The Sustainability Unconference is an experiential day of learning and immersing in the wide, wonderful world of sustainability. But what about OUR impacts? We’d hardly be a leader in the sustainability community if we created our events based on a disposable mentality, right? So what are we doing about our event footprint? I’m glad you asked.
We are working hard to make the Sustainability Unconference a zero-waste event. We have borrowed reusable name badges, dishware, mugs, and silverware from our host, the ProtoHub Honolulu. There will never be swag bags filled with pens, keychains and other garbage that you’ll never use again. But we do have sustainable prizes that you’ll love to use, including gift certificates, product samples, and the like. At the Honolulu Unconference, we gave out introductory visits to a Naturopathic doctor, a month-long subscription to a local CSA, a Wanderlust Oahu day pass, locally made organic soap and deodorant, sustainability board games and books, gift certificates for local food and MORE!
Our marketing materials are mostly electronic, with paper use limited to repurposed paper (i.e., printed on the back of a used piece of paper for flyers and the like).
Energy & Carbon Footprint
We are selecting our facility based on its energy efficiency and general green attributes. For the Honolulu Sustainability Unconference, for example, we selected the ProtoHub. Additionally, we are offsetting our carbon footprint by planting a tree for each attendee, through a partnership with Trees, Water, and People. TWP works to reforest denuded farms around the world that were clearcut and burned for unsustainable cattle grazing, creating economic incentives for local farmers to preserve forested ecosystems for the long haul.
How many sustainability events have you been to where the lunch was factory-farmed ham served with GMO corn syrup laden mustard on a bleached white bread bun with iceberg lettuce grown 2,000 miles away, served on a disposable plate with a disposable fork? Too many to count, and that’s why we are going to do it differently.
Food, and how it is served, is an often overlooked aspect of greening an event, but few things have a bigger impact on our footprint than how we eat and drink. For our events, we’ve chosen coffee, tea, snacks, and lunch that aligns with our sustainability values. We will not offer plastic forks, Styrofoam cups, or paper plates, and all the food and drink served is as pono as possible. Pono is a Hawaiian word that means, in effect, “righteous” or “doing the right thing”. What pono means to us is locally-sourced, low carbon footprint foods that are healthy and delicious. At the Honolulu Unconference, we worked with local health food stores, a local caterer and created a lunch full of locally-sourced vegetables, Maui-made veggie burgers and buns, homemade treats, local brewed kombucha, and carbon negative coffee.
We strive to make peoples’ transportation to the event as sustainable as possible. We encourage biking by offering a bike valet. We encourage people to take public transit by sending them information on bus routes and bus stops. We encourage people to carpool if they must drive by providing an online venue for self-selected carpools.
What else should we do?
Have other suggestions for us to green our events? We’re all over it. Let us know in the comments below…