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University of London Venues

How to run more sustainable events


As UK businesses become more eco-conscious, the interest in green and sustainable events is steadily increasing. Public consciousness is growing, and businesses are starting to recognise that accountability and positive decisions around CSR (corporate social responsibility) are more important than ever.

Wind turbine for sustainable energy

In recent years mainstream events have made big changes to reflect this. Both Glastonbury festival and Shambala festival have made public efforts to be as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible, along with the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

So, if “event greening” has become a bigger priority for your business, this article will outline everything you need to know to start making your events more sustainable. Read on to learn about:

  • The common environmental impacts of events 
  • What defines a “green” event
  • What you can do to plan more sustainable events
  • How University of London Venues can help you run a sustainable event in London 

The environmental impact of events

There's no doubt that events can be incredibly positive. They can be hugely beneficial to local economies and they do wonders when it comes to increasing social interaction. However, from an environmental point of view, events can be problematic. 

That's because bringing lots of people to a small space during a short period of time naturally causes a rise in the use of transport, disposable products and energy, along with a spike in food and drink consumption.

In fact, a single event can create thousands of tonnes of waste, use huge amounts of energy, and prompt an increase in Co2 emissions.

Let’s look at some of the most common environmental impacts of events.

Events generate lots of waste

A key issue with any type of event is the amount of waste they generate. According to this infographic by MeetGreen, a three day event of 1000 attendees can generate a total of up to 5670kg of waste, of which 3480kg goes directly to landfill.

birds eye view of landfill

Events require high amounts of energy to run

Events of any size will cause a surge in energy use. That’s because things like extra lighting, heating, and chargeable hardware will require significantly more electricity than normal. 

 When it comes to quantifying the amount of energy needed (and talking specifically in terms of oil) MeetGreen’s infographic shows how a three day event of 1000 attendees would need up to 530 metric tonnes of oil to fuel the entire event - that’s equivalent to more or less 449 barrels of oil. For context, the average American will use 2 barrels every month. (although it’s likely to be less per person in the United Kingdom).  

Events generate high C02 emissions

High energy requirements result in high carbon outputs. This means most events have very high C02 emissions.

The main contributors to high energy consumption are: 

  • Travel to the event (car/train/air)
  • Meals and drinks (sourcing, transporting and preparing)
  • General Energy consumption (energy needed to run the venue, energy used by guests in hotels etc)
  • Freight travel (Anything that might need to be delivered for the event)

What are green events? 

Green and sustainable events are events that aim to counteract or minimise the environmental impact they have on the planet. The process is often called “event greening.”

They’re planned in a way that deliberately reduces the amount of energy, waste and carbon emissions that an event would normally produce. Sustainable event organisers will consciously and proactively plan events that have little or no negative impact on the planet. 

How this is done will depend a lot on the type of event you’re running. However, a general list of green event ideas include:

  • Being carbon neutral or carbon aware
  • Having a zero or low waste policy
  • Providing fair trade or organic food
  • Using sustainable energy to run the event where possible
  • Providing local produce/food
veg on market stall

Event Greening: How to make your event more sustainable: 

When it comes to planning a sustainable event, there are many things you need to consider ahead of time. Upfront and conscious organisation is the key when it comes to making sure your event is as green and sustainable as possible.

Sustainability has been at the forefront of event planners’ priorities for a while, but in 2020 it’s become crucial for event attendees too, when considering which events to go to.

At University of London Venues, the top 5 ways we tackle sustainability at our events includes encouraging our event bookers to use e-tickets, use biodegradable items, encouraging the use of public transport as well as offering vegan or vegetarian food and ensuring that our event suppliers recycle as much as possible too.

In this section, we’ll outline what you can do, and how you can do it to minimise the environmental damage of your event.

Make your event carbon neutral 

 Making your event carbon neutral is easier than you might think. To start with, you can us this event CO2 calculator to calculate how much C02 your event is likely to produce. 

 Once you have an idea of the amount of C02 your event is set to produce, you can work on ways to reduce this further. You can do this by: 

  • Only inviting local guests 
  • Offering international guests the option to join the event remotely to avoid air travel 
  • Insisting on the use of bikes or public transport to attend the event instead of cars/taxis.
  • Sourcing local food and drink
  • Serving vegetarian food 
  • Using local services 
  • Hosting the event during the day in naturally lit spaces

Offsetting your event’s carbon footprint 

After making some of the above changes, you can also choose to offset your remaining carbon emissions.    

