MeetGreen has frequently been asked how sustainability will be impacted once physical events begin again. Good question!

To provide a foundation for analysis, we turned to our reliable Green Event Checklist which has provided valued minimum sustainability guidelines for events large and small. The MeetGreen Sustainability experts compared the guidelines against projected or potential COVID-19 impacts as we know them to date.

Their findings were clear, in 14 of 16 of the initiatives, the guidelines were safe to move forward. Only two of them were questionable practices in today’s understanding of COVID-19.  None of the guidelines should be immediately stopped.

As sustainable event practitioners dealing with our key stakeholders during these unprecedented times, knowing the facts is imperative. Each initiative below has details to support MeetGreen’s findings.

To further assist in the understanding of our findings below, the green sections are “all clear” and the yellow sections are “use caution.”

We look forward to meeting again and know that sustainability will play a crucial role in everyone’s future.

Green Event Checklist

Green Star Ask for recycling at the facility Did you know recycling centers are considered essential services and are currently open? Recycling bins help reduce the amount of secondary separation in municipal systems and provide vital feedstock to our supply chains.
Green Star Ask for towel reuse program at your hotel Reusing your towel and linens limits potential points of transmission through reducing outside contact and is great for the environment. Did you know it takes 1.3 gallons of water to wash every towel?
Green Star Request no bottled water be served Bottles are only as safe as the last time it was touched or surface disinfected. Using your own bottle and refill station could be even safer or at least equally safe. If 1,000 people brought a reusable bottle to an event for 1 day it would save enough energy to power average home for almost 3 days!
Yellow Star Ask for all condiments in bulk The CDC recommends limiting shared surfaces touched. While it is possible the top of a condiment dispenser would carry more risk than disposable packets, with extra precaution, such as hand sanitization prior to entry in food areas, bulk condiments could be equally safe as disposables.
Green Star Request leftover food be donated Presently there is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted by food. The donation of unserved event food is critical towards supplying local food banks during a time of increasing demand.
Green Star Request water glass not be pre-filled What better way to decrease water waste and improve attendee safety than filling your own glass of water as needed? Water scarcity affects 1 in 3 people across every continent of the globe.
Green Star Request china and linens for meals, no disposables Dish ware is typically washed onsite at high temperatures with cleaning product to kill bacteria and viruses. At this point, the washed plates would be equal to or safer than most disposal scenarios, as each would be handled at a minimum prior to use.
Green Star Ask if there is electronic signage at the venue Using electronic signage not only reduces material waste, it is one less physical point of contact for shipping, installation, and disposal.
Green Star Ask about sustainable local food Sourcing food locally is a best practice with numerous environmental benefits under almost all circumstances. In addition, the power and impact of your spend will be magnified when purchasing within your region.
Green Star Reuse signage and create using sustainable material Signage would be handled under either scenario: whether single-use or when saved for reuse. Storage would not pose an increased health risk.
Green Star Reduce printed material and use recycled content where possible Reducing the use of materials on the front-end results in reduced risk and opportunity for possible contamination down the supply chain as well. It is also beneficial for the environment, lowering water, energy, and carbon impacts.
Green Star Reduce conference swag and use a sustainable source for any swag Source reduction continues to be the most effective avenue for limiting exposure and transmission COVID-19 and it can save carbon too! If your 1,000-attendee conference eliminated its nylon tote-bag it would save 22,000 kg of carbon!
Green Star Minimize packaging on all purchased products Minimizing packaging helps reduce the downstream effects of high volumes of both wrapping and packaging waste handled by show cleaning, back of house teams, and recycling facilities. Help do your part by minimizing event packaging wherever possible.
Yellow Star Find a donation stream for leftover materials While CDC guidance suggests that risk is minimal for transmission via surfaces, enhanced measures like wiping down or leaving donations in the sunlight may further mitigate risks. In addition, these materials will be used by those in direct need across your destination communities.
Green Star Communicate sustainability options to attendees As you can see, the majority of MeetGreen’s minimum best practices are not significantly impacted by COVID-19. We encourage you to continue your sustainability efforts and communicate them broadly to help educate and reassure attendees that their safety and sustainability work hand in hand.
Green Star Attend back of house tour with key venue stakeholders Conducting a back of house tour with your key venue stakeholder teams will help your team verify and observe that safety and sustainability measures have been implemented to the highest degree.

We’ve created an infographic to easily refer to the 16 sustainable and safe events guidelines.

Another resource that supports our research on sustainable and safe events is the Eco Watch article “Reusable Cups, Bags and Containers Can Be Safe During COVID-19, Scientists Say“. In this article 119 scientists have come out in support of reusable items even during the pandemic of COVID-19.