Destination Canada: 10 Ways to Keep Your Sustainable Event on Budget

Attendees network at an event

With an overwhelming number of organizations around the world investing in sustainability, the message is clear—sustainability is here to stay, so get on board or get left behind. Soon, holding an unsustainable event will not be good enough. But in a world of rising costs, how can we implement sustainability measures and stay on budget?

In 2023, Destination Canada hosted its first ever carbon neutral event, Innovate Canada in Waterloo, Ontario—on budget. To help guide you, here are 10 simple, cost-effective ways we found to make your event more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.


1. Choose the right destination

When sending out your Request for Proposals, ask what the destination can do to make the event more sustainable. Ask if the destination has any certification—like Biosphere—or is aligned with any benchmarks like the Global Destination Sustainability (GDI) Index or the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Then a lot of the work will already have been done for you—and it costs you nothing.


2. Select the right venue

Add venue sustainability to your Request for Proposals. Choose a venue that is carbon neutral already, has a certification, such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), or can share what they are doing to make their venue sustainable. Some venues—like Palais des congrès de Montréal—offer discounts to organizations that take tangible actions related to sustainable development, like sorting waste, choosing sustainable gifts, or featuring local speakers.


3. Offer sustainable transport

Your delegates may have to fly in, but find out where they are and if relevant, offer train or carpool options as well. Work with airlines to get a code to be used to buy carbon offsets—or consider paying to offset some flights. Locally, book group electric vehicles (EVs), or for shorter distances, walk, with options available for delegates with mobility needs. Hiring EVs and paying for carbon offsetting does cost more, but you’ll make overall savings on local transportation.  


4. Make the menu sustainable

Work with local chefs and suppliers to highlight and expand vegetarian or sustainable seafood options, while reducing meat options, to make the menu friendly to your budget and the environment. A simple switch from buffets to a plated meal service can also reduce waste and cost—and if you’re bold enough, allow you to reduce portion size.


5. Cut the cost of swag

To reduce waste and cost, try a marketplace concept for client gifts. Clients choose the gift they want (if any) from a range of meaningful, sustainable options. This can be very popular with sponsors/partners who can see what appeals to clients.


6. Get a sustainability sponsor

Work with the venue to secure a sponsor who can support your sustainability efforts and increase your revenue. Many companies and organizations have sustainability goals of their own to meet and may jump at the opportunity to provide recycling stations, for example.    


7. Tap into local knowledge

Your host destination may have a lot of local expertise to offer, so use this to elevate your agenda, by sourcing speakers and artists locally. This will save on travel and accommodation costs—and provide a unique sense of place and most likely, insights that you cannot get elsewhere.


8. Stop printing

Ahead of time, ask delegates to print their own badge, eradicating waste for no shows. Putting your meeting agenda in an app, instead of a printed book will also save waste and cost—and could enhance the experience, allowing searches by keyword of interest or integration with other apps. For business cards or brochures, simply print one sample and a QR code for delegates to scan for a digital version.


9. Reuse or rent equipment

Booth equipment, carpets, audiovisual (AV) equipment, décor, lanyards. No matter the organization or destination, meetings use a lot of the same equipment, repeatedly, so why not rent it from the local community or reuse it? Some ideas to get you started: to help enable reuse, get a lanyard sponsor for three years, instead of one, and do not include a date on signs or décor. Use lightweight, pop-up booths that can be shipped and reused easily.


10. Measure your impact

This one might not cut down costs—at first. But it will have a real impact on your sense of achievement and where you go from here. Platforms like Trace can measure your carbon footprint, allowing you to analyze and present data to back up your budget and your sustainability efforts—and that will help you see what worked, what didn’t, so you can do even better in future.


Make the difference

Meetings can be carbon intensive—or they can be carbon neutral. What really makes the difference isn’t budget or resources. It's all of us—organizations, planners, venues, destinations and other suppliers—collaborating to find solutions, achieve goals and move forward. Together, we can make real progress towards environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Let’s connect!

Insights, inspiration, a simple introduction—our team is eager to share the benefits of meeting in Canada.

Virginie De Visscher,
Acting Executive Director
Business Events, Destination Canada
[email protected]

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