There are in general 2 types of waste solutions to make your venue more sustainable. Firstly there are the ‘quick fix’ solutions that you can instigate quickly with a bit of planning and decisiveness. And secondly there are the bigger and more long-terms changes that you can make to a venue. These will almost certainly cost more and require a greater commitment. However, with the benefits they bring, bills will be cut down to help redress the initial financial outlay. And of course you will have the benefit of being correctly perceived as a modern, forward thinking venue.
It’s worth making a distinction here. Some venues are described as ‘classic’ and ‘traditional’. This often means that they are older buildings and have original features. They can be very desirable for this reason. They’ve part of history and therefore very appealing. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re immune to being more sustainable. In fact, the most appealing venues are those steeped in history that have still managed to move with the times and be more efficient.
That said, let’s look first at the quick fixes and then the longer term solutions for continual improvement. Some of the quick fixes are cutting back on plastic. Starting with straws, which are a hugely wasteful employment of single use plastic. They are not needed, but if you do want to have straws for drinks, there are now plenty of options. Biodegradable ones, for example, as well metal, glass, bamboo and silicone. And no doubt other ones currently being created as yet more alternatives to the outmoded plastic ones. These days, you’ll stand out for the wrong reasons if you still issue plastic straws as standard. Also plastic bottles – another huge waste of plastic. A venue can help by simply not issuing any bottled water, other than that in glass bottles or recycled and reusable cups. And if enough venues do this, then companies that rely on selling plastic bottled water to venues will be forced to rethink their own policy on plastic bottling.
Then there’s recycling. At this stage, there is still lack of clarity with what councils will recycle in their refuse collection. Some plastics will get recycled – others won’t. There’s a good article on the BBC website about this –
So venues need to make even more effort than homeowners to get this right. By making separate and completely clear recycling bins both in the public and private areas of their space, they will make a good start. Educate guests and lead them to make it easier to recycle. Maybe have a few stats on the bins or a short ‘story’ of what can be achieved with everyone doing their small part in putting things in their correct place. Clarify what is recyclable and what is compostable and what can only be landfill with the latter the one most reduced. Once the recycling starts well in the venue – both up front and in the back – then it’s easier at the other end for the companies doing the actual recycling. There are numerous ways to create less food wastage in venues, but sometimes this is difficult to avoid. In this case, there are charities that will give leftover food to homeless people and other good causes. It’s really hard to justify throwing good nutritious fresh food away and leftovers/scraps can easily be composted.
Another quick way to cut waste is to cut out paper as much as possible. Whilst venue brochures still sometimes require paper versions for marketing reasons, these can be ethically printed to the highest possible specs. In general, everything else should be digital and there really are no excuses with a large number of apps and ever more efficient management systems available. If you’re still using paper invoices, then it’s time to invest in technology and it’s very inexpensive. For anyone of a certain age group who runs a small business, you’ll know that whenever you resisted technology to replace your tried and tested old ways of doing things, you were wasting time doing work that could easily be more or less automated. Invoicing is a good example, as with an app, every aspect of sending, receiving and even paying invoices becomes far more simple. And now, paper is simply a waste of physical space, regardless of the destruction of forests. We simply don’t need it, with computing cloud services there to back everything up to.
Now let’s look at bigger and more term investments in sustainability in venues. Starting with lighting. All the lights left on throughout venues that don’t need to be. The bulbs don’t need to be ones that consume so much electricity. Replacing the bulbs with LED wherever possible and installing a sensor system is a game changer. So those lights not being used automatically go off when left and come on only when used again. Perfect for meeting rooms, toilets and other rooms that are not in general continual use. Go one step further and install bigger windows in rooms that benefit from hours of natural light. These measures can dramatically alter the general energy consumption of a building. Yes it can be a major overhaul, but once done, it will be a feature and selling point of the venue (not to mention the savings on energy bills.) Solar panels and wind turbines are other ways to cut down energy consumption. There are rainwater recycling systems (used by Lord’s cricket grounds), green walls and roofs as well as solar thermal panels that generate electricity and hot water. Whatever you go for, you can easily measure the changes. Smart meters are amongst the many ways of accurately measuring progress. This is both rewarding and also essential for going forward and becoming more efficient. After all, if you don’t measure, how can you gauge progress?
Water is something that can often be improved and used in better ways. It is important to have great quality drinking and improve the waste water efficiency. You can harvest water for safe usage inside the venue in many ways as well as look to minimise water use throughout the building. It’s also pertinent to think about the impact of the venue on stormwater and drainage infrastructure and make sure these are allowed to do their job without creating undue stress on the surrounding environment.
Finally, transport. International travel creates more than 80% of the carbon footprint of the average event. Having advanced videoconference equipment installed in a venue can help to reduce this number. Of course, delegates will always travel when they want or need to attend a conference, but if there are great options to participate digitally then many will chose this option, especially if the venue makes it clear that their venue has advanced video/teleconferencing facilities. This is another win-win situation with all the appeal of having cutting edge tech and communications options for companies to take advantage of. But of course local transportation is equally important. Does the venue have great facilities for storing bikes to encourage cycling? Are there also efficient carpool systems in place to encourage the sharing of transportation? And what about taxi companies affiliated to the venue? There are 100% electric taxi companies that could be the type that a venue works with, thus improving its eco credentials and giving free exposure and business to these excellent alternatives to less sustainable taxi companies.
There are obviously other factors that venues can consider and these will evolve in this fast-moving world of addressing the serious implications of global climate change. But to address any of the above is to be part of the solution.