Sustainable Events | Horizon Leeds | award-winning meeting and conference rooms Leeds

Ideas for being more sustainable when planning an event

Rightly so, saving energy, reducing your carbon footprint and living a more sustainable lifestyle are hot topics, not just within our industry but globally.

Events have always carried a large footprint with them, from national and international travel, single-use plastic waste, huge energy consumption with visual and lighting productions, and expendable event branded sets etc.

It’s great to see these issues being addressed at a number of large-scale events, from Glastonbury removing the sale of plastic bottles, The London Marathon’s steps to becoming sustainable, or Twickenham Stadium exploring sustainability strategies, but what about the day-to-day meetings, events and conferences that also bring a big footprint of their own? We all have a responsibility to help where we can right down to the last delegate.

We’ve come up with a few ideas on how to save energy and run a more sustainable event:

Choose your venue wisely.

When it comes to sourcing your venue the usual main questions you find yourself asking are: will the capacity allow for our forecasted numbers? Does it fit with our requirements and objectives? What’s the catering & and refreshment offering?

But what about, how the venue will impact your event’s energy expenditure? Adding these few questions to the mix when sourcing your venue could make a huge difference.

  • Do they have a sustainability policy?
  • Are they proactive in executing the policy?
  • Can they provide evidence?
  • Are they actively looking for new ways to improve on policies?

Since our doors opened in 2014 our approach has not changed and, as a venue, it is important we address all areas of sustainability. To ensure, therefore, we retain a holistic approach, as part of our business objectives we create yearly pledges.

Being mindful of materials.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does each delegate really need a printed agenda, a copy of the keynote slides, or a printed feedback form?
  • Are all those flipchart pads necessary?
  • Do you really need to laminate everything?

Get rid of printed materials in their entirety, utilise the virtual world and build an app or website for your event so delegates can access the materials, agendas, and feedback forms online, it makes for easier post-event analysis too.

If you do go down the print option, make sure it’s also ticking sustainability options.

  • Is your guide fully recyclable?
  • Are you printing in vegetable inks?
  • How far is your print travelling from the print house to the venue?
  • Can you print on carbon-balanced paper to offset the carbon impact? Certified by the World Land Trust.

Check your gloss and varnishes! There’s no point in choosing recyclable paper if you’re going to cover it with a non-recyclable coating. Encourage your delegates to recycle it after use too by telling them and including the symbol clearly.

We recently reviewed our stationery options:

  • Our paper will be Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) certified.
  • We source local suppliers.
  • We prioritise the use of recycled materials in pens and pencils.
  • Reviewed how we recycle and /or repurpose items after use

You can find out more about our sustainability pledges, here.

Do you offer delegate bags?

So many events provide delegate bags on arrival. Unfortunately, many times at the end of each day our operations team clear up the leftover bags full of printed materials that haven’t been looked at.

As lovely as receiving a welcome pack full of promotional or branded goodies can be, how about we give something back on behalf of the attendees? We absolutely love the idea of dedicating a tree for every table which leaves a legacy behind that could last a lifetime, check it out here. If you can’t live without a tote, make it more generic in its branding so it can be used at another event, and make sure they’re made from environmentally friendly material!

Avoid single-use plastics. 

Single-use plastics is a phrase we have come to hear over the past few years and something we should avoid at all costs. They feature everywhere and can be hard to avoid in every eventuality.

Why not pledge to minimise your use of single-use plastics by 90%, ensure your staff support your pledge and work with suppliers who support this objective? We’re entering a world of change where bamboo cutlery, paper straws and metal water bottles are our present. Embrace them, and so much more – how about encouraging delegates to bring their own mugs or take away coffee cups with a healthy competition about the most environmentally friendly delegate? 

Use an emissions calculator to find out the footprint of your event.

The UK has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050. Get a head start and pave the way for other colleagues by calculating your carbon now. There are some great emissions calculators online specific to the events industry:

Find out your events carbon footprint in a few easy steps by using an emissions calculator. All you need to do is input the information required, which includes attendee numbers, travel information, consumed catering and refreshments, couriered materials, and estimated wastage.  In just a couple of clicks it will tell you the carbon footprint of your event, which is very interesting and, on some occasions, highlights things that you might not have been aware of!

Each calculator varies based on the projects you donate to, to offset your footprint, ensure you choose the right one for you. Make sure to check out the projects the organisation supports around the world to help combat climate change, so you are choosing a project that suits your client’s objectives and organisational values. However, offsetting doesn’t give you a free pass and a clear conscience. Try and be as savvy and sustainable as possible, the carbon calculator should give you guidance and help you cover any gaps that simply can’t be avoided.


If we need any indicators that our actions have an impact and can be changed, all we need to do is look at COVID-19.

The limited travel, work-from-home orders, and lockdown restrictions reduced air pollution and gave necessary breaks to eco-systems around the globe. What is to say we cannot take some of these learnings forward in a post-COVID world?

  • Studio-style virtual events – Does every meeting need to be live?
  • Increased home working > Less commuting time > Reduced congestion

Businesses can hold events at Horizon Leeds knowing it contributes to their own sustainability and corporate social responsibility goals. Plus, every pound they spend contributes to supporting the NHS Confederation. If you’re working towards a more sustainable way of delivering or hosting events, we would love to hear from you – let us know your top tips on saving energy at events.

We recently posted the blog ‘A Virtual No-Brainer’ which highlights the way to reduce our impact on the planet’s resources, and the use of our state-of-the-art Broadcast Studio. If you’d like to explore our Broadcast Studio, get in touch with the team at