What should you look for when choosing a sustainable venue?

What should you look for when choosing a sustainable venue?

In an era where environmental consciousness is taking centre stage, the choice of venue holds immense significance for event professionals. Beyond being a trending topic, sustainability stands as a top priority for travel and event buyers worldwide. From a mere consideration to a non-negotiable requirement, the shift towards sustainable venues reflects a broader commitment to reducing carbon footprints and fostering eco-friendly practices.

Here we explore the pivotal role of selecting sustainable venues, offering insights into key criteria and shining a light on exemplary models across the UK and Ireland. 

What does a sustainable venue look like? 

The United Kingdom and Ireland boast a multitude of highly sustainable hotels and meeting venues, with a number of them earning top ratings as Platinum ECOsmart establishments. These venues encompass a diverse array of architectural styles and sizes, ranging from the historic Grade 2 listed building in London, exemplified by BMA House, to the expansive Etihad Stadium in Manchester. Notably, sustainability is not confined to grandiose structures, as demonstrated by eco-conscious options like the Travelodge chain.

Another great example is Pan Pacific London, nestled in the vibrant Liverpool Street area of Bishopsgate.  Here, luxury seamlessly intertwines with eco-consciousness, setting a new standard for sustainable hospitality. The grandeur of the Pacific Ballroom, accommodating up to 400 guests, is matched only by its commitment to environmental stewardship. Every decision made within these walls reflects a dedication to sustainability, from the lush greenery adorning the space to the locally sourced ingredients gracing the plates. Despite the challenge of sourcing Asian culinary delights, Pan Pacific London rises to the occasion, reaching out to the Nurtured in Norfolk farm near Norwich for fresh herbs and spices, ensuring culinary excellence without compromise. Even the smallest details, such as chef uniforms crafted entirely from recycled plastic bottles, speak volumes about their innovative approach. In their meeting spaces, digital flip charts replace traditional paper, while state-of-the-art AV equipment, including massive 4k video walls, facilitates unparalleled hybrid meetings, including a ground-breaking conference linked live to the international space station. Pan Pacific London isn’t just a venue; it’s a testament to the harmonious coexistence of luxury and sustainability, setting a shining example for the industry and beyond.

What type of features and standards should every sustainable venue have?

The ECOsmart accreditation looks at many categories when assessing the sustainability of a venue, here we examine just some of the key areas:

  1. Energy and CO2

A good example is Central Hall Westminster which has five grand chandeliers. Each chandelier houses sixty light bulbs and each light bulb was halogen 240w, which equalled 14400w used per chandelier when the lights were on. The light bulbs were replaced with 60w light bulbs reducing usage from 14400w to 2400w per chandelier when the lights were on. For the total five chandeliers the old usage was 72,000w and the new usage came to 12,000w which equates to six times less wattage used when the lights are on.

Other things to consider are choosing a venue where meeting rooms have windows, a venue that has good AV equipment to save on transport and a venue that can measure carbon emissions of an event. 

  1. Waste and recycling

A shocking 20% of the food prepared for events finds its way into the waste stream. From salads to bread, desserts to vegetable side dishes, the impact of such waste from events and exhibitions cannot be overlooked. Plus think of the vast carpets in exhibition halls, used once and then discarded. 

In response to this environmental challenge, the concept of zero waste to landfill has emerged as a beacon of sustainability. The principle is straightforward: leave no waste behind. Methods for diverting waste include reuse, recycling, composting and anaerobic digestion, and even repurposing as animal feed. 

ECOsmart Platinum accredited Wyboston Lakes is committed to sending zero waste to landfill, 100% of the time. At BMA House, leftover food finds new life as biofuel and fertiliser, contributing to a circular economy. Meanwhile, Kia Oval in London harnesses the power of the ORCA digester, processing an impressive 20,000 kilos of waste, with CO2 and methane by-products diverted away.

Innovative practices extend beyond waste diversion to encompass resourceful materials and design. At 15 Hatfields in London, chairs are crafted from recycled seat belts salvaged from EasyJet aircraft, while the Belfry Hotel & Resort, Sutton Coldfield boasts a dance floor ingeniously fashioned from recycled Coca-Cola bottles. 

  1. No plastic

In the UK alone, a staggering 13 billion plastic bottles are consumed annually, with 50% of these bottles being used for water. Half of these bottles end up in landfills or littered across the landscape. This disposal of plastic contributes significantly to marine pollution, with one third of marine plastic pollution stemming from such waste. 

The imperative to eliminate plastic bottles from our consumption habits is clear. Across our industry, inspiring examples of action are emerging such as at Wyboston Lakes, the ‘Plastic Sucks’ initiative drives home the message of reducing plastic consumption. BMA House champions plastic-free events, showcasing the feasibility and impact of such practices. 15Hatfields sets an exemplary standard by completely eliminating single-use plastic from their operations.

