Festi-full of COP outs

‘There Is No Plan(et) B’

Image by Markus Spiske via unsplash

In the midst of the COP26 conference, it is crucial that the events industry does some self-evaluation. We must take a good look at how we can make meaningful change in the fight against the climate crisis and why it is important managers and organisers get their act together.

As the events industry grows in significance, so too does its responsibility. Making events green should not be done as an added selling point and to benefit the image of the event, it should be paramount in all parts of the planning, development, and delivery stages.

Image by Callum Shaw via unsplash

Emission Impossible? 

The event industry’s negative impact on emissions has to become a priority for change. Sustainable events must progress from the buzzword status.

The UK events industry is a huge contributor to carbon emissions. The largest culprits being; travel, food catering, and event machinery with diesel use within events currently contributing a shocking 1.2 billion kilograms of CO2 every single year, approximately more emissions than international flights and equal to the entire country of Malta.

COP26 provides two key aims for those within the industry:

  • Measuring carbon emissions and putting in place the target objective of carbon-neutral events.
  • Ensuring events are seriously considered as a viable tool in achieving sustainability goals and not branded a hindrance.

Due to heightened climate change efforts, the boundaries in 2021 will be pushed. Shining examples of the greenest events globally include the Green Festival in the United States, achieving the use of recycled material within all forms of marketing, incentivising green modes of transport, and screening suppliers for their standards of sustainability.

With successful sustainable event prototypes already setting a standard across the globe, do those not already equalling such efforts highlight an underlying sense of ignorance within the industry?

It is however encouraging that the next generation of event professionals will be moulded with deeper ecological awareness, in which event sustainability will become the standard mindset, not the USP.

Image by Ellie Jose

Food for thought 

Catering and events go hand in hand. Food is often a big part of an event and provides a great opportunity to make a big difference. 

When it comes to catering at events and its negative environmental impacts, many articles discuss food waste but close to none talk about the idea of changing the type of food provided.

Yes, the fact that events waste between 15%-20% of the food they produce is bad but surely the fact agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction makes menu choice an important area to focus on?

Livestock and their by-products account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide every single year! So instead of just looking at cutting emissions by using power and transport alternatives, we need to look at meat and dairy ones too.

Events should not shy away from adopting a more vegetarian/vegan menu. It is a golden opportunity for people to have a taster (literally) of a plant-based lifestyle and be educated on its benefits to the planet without compromising on flavour.

The Shambala festival is a meat and fish-free festival and a perfect example for other events to learn from. They managed to successfully showcase and promote amazing vegetarian food and inspire both employees and attendees. Will other events step up to the plate?

person holding white and black quote board
Image by Masplashti via unsplash

Sustainability Strategies  

It becomes imperative that we, as event professionals, take responsibility for innovating the sustainable future of events. Collectively, climate change responsibilities lie within the hands of each and every one of us.

Here are sustainable recommendations to help you out! 

Carbon off-set – As standard practice, event organisers should measure their carbon footprint and plan to reach carbon-neutral/off-set status across events in order to aid in achieving the COP26 1.5 degree objective.

Sustainability measures – Actions speak louder than words and commitment to the cause must be shown, with the EU introducing a ban on single-use plastics by the end of 2021, such examples as; plastic-free, biodegradable products, lowering meat consumption and travel cuts such as shuttle services have to be integrated across the board.

Innovative Technology – Check your tech, is it sustainable? As COVID-19 continues to re-define the industry, 2021 is the year for hybrid technology events with the event industry thriving throughout the trend. However, consider your tech’s true value amongst a sustainable planet.

Spread the word – Rejoice in your achievements! Ensure to inform clients and suppliers of the brilliant action you’re taking towards a more sustainable planet and inspire innovation and conversation throughout the community.

Final thoughts …

So the question is, what are your thoughts on making it compulsory for festival organisers to sign agreements such as the Festival Vision: 2025 pledge to make them accountable? And what are you doing to make your events more environmentally friendly?

Useful Resources


Hearing about the Shambala Festival was very interesting but do you think its more important to begin to introduce a wider selection of vegan alternatives at pre-exsiting events, or to create whole new vegan festivals to attract people and teach them about how food can help the environment?

s1906944 says:

Thanks Alice, good question! Both ideas are valuable in different ways. Vegan festivals would be a great way to celebrate a plant-based lifestyle and spread awareness like you say but would most likely attract people who are vegan or already curious about veganism. Whereas introducing more amazing vegan or vegetarian street food stalls at existing festivals could intrigue and inspire the general public as long as those stalls are not overshadowed are greatly outnumbered but meat caterers.

Adam mussett says:

Some very good points here.
Plastic is my absolute bug bear, especially in the UK.
If everybody in attendance at Brixton academy has one drink, that’s at least 5000 plastic cups that will end up in landfill.
In Europe they have reusable plastic cups that you pay a deposit of 1 or 2 euro. We could easily do that in the UK.

s1906944 says:

Hi there Adam, thanks for your comment. We understand your frustration and totally agree! It would be so great for industry professionals to collaborate ideas and take inspiration from around the world. Balaton Sound have had reusable cups at the festival in previous years and I remember going there and questioning why aren’t more events doing this. Reusable cups at festivals could also be used as souvenirs or collectables. Events offer many opportunities for ingenuity and progress towards environmental sustainability and we are excited to see what the future brings!

Nia says:

This blog, and particularly the figures that you have highlighted, really demonstrates how huge the need for change in the events industry! Before Covid, I’d hear so much about different rubbish collection schemes and plastic-free measures at different events and festivals, but since events started up again everywhere seems to be using plastic again and not necessarily letting people recycle efficiently! Personally, if an event cost slightly more for being greener than a similar event that wasn’t, I’d 100% pay the extra to know that they’re helping to protect the planet. This is a really insightful look into what can be done to reduce the environmental impact of events, and will certainly resonate with me when I arrange events in the future!

s1906944 says:

Hi Nia, thanks for your response! It is amazing to hear our blog has had a positive influence on you and the way you’ll design and manage events in the future. It is the exact mindset all of us event professionals must adopt.

Jacob Griffiths says:

Great article! i feel like it had some real insight into this issue. What do you think is the easiest way for event managers to offset their carbon emissions?

s1906944 says:

Hi there Jacob, good question. The easiest way to offset carbon emissions would probably be to look at greener transport to the events. Attendees could be offered incentives to carpool, walk, cycle or use shuttle bus services. As well as, selecting performers and suppliers/caterers that must travel with sustainability in mind as part of their contract. That being said, the easiest route for combatting emissions is not necessarily the best one to take, in many cases drastic change is needed.

Grace says:

Such a good and informative blog and one that was very interesting to read. It’s so good to see such important issues being raised and highlighted within the industry and hopefully now more and more people will gain an insight into such a prevalent and ongoing issue

s1906944 says:

Hi Grace, so good to hear you enjoyed reading our blog. Hopefully the massive media coverage of COP26 and the increasing pressure and expectation for industry professionals to act responsibly and make meaningful change will encourage people to take steps in the right direction.

Grave says:

Some really interesting points in this blog that made it such a good and informative read. It’s particularly good to know that these issues are being highlighted within the industry today, and hopefully it’s the start of more and more hot topics being brought the forefront of discussion

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