that align with your goals. Their sustainability practices will incrementally improve yours. 

Green Event Idea #2: Ditch the Swag

How many conference bags can one person really have? Eliminating swag bags for a 500-person conference allowed a Castle client to sponsor an initiative that built 1500 hygiene kits for local shelters and spared nearly 2,500 pounds of potential waste. 

Green Event Idea #3: Meatless Monday

Serving vegetarian menus for one day at your event will dramatically decrease greenhouse gases and excessive water usage. Plant-based meals emit 30-90% less carbon and cost up to 40% less than meals featuring meat or seafood. 

variety of salads on a buffet, suggested as a green event idea to reduce meat consumption
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Green Event Idea #4: Bye-Bye Bottles 

Using water filling stations and water glasses (or reusable bottles) will save an average of two plastic bottles and $10 per event attendee per day. For a five-day, 1000-person conference, you could save 10,000 water bottles and $50,000.

Green Event Idea #5: Go Digital

Chances are you already have an event website—but are you leveraging its full potential? By hosting promotional materials online, the average industry tradeshow could save $500,000 in print costs and keep 72 trees alive.

Event manager scrolls through event app on an ipad
© The Castle Group, Inc.

Want more green event ideas?

Castle’s team of event management professionals can provide sustainable event ideas and guidance on your strategy. Check out our Event Sustainability page for information on how Castle can support your event sustainability goals. 

The Castle Group, Senior Vice President, Events, Danielle Dickinson
Written By: Danielle Dickinson


Outdoors of the Castle Group office