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Sustainability spotlight: Ways to make your event paperless

The hospitality sector has already been identified as one of the biggest offenders when it comes to being sustainable. Many believe this starts and ends with plastic, and though we’ve discussed the detrimental effect that plastic pollution is having on the planet, reducing your plastic waste is a small step on a larger journey to becoming self-sustainable.

Despite recycling being available, industry practices are still causing a worrying amount of waste. A typical exhibition or trade show will use up to 170 trees worth of paper waste, and over 200 pounds of wood. When putting this in context with how many events take place across the world every day, it’s clear to see how paper waste can cause a real problem for the planet. Responsibility to encourage change lies on the shoulders of venues and organisers to introduce alternatives and make sustainable changes that will be the driving force behind ultimately achieving zero paper waste at events in the future.

ConferenceLeeds, the conferencing bureau for the city of Leeds, has worked to identify the paper alternatives that venues can invest in and introduce to their offering to reduce the amount of paper that goes to waste at events.

Invest in an app
One way that events can reduce their paper waste, both before and after the conference or event, is by investing some money in a specialist event app. The app will act as a central location from where delegates can access informative resources including the event programme, timetable, venue information and floor plan - as well as extra information on guest speakers, dining menus and nearby places of interests for cross-day conferences.

From the app, delegates would have the option to download and save resources to their devices, reducing paper waste and the amount of paper that travels home with delegates. One other interesting section in the app could simply house ‘notes’, which would also encourage delegates to bring their own tech to record notes and information, rather than relying on pen and paper.

Not only does the app reduce paper waste, it also gives event organisers and venues the option to update delegates in real time with the use of push notifications – and could even be monetised from a sponsor perspective as an additional place to add marketing and advertisements.

Tell your delegates about Smart Cards
Smart business cards are a relatively new initiative, but certainly one that we expect to see grow across the next few years as people become ever more conscious about the impact that their paper and card waste has on the environment.

Smart business cards, powered by NFC (a wireless radio communications standard), can be used to pass digital information to a smartphone or device by a simple tap – much like a contactless card. NFC is everywhere these days, from your credit card to your home locks, and is naturally compatible with smartphones and electrical devices. If you create a digital business card, you can simply ‘tap’ it on a compatible smartphone or device and have your contacts automatically added to their database of contacts.

This high-tech solution makes exchanging your contact information not only fast and easy, but also helps to reduce the amount of individual cards you need to print and carry around with you to pass your information along to relevant contacts. Not only this, but it stops the practice of delegates spending time having to copy all of the numbers and details into the database after the conference. We can almost see an entire room of delegates at the first direct arena tapping their new digital business cards to exchange information in the near future!

Reduce waste from dining
Once you’ve arranged a conference app with downloadable resources, and you’ve encouraged your delegates to bring their smart business cards with them, there’s another key area that you need to address when tackling paper waste at a conference and this is in the dining and refreshments section.

One of the simplest things to do prior to your conference is work with your caterers on your sustainability goals – and ask them to use recyclable material where possible, or ensure that single use coffee cups and paper plates are banned, and replaced with reusable cups or crockery. In addition, work with them to try and choose a variety of food items that come with minimal waste and packaging.

Finally, when it comes to clearing up after lunch, make sure you provide cloth napkins instead of paper ones – or if you must use paper ones, make sure they’re made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials. SHINE, a venue and meetings space based on Harehills Road in Leeds, have already made this change and have replaced their single use packaging with crockery, glassware or 100% recyclable materials made from sustainable rainforests.

Do you have any of your own tips to share? Let us know on twitter @ConferenceLeeds!