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Zero Waste Bonanza

As event managers it’s out legal duty of care to correctly collect, store, recycle and dispose of waste at events. After doing research around sustainable events from around the world and reading articles from, The Department of Environment and Conservation NSW and Resource Efficient Scotland, it’s clear that the future of events is sustainability.

Next month we are working with a long-time client on a community festival in Bracken Ridge, the Backyard Bonanza. This event welcomes over 5000 guests to a free event, showcasing community initiatives, local businesses and entertainment for the whole family. In 2017, we changed the focus of the event to include more free community activities so that the community could get involved at the event at zero cost. This year, we’re looking to change things up by not only offering free community activities, but free activities based around sustainability, education and the environment.

Resource Efficient Scotland explains that sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs:
– economic (assets)
– social (employee welfare and fair trade)
– environmental awareness (decisions to reduce an organisations impact on the environment)
In our everchanging world where everyone has a say and events are a lot more transparent, it’s important to think about the future and set aims, objectives and targets for events in the short term and long term. I have been looking at the future of this event and comparing it to competing events in the area and have come up with a plan to move forward.

Event practices we aim to take on board include:
– Adopting policies that encourage sustainable purchasing practices
– Working with vendors and suppliers to use recyclable and biodegradable packaging
– Better event signage and placement of bin stations
– Bin systems to manage materials and reduce littering
– Evaluating success to identify areas of improvement

Reasons why going waste wise is a positive for an event:
– Being waste wise helps to create goodwill at the event and will enhance the events reputation
– It’s reported 87% of attendees support waste wise practises
– It puts in place the building blocks for a sustainable future
– Encourages guests to take these practices back into their own homes and thus benefiting the community

But you may ask, what’s the best way to implement these practices? Well here’s a dot point guide to get you on your way:
1. Prepare a waste management plan.
2. Speak to suppliers and food vendors about providing biodegradable packaging for composting.
– entice them with free advertising on social media in return
3. Find a commercial composter early on in your planning and collaborate with them in the event process. Ensuring rubbish is being recycled and the correct waste is being composted.
4. Try involving the community! Make it about the community, bring in community initiatives around recycling leading up to the event, make it a competition?
5. Speak to the local council about how they can get involved to implement waste wise, sustainable initiatives.
6. Use the words Waste Wise and Sustainable in literature and marketing, create a communication strategy to keep messaging simple and clear.
7. Speak to stall holders about how they can change their packaging habits, incorporating glass and paper rather than single use plastics.
8. Provide information to suppliers and stall holders on materials permitted onsite.
9. Connect with your local water utility company, see if they can attend the event and educate guests on water use.

1. Brief all staff on your waste wise plan and delegate them to manage bins, cleaners and public areas as well as managing their role on the day.
2. If bin signage isn’t affordable, close recycling bins and leave normal bins open to decrease contamination and facilitate the use of recycling for the people who know how to use them.
3. Make regular announcements explaining why the event is waste wise and how to use the bins / facilities properly.
4. Ensure staff scan public areas to ensure guests are being waste wise as well as back of house. Promote sustainability with the public.
5. Record bins levels on the day, check capacity and record hot spots to decrease the chances of overflowing.
6. Use volunteers to survey attendees, score their awareness and get quotes from guests to include in post event reports and media.
7. Thank attendees throughout the event for getting involved.

1. Always have a post event meeting, to debrief with committee, community, stakeholders and clients. Discuss what were the biggest successes and the biggest lessons learn. Ask the question, did we achieve our goals?
2. Create a post event report to note down all event elements and make this available for future event managers of the event.
3. Check with contractors that rubbish has been successfully delivered to the correct recycling, composting or rubbish facilities.

– Encourage stall holders to share generators / electricity
– Consider using generators that work off bio-fuel
– Create an asset tracking log of what’s purchased for the event and auction off items that can be re-used after the event
– Supply staff with re-usable water bottles instead of buying pallets of single use bottles
– Ask stall holders to only provide straws for guests only when requested or offer the sale of metal straws at the event
– Create re-usable water stations for guests to re-fill water bottles at the event

The most important step is to start thinking about sustainability. It wasn’t until 6 months ago when I started following a plastic free yoga instructor, that I started to think more about my use of plastic and what I can do to help the environment, so here it is, in my language of events. Take these notes away, talk to your colleagues and have a discussion about how you can implement just two points of the above (but more would be great!).

The trick about making a difference for the future is just getting started.

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