What fun is going green if you can’t look great while doing it?
Design makes its way into every type of event, whether it is the professional aesthetic of a corporate meeting or elaborate creations for high-end weddings. Adding eco-friendly practices to creating event ambiance is much like greening other aspects of your events. Start by asking yourself: Where are your products coming from? How are they being used during an event? What happens once the event is done?
Rental décor items are easy to reuse. A variety of linens, serving ware, furniture, vases and the like are available from event rental companies. By renting items, you can eliminate tons of waste from landfills as plates and serving ware replace Styrofoam cups and plastic utensils, and linens replace bolts of fabric that would be custom-cut, stapled to tables and then thrown out. To go a step further, ask your rental companies ask about their internal sustainability practices, such as their cleaning process, hanger collection, prop recycling and delivery practices.
If you must custom-design pieces, consider sourcing green materials. Cost, availability and client approvals all can become, dare I say, trickier when factoring in the environment. For now, sustainable building materials cost more than traditional materials. Cost trades in other portions of your budget may need to be considered to afford things like FSC-certified wood and VOC-free paints. If reclaimed or found props are requested, the idea of pre-approved design goes out the window. It’s also important to keep in mind that good sourcing of recycled materials takes a great deal more time than placing an order with your typical supplier. Many companies have attempted to go down this route for design, only to turn around and ask for props that look recycled instead of actually being recycled, due to time constraints.
Sustainable floral design mirrors sustainable food and beverage. Local, seasonal and organic are key words when speaking about flowers. Choosing seasonal flowers ensures that the arrangements are much richer and fresher for your event. Drought-resistant plants, like succulents, offer innovative design possibilities. Try to move away from fresh-cut flowers; instead, consider renting plants, shrubs or trees.
I know I’ve focused more on the difficulties of green event design in this column, and not the fun part. But, there is a lot of creativity and innovation that can come from eco-parameters. One of my favorite examples of thoughtful event design was when the Robin Hood Foundation designed their entire gala out of school supplies that were in turn donated to the New York City education programs they support. The tables centerpieces consisted of One Lap Top Per Child laptops, while they were doing a buy one, give one program. The laptops on the table went to local schools, while an equal amount were sent to children in the developing world.
This was a great example of incorporating responsible design practices as well as designing with the client’s goals and objectives at the core.