20 Jul Join the movement for sustainable events !
Each month, the TEDDA project partners write an article related to the topic of ecological transition. This month’s article deals with a concrete approach that we have had the opportunity to develop : we introduce you to sustainable events and share our experience with you!
A sustainable event can be defined as an event “that integrates environmental and societal issues in its organisation and in its relations with everyone involved”. (1)
Why carry out a sustainable event ?
By their nature and their short-lived activities, events constitute a real environmental challenge! Whether they are sporting, cultural or simple neighbourhood parties, they are essential to the community, but also generate many harmful actions to the environment (waste, pollution, energy consumption, etc).
As an example, from an environmental point of view, an event that brings together 1,000 people uses on average up to: (2)
- 100 kg of paper, i.e. 2 trees and 30,000 liters of water
- 200 KWh of energy, i.e. 3 years of lighting with an energy-saving bulb (15w)
- 500 kg of waste, i.e. about the production of one European in one year
In social and economic terms, organizing an event in a sustainable way means questioning practices in order to make the event more inclusive and accessible to everyone, opening up to new networks and creating new relationships with local partners. It also helps enhance the organisation’s profile. (3)
How to make a sustainable event ?
There are several tools and guides to help you design and develop sustainable events. The Maison des Associations de Tourcoing (MdA) tested the ADERE tool  to prepare its last general assembly (GA). This tool, developed by ADEME, allows you to identify and evaluate the main environmental and societal impacts of an event through a self-diagnosis process based on eight themes:
- Printed communication
- Digital communication
- Venues, technique and stage design
This tool does not measure the carbon footprint of an event, however it does highlight possible actions for local consumption and greater sobriety.
To avoid getting lost in all the tasks to be carried out, it is best to work with the “discovery” level of the tool at first. It is also possible to select themes to work on in order to carry out a sustainable event. Anticipation will be essential to the success of this initiative.
Ajay Ebner, on French civic service at the MdA, was responsible for supporting the various employees of the association responsible for organising the GA in carrying out the diagnosis and implementing eco-friendly approaches. He reports the following findings:
“The ADERE tool is a great device that makes it easier to see what needs to be done to make the event as sustainable as possible. During the design of the event we realised that certain things could easily be done if we dared to question the practices of our service providers. For example, for the food we asked our caterer if it was possible to reduce the amount of waste and plastic packaging and he suggested that we use reusable trays.
Furthermore, the choice of the venue is primordial. For the GA, we chose the hall of the Grand Mix. This building is close to public transport (metro, bus, bicycle), has a waste sorting system and only serves local drinks. The numerous eco-friendly devices already in place in the host structure enabled us to reduce our efforts considerably!
We communicated on social networks beforehand to raise awareness among our associative audience on different topics of the sustainable event: on the choice of the venue, to prioritize soft mobility, on eco-friendly catering, on inclusion and accessibility, and finally on the sustainable printing of the activity report. During the event, small slates were used to make reusable signage. We also showed a video on the environmental impacts of climate change in the Hauts-de-France region. This allows to draw the participants’ attention to the issues at stake and to underline the efforts made in a process of ecological transition.
To conclude, I would say that what is essential in a first approach towards sustainable events for small associations is to designate a focal point who presents the tool to the employees and volunteers and mobilises them to look for new sustainable practices. The objective is that each person should then be able to question his or her practices independently.
The self-diagnosis enabled us to assess the impacts of our sustainable event and thus to highlight the areas in which we can improve our practices and develop new skills.”
On the scale of European projects, public events and transnational meetings have an even greater carbon impact because of mobility. Within the framework of the TEDDA project, we are trying to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by looking for alternatives to air travel, as travelling from Lille or Brussels to Barcelona by plane would have a carbon footprint 700 times greater than travelling by train. Such a commitment implies moving away from a logic of productivity, as a train journey implies doubling the costs and time of the journey!.
There is no shortage of examples of actions to be taken by associations to improve our practices. We all have a role to play in the ecological transition!
 Definition by the Reeve association : https://www.reseau-eco-evenement.net/qui-sommes-nous/qu-est-ce-qu-un-%C3%A9co-%C3%A9v%C3%A9nement/
 Source : https://communication-responsable.ademe.fr/eco-evenement/eco-evenement-quest-ce-que-cest/eco-evenement-des-arguments-pour-convaincre
 To further explore the impacts of events, the REEVE association created a « Fresque de l’évènementiel » (French tool)
 ADERE : Environmental Self Diagnosis for Event Managers (French tool)
 ADEME : Environment and Energy Managment Agency (French Agency)
 To calculate the carbon footprint of your travel go to https://monimpacttransport.fr/ (French website)
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