  1. Water Conservation

Water, essential for life, is a finite resource with vast implications for our planet’s sustainability. While 97% of Earth’s water is held in its oceans, only 1% is readily available for drinking, with the remainder locked in glaciers. Despite this seemingly abundant supply, the amount of available water has remained relatively constant over the past 40 years, even as the global population has doubled. By 2030, experts predict that demand for water will outstrip supply by 40%, exacerbating water shortages brought about by climate change in regions like the UK. It’s therefore imperative that we recognise the value of water and take proactive steps to conserve it for future generations.

Innovative solutions are emerging across our ECOsmart accredited venues:

– The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) in London demonstrates the potential of rain and wastewater usage by irrigating plants and flowers in the Faraday Garden while also providing in-house bottled water.

– Initiatives like those at Ashorne Hill encourage water conservation by implementing four minute shower timers, recognising that reducing shower time can save significant amounts of water. 

– Efforts extend to restroom facilities as well, with venues like Church House, London showcasing water-saving measures equivalent to filling an Olympic-sized swimming pool every year. 

– BMA House stands as a shining example of water conservation, having saved an impressive 5.4 million litres of water through its initiatives.

  1. Food and Beverage

Embracing locally sourced, healthy and seasonal options has become the norm in event planning. Whether you prefer traditional or vegan (plant-based) fare, the emphasis is on sustainability and health. It’s essential to cut down on beef consumption, given its significant environmental impact; for instance, at one event, beef accounted for 50% of onsite CO2 emissions.

Notable examples include Friends House in London’s Euston which sources apples from a Kent farm where staff work during the summer and QE11, which avoids food ingredients transported by air, shares excess ingredients with other locations, and offers imaginative vegetarian and vegan options. Chewton Glen, New Milton boasts homegrown fruits and vegetables, including fresh rhubarb and honey from on-site beehives. Kia Oval offers reduced-price chef’s choices, while BMA House and 15Hatfields have taken a stand against serving beef and using palm oil, respectively.

  1. Guest rooms

Simple steps lead to significant impact. Say goodbye to plastic cups wrapped in cellophane!

At Pan Pacific, amenities include recyclable aluminium, Diptyque shower gel dispensers, bamboo toothbrushes, wooden razors, corn starch bathing caps, and Cheeky Panda tissues, along with Fairtrade tea and coffee. Excess soaps and shampoos find new life through recycling at Clean Conscience.

  1. Guest participation

Engaging guests in sustainability efforts cultivates a sense of involvement and contributes to the feel-good factor.

Encouraging simple actions like changing towels only when placed in the bath and offering a selection of healthy food options to cater to diverse preferences. Wyboston Lake’s innovative approach, “It all starts in the bedroom,” allows guests to opt out of room cleaning; for every guest who elects not to have their room cleaned, a tree is planted on-site, resulting in 23,000 trees being planted in 2023.

  1. Meeting facilities

The alignment between meeting facilities and a venue’s sustainability ethos has become increasingly paramount. Beyond merely hosting events, venues are expected to embrace environmentally friendly practices that resonate with today’s values. From the elimination of plastic bottles to the integration of digital signage as exemplified at 1 Great George Street in Westminster, to opting for outdoor spaces when possible as demonstrated at Lancaster University, these efforts reflect a commitment to reducing environmental impact. 

This holistic approach not only enhances the meeting experience but also underscores the venue’s dedication to sustainability and environmental responsibility. 

  1. Social and environment

Sustainability encompasses more than just the environment – it’s about People, Planet, and Prosperity. 

Beyond minimising environmental impact, sustainability initiatives now extend to social and economic realms, reflecting a comprehensive commitment to ethical practices. This shift underscores the importance of initiatives like paying staff the National Living Wage, providing sustainable training programs, and appointing Green Champions like Silverstone. 

Additionally, fostering community involvement and charitable initiatives, such as redistributing surplus food, demonstrate an organisation’s dedication to broader societal well-being. These efforts encapsulate the essence of true sustainability, reflecting a balanced and inclusive approach towards a better future for all.

Eco accreditation

These examples show just how imaginative and creative venues are – and how sustainability is being embraced – not just a tick box. So, as a minimum, when choosing a sustainable venue you should look at these nine areas, do a site inspection and ask for evidence. 

Or the easier option is to ask for independent verification. The ECOsmart accreditation does the hard work for you. At ECOsmart we review over 150 criteria including the nine categories and more, awarding a venue from Bronze to Platinum. Our complete focus is on the meetings and business travel sector. We have around 500 properties across the UK and Ireland.

Join us as we embark on a journey to uncover what truly defines a sustainable venue and how to ensure your event leaves a positive impact on the planet.

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