You’ve seen it at your events and you have spent time and money to deal with the growing issue of plastic water bottles at events. You might say, this seems like an old topic and we have made great strides at my events over the past several years. Congratulations, you are in the minority. There are still so many events happening where attendees are not being given more eco-friendly alternatives to disposable bottles, eating utensils and paper products as well. I think it is our environmental responsibility as humans, not just event organizers, to create high impact solutions to lower our impact on the environment.
Here are some ideas to reduce the amount of plastic water bottles:
1. Instead of selling plastic water bottles, give your attendees a branded metal or plastic bottle and set up water stations throughout your event. The stations could include 5 gallon jugs with taps or perhaps 1,000 gallon containers for larger events.
2. If it’s not in the budget and you can’t find a sponsor, then sell the reusable bottles instead of disposable. Attendees are already spending $3-$6 on water. Make this your big contribution to the environment and give them the bottles for a few cents over cost, which should still be less than what they would spend on disposable from a vendor. This cost will more than pay for itself with the reduction of waste removal staff and fees.
3. Offer an incentive to participants. Give them a rebate at the gate for bringing their own bottle. Or create a fast pass entry line for people who bring their own empty, reusable bottle.
4. Offer for purchase a reusable bottle that clips to your belt/ clothing or hangs around your shoulder/across your body. This way participants don’t have to carry around their bottles. Perhaps attendees see this as a downside of not being able to chuck their bottle on the ground when they are done with it.
5. For really hot events roving water stations could be really important. A simple cart with some 5 gallon drums could rove around the festival site and prompt people to refill and stay hydrated. The refill would cost 25-50 cents
As a member of the IFEA (International Festival and Events Association) group on LinkedIn, I joined a discussion on this matter recently. Some of these suggestions are based partly on what members said. Someone also posted a great link to an environmental handbook for festivals and outdoor events. I think it’s very well put together and they have some interesting ideas to contribute. You should bookmark the link for future reference: http://www.environmental-handbook.com/
Lastly, I pulled this table from the online environmental handbook. I think we could benefit from knowing how our recycling is used afterwards. For some events, this can be incorporated in the educational programming. This gives you ideas of how many categories you should establish for recycling at your events. And not just for event days, but we should be including site building materials, office waste and clean up chemicals.
For further statistics, on how the US is doing in their recycling efforts overall check out: http://plastics.americanchemistry.com/09-Post-Consumer-Plastics-Bottle-Recycling-Rpt