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The Event Greening Forum‘s annual conference recently took place, creating a platform for the events industry to share information and best practice, as well as inspiration on how to be more sustainable. If you weren’t able to be there, take a look at some of the highlights from the day-long event which had 14 speakers addressing different aspects of the day’s theme – Imagining a Different Future.
Why we should transition to a circular economy
Sally-Anne Käsner gave the keynote address on the Circular Economy (CE) – a sustainable alternative to the linear economy and typical way of doing business. Instead of taking resources, using them and disposing of the resultant waste, the CE proposes a system where resources remain useful and are used and re-used, and don’t become waste. This approach solves many problems, such as the mounting waste problem (the average amount of general waste generated every day in Cape Town alone is around 4300 tons or just over 5000 cubic meters of compacted waste at landfill), the depletion of finite resources, and pollution (such as the plastic pollution problem that is harming marine and bird life).
Käsner explained that to create a truly circular system you need to go back to the design of that system. In the case of events, we need to redesign them to eliminate waste, such as having virtual gift bags, refillable pens, and designing out the need for single use plastics. While change can be difficult, the many benefits easily outweigh this.
Waste, waste, everywhere
The issue of waste is an increasingly pressing one, so a waste panel was assembled to discuss how the events industry can best manage it. The six panelists came from different backgrounds, who were knowledgeable on plastic waste, wood waste, composting, recycling, and the circular economy.
Grace Stead from Steadfast Greening was the facilitator, and guided the discussion to the conclusion that waste is not necessarily a bad thing, but can also be a resource and an opportunity. We need to change our perception of it to benefit from it and use it wisely.
The panel agreed that events are also a useful space in which to educate people about waste – for example, by having recycling stations and waste ambassadors to help attendees understand where their waste needs to go, and why.
A case study of event planning during a water crisis
The Cape Town Cycle Tour case study was another popular session which explored how the organisers had to creatively adapt the event during the drought in the Western Cape. David Bellairs described how his team came to the conclusion that they needed to work out the event’s water footprint and offset it, much as one would work out an event’s carbon footprint and offset it – after making an effort to minimise it as much as possible.
Beyond SA’s borders: East Africa’s sustainability trends
Kezy Mukiri from Kenya was also well received when she spoke on sustainable trends and opportunities in East African MICE events. The countries in this region have been quick to encourage more sustainable practices; Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania have effected a ban on single use plastic bags, while Kenya has also banned plastic bottles in protected areas.
A number of hotels and conference venues are also pursuing more sustainable set-ups and systems, as is the Bugesera International Airport in Mombasa, Kenya. It was the first airport in the region to install solar power to offset some of the carbon emissions of the planes taking off. Its target is to operate on net zero-carbon emissions by 2021 by increasing its solar capacity and reducing its energy usage.