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5 Ideas for a Green Business Event

Planning a green business event can not only save your company money, but it also can generate some positive buzz because your event will be leaving less of a footprint on the environment.
Planning a green business event can not only save your company money, but it also can generate some positive buzz because your event will be leaving less of a footprint on the environment.
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You've probably seen them after a long business meeting or conference: trash bins filled with plastic water bottles, Styrofoam or paper plates, and piles of glossy pamphlets and paper handouts. Whether or not the networking was a waste of your time is one thing, but what about the waste generated by the event itself?

Now it's your turn to plan a business event and you want to make it eco-friendly. That's smart because planning a green business event can not only save money, but it also can generate some positive buzz for your company because you'll be leaving less of a footprint on the environment.

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Worried you'll be spending an exorbitant amount of money for ugly, fiber-y brown plates and cups? Don't. Going green can be simple, elegant or fun, inexpensive, and best of all, inspiring to others who do business. Let's look at five ways to plan green.

No need to practice your calligraphy, purchase stamps and order printed paper invitations if inviting electronically. Using e-mail meeting schedulers with a template or an online source such as Evite saves time and paper. And Web sites like Facebook have event sections that also let you add elements to your invite like who is attending, links to materials, bios of attendees and presenters, and details about accommodations or transport -- all of which would require more paper if printed and mailed.

If you prefer paper invitations, however, choose a postcard in recycled cardstock instead of a glossy duo-fold with inserts and a heavy envelope.

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Hosting a business event during the day, in a naturally lit space that's close to public transportation or near where the attendees are traveling from, is green and can shine a positive light on you and your company. Driving to a far-flung convention center or hotel, for instance, takes time, costs money in gas and lost man hours at the desk, and it's mostly inconvenient. Instead, opt for a venue near a train or bus line, or an airport if it's a cross-country event. It will save most everyone time, money and hassle, and create less of a carbon footprint, especially if the event is a large one.

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Choose a caterer that uses local and organic produce because it's more likely to be grown naturally, which means it typically requires less -- or no -- pesticides or excessive watering that can take a toll on the environment.
Choose a caterer that uses local and organic produce because it's more likely to be grown naturally, which means it typically requires less -- or no -- pesticides or excessive watering that can take a toll on the environment.
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If you're going to hire a caterer, choose one that uses seasonal, local and organic ingredients in their dishes. It not only means you'll get delicious food that will stand out both in appearance and taste, but you'll also support local growers whose foods have traveled far shorter distances from farm to plate than foods grown on large, mass-produced farms. Local and organic produce is also more likely to be grown naturally, which means it typically requires less -- or no -- pesticides or excessive watering that can also take a toll on the environment.

During your planning, consider your leftovers, too. Look for a caterer that participates in a composting program or one that donates any good leftover products to a food bank or shelter. And if the caterer doesn't take the extra steps, go ahead and make them yourself. There's probably a community or school garden that would be grateful to get some extra goods for their compost bins.

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Decorating and setting a table with recyclable, biodegradable, and washable or reusable items is another way to go green and save. Renting or buying cloth napkins or tablecloths can be an investment for the future of event-planning at your company or just for a single event, but it reaps benefits either way in environmental savings. Using real plates and glasses has the same effect and can decrease waste and trash, as can compostable or recyclable plates and utensils. Instead of providing plastic water bottles or cans and straws, for instance, use water coolers or punch bowls for beverages.

Using edible, grown or useful objects for decorating the venue also cuts down on waste and creates an environment more unique than what you'll find at a party store or through a non-green event planning resource. Planning a functional take-away is another option. Consider center pieces that can be auctioned off for a cause or won as prizes instead of thrown out at the end of the event.

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Using electronic files and slideshows versus weighty and paper-heavy handouts is just one more way to make your business event a green one.
Using electronic files and slideshows versus weighty and paper-heavy handouts is just one more way to make your business event a green one.
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One of the best ways to go green is to encourage recycling, or to produce very little need to recycle. Encouraging electronic files and slideshows versus weighty and paper-heavy handouts is one way to get off to a green start. If paper is a necessity for the event, however, providing easy access and good signage for recycling bins or shredders will cut down on the trash, while lightening up the load for your guests on the way out.

Having staff or hired caterers clear tables also makes sorting and recycling a seamless part of the event while making attendees feel well-taken care of and free to circulate without fear of being seen dropping plastic in a paper-only bin -- which can cause anxiety these days!

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Sometimes, the most memorable business event is the one that goes the smoothest, causes the least amount of hassle and leaves you free handed, but with a head full of information versus a bunch of paper bricks to file and toss. Going simple and light is good business -- and green business.

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Sources

  • Rosenbloom, Stephanie. "Online R.S.V.P.s: A Simple No Just Won't Do." Dec. 7, 2006. (Mar. 3, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/07/fashion/07evite.html?pagewanted=all
  • Seo, Danny. "How to Throw a Green Party." Epicurious.com. 2012. (Mar. 2, 2012) http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/entertaining/partiesevents/greenentertaining

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