How to Host a More Sustainable Event

In honour of Earth Month, our events team shares their greenest event planning tips

April is Earth Month, so we’re shining a light on how we can strive for a greener future with our events. At Oliver & Bonacini, we keep sustainability top of mind when planning and executing all types and sizes of events. Whether you’re planning a gathering at home or working with us to host a special celebration at one of our many venues, there are plenty of ways to reduce waste, conserve resources, and minimize environmental impact.

In this post, our event experts offer some practical tips and creative ideas for hosting an environmentally conscious event. Let’s dive in and discover how to reduce our footprint while still making every occasion a memorable one!

Hosting at a Venue

When planning a large event such as a conference, corporate celebration, or even a wedding, it’s easy to get caught up in the ‘more is more’ mentality. Below are several key considerations to keep sustainability front of mind.

Manage Waste Thoughtfully

Work closely with your venue to implement robust waste management practices. This includes composting food waste, using reusable flatware and compostable serving ware, and limiting single-use items such as bottles by offering bulk beverage stations. At select O&B venues across the city, we’ve even implemented a food rescue program to donate leftovers. At these venues, our staff will notify B12Give of surplus food; the company then picks it up and distributes it to local shelters and charities.

Source Locally

Opt for local suppliers of food, beverages, and other event essentials whenever possible. Supporting small local businesses not only reduces carbon emissions from transportation but also fosters community engagement and economic growth. We love sourcing local snacks, beer, wine, and coffee that create a meaningful connection to our city and neighbourhoods.

Choose a Central Location

To reduce attendees’ carbon footprint, choose a venue that is easily accessible via public transportation, biking, or walking paths. For example, our newest event venue, The Quay, offers 290 secure bike parking spots and two electric vehicle fast-charging stations (which can fully charge an EV in 30 minutes), plus 13 standard EV charging stations. Choose hotels that are green-certified and in close walking distance to your venue. You can even consider providing discounted or complimentary transit passes to encourage eco-friendly transportation.

Digitize What You Can

Go digital when it comes to signage and materials to limit paper items. If you must print, use recycled paper and print double-sided. For conference swag bags, choose sustainable options like a high-quality tote bag that attendees can use again. For a zero-waste option, choose gifts and promo materials that can be redeemed online. Use iPads or have guests scan a QR code for sign-ins and event itineraries, and use social media or apps designed for large events to communicate with attendees via their phones. Using digital communications, you can even encourage attendees to bring their own travel mugs and water bottles for easy refills.

Don’t Stop in the Planning Stage

Sustainable practices shouldn’t stop after the lead-up to the event! Encourage energy-saving practices during the event, such as reminding presenters to turn off projectors when not in use. If you happen to have leftover decor or other items that could be useful, donate them or post them in a local no-buy group. You can also consider investing in carbon offsets to mitigate the environmental impact of energy consumption associated with the event.

Collaborate with Sustainable Partners

Working with venues like our catering partner Arcadia Earth, who prioritize sustainability in their operations, can further enhance the environmental integrity of your event. Not only can guests enjoy a reception or seated event, but they’ll also be able to enjoy the backdrop of the Arcadia Earth immersive experience showcasing the beauty of our planet and the impact of human actions on the environment. They’ve even partnered with the World Wildlife Foundation to donate a portion of ticket sales. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Hosting at Home

Even if you host a smaller gathering, there’s a lot you can do to plan and execute a sustainable event at home. Below are a few suggestions for actions you can take.

Mind Your Grocery List

Plan your menu carefully to avoid overbuying groceries and generating unnecessary food waste. Before you make a list, shop your freezer and pantry! Use chickpea water as a base for stocks, soups, and even vegan desserts. Save Parmesan rinds for soups, pasta, or risotto and turn old bread into breadcrumbs or crostini. When you do shop, create your list based on a seasonal menu and go to the farmer’s market or look for locally grown products if you can.

Conserve Wherever Possible

Conserve water by minimizing usage during food preparation and reusing the same water for tasks such as blanching vegetables or cooking pasta. Instead of offering bottled water, choose an infused water station. Have compostable or reusable takeaway ready so you can pack up leftovers for guests.

Thrift and Donate

When decorating, instead of buying new items from the store or ordering them online, check out Facebook Marketplace or see what you can thrift! After your event, If you have unopened, packaged goods or leftover produce, consider donating to a community fridge so others can benefit.

Sustainable Alternatives

Opt for eco-friendly alternatives to common kitchen items, such as using silpats/baking mats, Tupperware, and beeswax wrappers instead of parchment paper, aluminum foil, and plastic wrap. Little changes like this go a long way over time.

Garden at Home

If you have outdoor space, consider starting a composting system in your backyard or growing herbs and vegetables at home. This not only reduces organic waste but also promotes self-sufficiency and connection with nature. Over the long term, you’ll be able to shop your garden!

By incorporating these tips into your event planning, whether at a venue or home, you can host gatherings that are not only memorable but also reduce environmental harm

Let’s celebrate Earth Month and beyond by embracing sustainability at every turn!