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April 16, 2008

Sue Etherington: Towards sustainable venues

Sustainability is becoming increasingly integral to the conferencing and events industry, not only to secure the future of the planet, but also because clients are increasingly aware and responsive to environmental and ethical concerns.

As buildings are responsible for almost 50% of all energy consumed in the UK, according to local government data, it is vital that we make our venues more energy efficient. The industry must actively contribute to an energy performance comparison and better energy management and conservation in order to achieve government targets of improving energy efficiency by 15% by 2010 and 30% by 2020.

Other energy efficiency goals for the industry include:
– Promoting best practice among staff and clients
– Striving for paperless office and meetings
– Reducing consumption and buying energy-efficient equipment
– Introducing more energy-efficient technologies

Saving water
It is also crucial to identify opportunities for water savings. Using only water-efficient appliances and equipment, such as ‘waterless’ urinals and installing water harvesting, are just two methods the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre (QEIICC) is using to reduce water consumption by 25% by 2020.

In order to be truly sustainable, venues must purchase wisely and only what is needed. But as this is not always possible, recycling is the next best thing. Recycling in the UK already saves the equivalent in greenhouse gas emissions of taking 3.5 million cars off our roads. The QEIICC already recycles at least 50% of all waste generated in the venue and aims to recycle 75% by 2020. As this includes waste from all events, it also helps our clients meet their sustainable event aims.

Saving paper

Reduce the amount of paper used in a venue by printing documents and emails only when absolutely essential, making best use of electronic media, such as downloadable documents on websites, and sending documents via email. Where paper has to be used, use recycled paper for printed materials wherever possible and promote the use of recycling boxes.

Advise clients on the following to achieve as much sustainability as possible:
– When producing literature for an event, take care to use recycled and chlorine free virgin pulp paper and if possible communicate with your delegates electronically
– Try not to produce paper handouts for your meeting – offer them online or on a CD/memory stick
– Use electronic communication for all follow up with your delegates – questionnaires, etc
– Recycle all your paper and cardboard waste and encourage delegates to do so too

Fairtrade and organic
More and more clients are shopping smarter, eating healthier and enjoying an abundance of fresh, locally-grown products, and, as a result, they are expecting the same from their venues. Source Fairtrade tea and coffee and organic biscuits for all events, use local suppliers and seasonable foods wherever possible, and use reusable linens, crockery and cutlery as standard. Other useful suggestions include using jugs of water as an alternative to bottled mineral water and offering clients advice on seasonal menus and local sourced food menus.

Finally, if like the QEIICC, your venue is in a central location, encourage clients to take advantage of public transport links. For example, we always advise our European clients of the advantages of using the Eurostar train over air travel and so events at the QEIICC can always be considered particularly environmentally friendly.

Sue Etherington is international sales manager at The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London.

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