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From festival light shows to conference attendee air travel, events have a huge energy appetite. We feel it on the bottom line, in terms of costs for power drops, airline fuel surcharges and generators.
The planet also feels the impact from resource exploration, development and emissions. Green power solutions for events have become an innovative way to earn sponsorship and reduce costs and footprint while having fun.
Check out these ideas to jump-start your green-powered event plan.
What’s the goal?
Before powering up your green energy plan, consider what your goals are. Possibilities might include:
1. Reduction: in energy use, carbon emissions and cost
2. Efficiency: by preventing wasted energy and cost
3. Innovation: in showcasing unique energy solutions that can enhance the event experience and leave a legacy
4. Engagement: of attendees in adopting green energy choices
5. Accountability: for those energy-related impacts we can’t avoid through offsetting
Honing in on what you most want to achieve will ensure you get the green power results you’re looking for. Most importantly, it will help target the kind of experience that is appropriate for attendees, whether that is a “we take care of it” back of house approach, or a public-facing green power program.
When it comes to reducing energy use, emissions and cost and improving energy efficiency there are several practical steps you can take that generate big returns.
1. Hybrid events: Remote attendance options provide a low-energy, low-carbon engagement alternative for your event experience. For example, while one in-person event attendee can burn the emissions equivalent of two barrels of oil, a remote participant can burn less than 1% of that.
2. Green energy destinations: Every destination has a unique energy profile, with some regions sourcing more green energy by default than others.
3. Green energy venues: Destination not blessed with low-emissions energy infrastructure? Don’t worry, a venue may source renewable energy on their own and adopt energy-wise practices.
4. Responsible transportation: Ideally, green-minded events can avoid additional energy use for ground transportation by designing walkable, cycle-able and transit-accessible events. When this is not possible, and where freight is involved, seek out biodiesel, hybrid or electric vehicles.
5. Portable generation: The biggest practical step to reducing portable generator energy involves good energy load planning with your power contractor. Some events may make use of alternative or renewable energy generators that are less polluting. For example, solar power may be feasible for some energy needs. Powerful Thinking is a helpful resource that provides more information about this issue, including vendor information and how to act.
While the practical steps above can generate big reductions, sometimes a fun experience is what is required. Consider these ways to engage attendees:
1. People-powered events: From movie projectors to margarita stations, coffee bikes, pedicabs and charger stations, there’s a myriad of things that can be pedal-powered at events! Dance floors and pedestrian walkways are another fun way to use kinetic energy to power your event. Global Inheritance’s Energy Playground is a great example of the fun that can be had when you let people power their own event.
2. Creative, visible production elements: Green power can also be integrated as a unique production element that is visible front of house. Some fun and practical examples: recharge lounges and food carts powered by the sun, or solar sound systems made from up-cycled waste bins. Or if your event content relates to sustainability, how about a renewable energy demonstration project, like this micro-grid that runs on walnut shells?
3. Lifestyle solutions: Consider giveaways that help attendees act to reduce their power footprint. Energy efficiency kits, solar chargers, or pedometers can all help promote responsible energy use long after your event.
Don’t forget that green power experiences are great opportunities for sponsorship! They should, however, be filtered for appropriateness for your audience.
Even with practical steps and creative experience ideas, there are energy impacts that are difficult if not impossible to avoid.
Carbon offset programs are a solution to take responsibility for energy use impacts. While offsets do not reduce your event energy use directly, these programs provide funds to enable carbon emission reductions beyond your event. Offset projects are diverse, and can include investments in renewable energy projects such as wind power, or energy from agriculture and landfill waste.
Calculating your event carbon footprint can help you determine emissions impacts and offset costs. Depending on your event, carbon offsets can run anywhere from a few dollars to over $20 per attendee.Possible financial models for offsetting include:
1. Organizer-pays: Purchase Renewable Energy Credits to offset event venue energy use as a budget expense.
2. Sponsor-pays: Use carbon offsets as a sponsorship package, inviting partners and/or event vendors to pay to offset some or all event emissions.
3. Attendee-pays: Attendees may also pay for their participation, either through a price embedded in fees, or an opt-in or opt-out package offered during registration.
4. Hybrid models: Consider a combination of these models to promote shared responsibility for energy use by all.
Energy—human and grid-delivered—is the glue that holds an event experience together. But what do you know about your event energy resources, where they come from and the impact energy use has?
With the world focused on energy security, event-owners have a role to play in understanding event energy, their event’s energy footprint and how it might be reduced and made more efficient.
What will your green power play be?