Why Sustainability Matters in Event Planning

Whether you’re in the event planning industry or simply like to throw a fabulous party now and then, you can plan events with sustainable practices in mind. As wonderful events are, the energy, food, water, and paper used to produce them adds up to a huge amount of waste and environmental damage that is avoidable. Just take a look at these party-planning facts.

To help you celebrate responsibly, here is our guide to all things festive and sustainable.

In the midst of planning, prioritising a sustainable event might seem like yet another thing to manage. It also might feel like the impact of your particular event is a drop in the bucket.

However, we’re in a climate emergency and reducing our contribution to the problem is an imperative. If all event planners committed to planning sustainable events, their combined efforts would have a meaningful impact on reducing the waste and emissions caused by supplies, venues, invitations, travel, etc related to events.

Shifts toward more sustainable event planning

Surveys in the events industry show a shift toward sustainable event planning. In a 2020 poll, 59% of event planners thought sustainability would have a major impact on their events. But how does that factor into the finer details of an event?

Here are a few ways event planners are making efforts to be more sustainable.

Just as our collective carbon emissions have an impact, our combined efforts to be sustainable can add up quickly as well.

Sustainability is probably on guests’ minds

Events are in many ways expressions of what the host values. Efforts toward sustainability are likely to appeal to many of your potential guests.

  • A 2021 survey found that more than half of US adults worry about the impact of climate change on society.
  • In the same survey, one-third of consumers said their concerns about the climate affect the products they buy.

The event industry picks up on trends. The choices you make can set an example. The more planners that prioritise sustainability, the more normal it becomes.

The importance of sustainable party planning

What about parties on a smaller scale? As it turns out, they have a sizeable footprint, too:

  • An average wedding in the United States creates 400 pounds of waste.
  • That same wedding can produce up to 63 tons of CO2.

The problem with paper products

Between invites, flyers, and marketing materials, paper usage is one big way event planning affects the environment. Just take a look at the impact of paper production on the environment generally:

  • In the past 40 years, paper use has grown by 400%.
  • Paper waste makes up about 26% of all waste in dumping grounds and landfills.
  • Overall, the paper industry accounts for 1% of the carbon emissions produced worldwide.
  • The manufacturing of 1 metric ton of paper produces an average of 942 kg of carbon dioxide.
  • In the US, paper production accounts for 20% of air pollution.

From intimate gatherings and meetings to concerts with thousands of attendees, many kinds of paper products pile up across our events. But how can we measure the impact? To start, we can look at one kind of paper product: the invitation.

The impact of invitations

If we focus on invitations alone, it’s easy to see how quickly our paper usage can multiply.

We can also consider an even bigger type of event: the conference:

  • Over 11,000 conferences take place in the U.S. each month, an average of 132,000 conferences per year.
  • At each conference in 2019, there was an average of 4,932 people in attendance.
  • If every conference attendee in the US received just 1 flier or handout, it would add up to 651,025,000 sheets of paper.
  • That’s the equivalent of 78,126 trees.

The numbers above don’t even begin to account for the millions of community events, concerts, sporting events, and meetings that happen around the globe every year. However, there is one easy way you can begin to make a difference in your event’s paper usage: switch to digital invitations.

How digital communications make a difference

Given that deforestation is an accelerator of climate change, why not eliminate paper entirely where we can?  Using digital invitations instead of paper has the potential to not only help the environment but also take loads of work off the hands of event and party planners.

Opting for online invitations requires:

  • Zero trees
  • Zero pieces of paper
  • Zero envelopes
  • Zero stamps
  • Zero CO2 emissions caused by mail delivery

Beyond that, online invitations, such as Paperless Post’s, offer more flexibility in communicating with guests. If plans change, you won’t have to use even more paper for flyers, save-the-dates, updates, postponements, or changes in plans.

Making sustainability a priority in your party planning

Pulling off a showstopping party is already a lot of work. It’s even more when you need to consider the environmental impact for every step.

However, planning your parties and events sustainably doesn’t necessarily mean additional stress. It’s more about making smart choices for the things already on your to-do list. Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Use sustainable supplies. Opt for reusable party supplies such cloth napkins and tablecloths. Aside from helping to eliminate waste, these items can be an excellent way to invest in pieces you love and continue enjoying them at your next event. You can also opt to rent all of your supplies, from tableware to tables and chairs, from event rental companies.
  • Choose sustainable vendors. Being mindful of sustainability when choosing caterers and food sources can also have a huge impact on your carbon footprint. Choose local food options when possible. Keep a close eye on your RSVPs and only buy what you’ll need.
  • Host your events at green venues. Look for venues that are transparent about how they’re minimising their impact, such as those with an LEED certification. Buildings that are LEED certified must follow criteria to reduce their energy usage, lower their carbon footprint, minimize waste, and use sustainable materials. To find a venue with this certification, you can browse the US Green Building Council’s directory of LEED buildings by location.
  • Encourage guests to use sustainable transportation. Transportation contributes to 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions. To help minimize your event’s impact, choose a location closest to the majority of your guests. Encourage options like walking, biking, carpooling, and public transportation, and provide info on how to travel to your event using these options. For guests who would need to travel long distances or by air, consider offering a virtual option.
  • Make a plan to manage waste. Before the event happens, decide how you’ll manage any waste and trash your event does produce. This may include providing recycling and composting bins for event staff and guests to use, or finding a way to donate any disposable decorations and flowers.
  • Offset your carbon impact. Even if not every aspect of your event is sustainable, there are still ways to help reduce your carbon footprint. One excellent option is to contribute to a carbon offset project. These organisations use donations to fund tree planting, renewable energy, and efforts to reduce emissions elsewhere.

The impact of planning sustainable events

Certain event venues, party planners, and organizers who have taken the lead on sustainability. Here are just a few examples of what they have done, and the impact:

  • The Denver Convention Center’s reliance on solar power has helped them prevent CO2 emissions equivalent to 31,676 gallons of gasoline since 2008.
  • At their 2019 wedding, a Chicago couple profiled in the New York Times were able to reduce their food waste to 5% by choosing a sustainable caterer.
  • Thanks to its sustainability programme, the Great American Beer Festival diverted 59,580 lbs of waste from landfills at its 2019 event. Overall, it reduced the actual waste produced by the festival by 23,800 lbs.
  • Through its sustainable practices, the music festival Lollapalooza has been able to offset 1,182 metric tons of carbon dioxide. In 2019, this included diverting 39% of the festival’s waste from landfills and eliminating all single-use plastics at the festival site.

Perhaps your own event will measure up to a massive music festival like Lollapalooza, or maybe it compares more closely to a small local wedding. Whatever shape your event takes, these examples show us that even small steps can have an impact on sustainability.

Make sustainable party planning easy and beautiful with Paperless Post

Whether you’re planning a fundraising gala, a wedding, or the bat mitzvah of the decade, choosing to make your party sustainable can have a sizable impact. In addition, knowing that your efforts helped to protect our planet will likely make your gathering even more enjoyable.

Not sure where to start? Check out our post on how to plan a sustainable party. Just like any event, you’re going to need some invitations. At Paperless Post, they offer online invitations perfect for any event – no paper or snail-mail delivery required. Start the party with a well-designed digital invitation with a low-carbon footprint. Our efficient RSVP tracking system also allows you to get exactly the right headcount and ensure you buy only what you need so that as little as possible goes to waste.

Planning a party shouldn’t have to be unnecessarily wasteful and damaging to the environment. Find the perfect online invitations with Paperless Post.


An earlier version of this article was published on the Paperless Post