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Sustainable Events in Times of Economic Turmoil: Special Report

By Ian Neubauer

In a special report, SpiceNews looks at the trend for sustainable events and whether cuts in discretionary spending have put it and other environmental issues such as energy efficiency on the backburner.

The Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre (SCEC) remains committed to creating a greener exhibition industry. in December it won the Exhibition and Events Association of Australia’s inaugural Best Green Initiative Award for achievements in waste reduction and recycling, water and energy savings and industry education. It is also one of the only convention centres in Australasia to have a dedicated environmental officer.

A spokesperson for the SCEC said it is yet to see deterioration in the interest for green initiatives from event planners. He said the SCEC recently received an order for Greenpower — an initiative in which all electricity used for an event is replaced with renewable energy — from the organisers of an international conference scheduled to take place at the centre next month.

A List Guide publisher, Amy Merriman, whose agency offers planners a variety of green-friendly components for events, said the need to exercise efficiency was even more important in times of economic hardship.

“Balancing economic and environmental concerns is always difficult. But sometimes the efficiencies that are brought to life when people are being conscious about the environment result in general business efficiencies,” she said. “Things like preventing excess printing. Companies have adopted it as a business practice in a permanent sense.”  

Great Southern E-vents managing director, Jeremy Garling, concurred. “Those who see green initiatives as a more expensive option don’t understand that it is about reducing excess and wastes in an events and therefore reducing costs,” he said.

Freelance event designer Kerri Ainsworth expressed similar sentiments, using a set she recently made from Reverse Garbage as an example. (Reverse Garbage is a co-op warehouse in Sydney where companies donate excess textiles and construction materials  that are then on-sold at cheap rates.)
“The client didn’t ask for a set made of Reverse Garbage. I did it because they had very little money,” she said. “They had $2000 to build a set, so it was a practical consideration.”

Ainsworth said she believes sustainability for events is still a hot topic in Australia. She is currently tendering to supply LED lights to the Smart Light Festival in Sydney and is receiving increasingly complex demands from clients for environmentally friendly solutions.

“I just completed a fit-out at Acer Arena where I used sustainable lighting and the client was very happy. He also asked about what would happen to the set afterwards, and if the materials would be reused. It was a very important part of the brief for him,” she said.

“The problem is that doing these kinds of things costs money. Somebody is going to have to pay something to get the work done.”

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