The event industry is the second-biggest generator of waste in the U.S. and event organizers must make a start, however small, to address their environmental impacts, according to the vice president of marketing at Oracle.
Paul Salinger, who is also president of the board of directors of the Green Meeting Industry Council, told BizBash that the event sector is second only to construction/engineering in the amount of waste it produces. His advice to event organizers is: “Just start.”
Oracle attracts 46,000 attendees a year to its 10-venue pair of simultaneous events, OpenWorld and JavaOne, held annually in San Francisco. Salinger said the company started its event sustainability efforts by eliminating bottled water, reducing printing, and engaging with suppliers and venues on waste management and energy management.
According to Oracle’s sustainability report on the events, since 2008 it has reduced paper used for programs and dailies from 112 to six tons. Sponsor retention? enabled reuse of 11,970 lanyards in 2011.
Since 2008 it has diverted 503 metric tons of waste from landfill through recycling, donation, and composting programs.
Some of Oracle’s more recent event initiatives include re-using signage year-to-year, requesting locally-sourced products, and donating products. The company is now in its fifth year of instituting sustainability initiatives at the events.
Over the past four years Oracle has saved nearly half a million dollars by moving to more environmentally friendly transportation: reducing bus routes, expanding “walking hotels”, introducing pedi-cabs and taking advantage of public transportation.
In total, over the five years, these and other changes have saved it almost $1.5 million, Oracle says.
Salinger said he would advise event organizers to discuss sustainability with their suppliers, venues, host cities and other stakeholders as early as possible. “We sort of thought we could do it ourselves. We quickly discovered it was going to take a lot of help from a lot of other people,” he said.
“If we had known that in the first year or two that we started, we probably could have made even faster progress,” he added.
Some of the initiatives have also required Oracle to ask its attendees to change their behavior – for example, by taking public transportation, or by refilling a re-usable water bottle (provided to them by Oracle) rather than using disposable ones.
The company is now looking at ways to reduce the event’s overall carbon emissions, and to further reduce food miles. It is trying to encourage local caterers to procure more from local farmers.
Last month the Global Reporting Initiative published the Event Organizers Sector Supplement (EOSS), sustainability guidance for events ranging from business meetings to cultural festivals.
GRI said the guidance will enable organizers to report their sustainability performance in a comparable way, covering impacts to natural environments, communities, and local and global economies. It also said the guidance makes reporting more relevant for event organizers, with explanations of how to provide qualitative and quantitative information on sustainability issues.
The organizers of this year’s Olympic Games say they’ll be using the guidelines to help meet their environmental goals.