C02 offsetting is the process of financially supporting projects around the world that work to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. 

Offset schemes vary widely in terms of cost, however you can expect to pay around £8 for each tonne of CO2 your event produces. You can use this resource to see which projects you can donate to.

footprint in sand with surf

Implement a zero or low waste policy

Reducing waste at events can be done effectively with careful planning.

How to reduce waste at events:

  • Don’t include swag bags with unnecessary gifts that are likely to be used once, or thrown away. 
  • Use digital meeting agendas and avoid printing resources
  • Place recycling facilities throughout your event and be militant in how these are processed
  • Forbid the use of single use plastics from entering or being used at the event
  • Serve food that can be donated instead of thrown away if not all consumed
  • Make sure food is served in compostable materials

Serve locally sourced, organic and fair trade food

By serving locally sourced food at your event you can reduce its C02 emissions. That’s because it will use less carbon used to transport the food than food sourced from afar.  

In addition, choosing to serve organic food reduces your event’s association with the use of toxic chemicals that can damage the environment. 

Lastly, from a humanitarian point of view, ensure that the people who have produced the food have been well treated, and buy fair trade where possible.

Use sustainable energy to run your event where possible

While this may not be a possibility for indoor events, choosing to run your event on sustainable energy can heavily reduce the negative impact of your event. 

Occasions when this is more viable can include summertime, outdoor events. 

solar panels on building against a blue and cloudy sky

Use local suppliers and locally sourced products

When looking for suppliers for your eco friendly event, it’s important to make sure they are local. 

 From your food to your event decorations, right the way through to any equipment rental - the less distance the suppliers need to travel in order to reach your event the better. 

Sustainable event management at University of London Venues

At University of London Venues, we go above and beyond when it comes to helping you run green and sustainable events and are committed to reducing our environmental impact. 

We have recently been awarded the ‘Highly Commended’ Status by the Camden Climate Change Alliance for our work on energy efficiency and carbon reduction, having reduced our emissions by 51% since 2010. All of the venues we offer are powered by renewable energy sources, meaning from the start of the booking process to the day of the event, your event has already minimised its environmental impact.

Along with energy reduction and efficiency, the waste generated from our events is never sent to landfill. Using our buy-back scheme on unopened food and drinks items, we minimise the total waste produced by our clients, along with ensuring the remaining waste is recycled. We also have on-site provisions for the composting of food waste.

Given our location in Central London, our venues are well connected to the public transport system ensuring transport-related emissions from your event are reduced, along with our provision of cycle storage aiming to promote active, non-carbon intensive means of travel to Bloomsbury Venues.  Our in-house audio-visual, furniture and photography services also ensure that transport-related emissions from out-sourcing these services are avoided.

Catering forms a core part of our service, and here at University of London Venues, we go the extra mile to ensure this service is as green as possible. In collaboration with our Sustainability and Catering Teams, we run a number of initiatives focusing on sustainable food and consumption:

  1. Our Sustainable Food and Fairtrade Policy that ensures sustainability is embedded in our catering services. We have also replaced the majority of the packaging in our cafes with compostable alternatives.
  2. We aim to reduce the supply chain emissions related to our catering services by working very closely with our suppliers and contractors to source locally where possible.
  3. A catering team that provides extra vegetarian and vegan options to reduce the carbon associated with eating meat and dairy.
  4. Working with our in-house sustainability team, we lead initiatives to promote the reduction of single-use plastic waste from our catering options.
  5. Our bees on the roof of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies help pollinate the local area (as well as using their honey as part of our catering service).
  6. Our selection of London based services, such as our audiovisual, furniture hire, and photography partners. This means you can rely on us to supply all the services you need for your event without having to source them from afar.
  7. We maintain our ISO14001:2015 accreditation, related to our environmental management system. 
entrance gate of senate house

Book your green event at University of London Venues

We’re committed to environmental responsibility, and we’re always striving to use sustainable resources and reduce our carbon footprint.

If you’re looking for an event space in London to hold your green event, we can help. Our range of event spaces are flexible and perfect for all types of meetings and events. Room sizes vary to support your exact number of guests, and each space is supported by our environmentally friendly catering service.

Get in touch with our event organisers today, and find out about our event and Event spaces.