Events are by their very nature, great contributors to environmental degradation! That may seem by event organisers and their clients like a strong statement to make, but the fact is that we simply don't fully understand the integrated impacts that the events industry has on our environment globally.
Across the world, millions of events, meetings, get-togethers, trade shows and other activities take place daily, without the slightest appreciation of their impacts. But because events are focussed activities - taking place in singular or very limited spaces, their impacts can outshine those of some manufacturing processes. Take for example, the Rugby World Cup in the United Kingdom. At any one time, up to seventy or eighty thousand people converge on a single location to watch the game and they each contribute to environmental degradation through the waste that is created; the food which is prepared and sold; the ablution facilities; energy consumption and a host of other often unseen processes.
When the game is over, each participant goes back home by car, train, taxi or air - giving less than a thought to their carbon emissions and impacts. Yet, collectively, they have left a massive environmental impact that could last a lot longer than the euphoria of the win or disappointment of the loss, and organisers need to start taking ownership of the problem.
In South Africa, we are jubilant about the fact that Durban has been awarded the 2022 Commonwealth Games - and so should we be, but a closer look at the commitment that has been made by the local organising committee (LOC) reveals that very little has been said about making the games sustainable and environmentally responsible. We have had the pleasure of hosting the Rugby World Cup, the FIFA World Cup and the Cricket World Cup - all massive spectator events, yet no-one has made any effort to calculate the residual impacts that South Africa needs to live with after the event.
The recent release of the ISO2021 event sustainability standard may bring-about change, but unless every organiser, planner and client starts to recognise their impacts and responsibilities, no amount of standard or certification will ensure greener events.
Can events be Green? Yes, they can and you have the chance to make that difference today.