The discussion about sustainable event planning

I used to teach at a university in England and Sustainable Event Management was one of the modules I taught. The first week was dedicated to two discussions. One was about the meaning of sustainability and its place within the event industries. The other was about the environment. The aim was to find out whether sustainability really matters when planning an event or festival. I also discuss this in my online workshop Sustainable Event Management.

In the first discussion I would ask the students the following questions:

I can only hope...

I can only hope...

  • Do you believe in sustainable event management?
  • Do you really care about sustainable development?
  • Do you think the event industries can make a difference?

If you’re reading this and you are an event planner I hope you will say yes to all of them. Some of my students did not see the point of sustainable event management because, as they argued, a small industry can not make a difference. But I think this small industry can make a difference!


The list of events being organized on a regular basis is almost endless: conferences, meetings, business-2-business, festivals, weddings, etc. Each event is unique and has its own place in the market. It is difficult to compare a conference to a music festival even though both are labeled as an event. With this in mind it is easy to see that it is not a small industry but a conglomeration of industries that together really can make a difference. For example:

Festival fans get what they want

Festival fans get what they want

  • In 2015 Brits spent £80 billion on music concerts, festivals, and live music (
  • Worldwide around 31,000 exhibitions are organized each year
  • Global EDM market hit $6.9 billion in 2015 (Billboard, 2015)
  • According to Pollstar’s annual music festival calendar there are 1,900 music festivals in 2016
  • About 10 million Brits combine festivals with their vacations. So called music tourism (Mintel, 2016)

The event industries are not a small sector, quite the opposite actually. My students might not have realized it at the time and I’m not sure if the event industries realize their own strength.


The other discussion I had with my students was about the environment. What do we mean when we talk about ‘the environment’? The environment in the context of sustainable event management is often assumed to be only linked to waste management and recycling. But the environment is much more than that.

When you look in the dictionary the environment is described as our ‘total surroundings’. With that in mind we can look at:

  • Population
  • Food security
  • Cleaner technology
  • Alternative resources

When we talk about these items we can relate the pillars economic, social, environmental, and ethics to each of them. As discussed in my previous blog.

You, the event organizer, can educate your visitors with regards to the 4 items mentioned above. Some of the festivals I have been to, do exactly that. Symbiosis Gathering and Lightning in a Bottle for example offer permaculture courses onsite.


Permaculture is “the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient” (, 2015). This includes educating people on how they purchase their daily items and how they can become more self-sufficient. It is a great way to educate your audience although it might not be suitable to implement it at every event or festival. Let me put it this way: permaculture is a lot more than just recycling. But then again, so is sustainable event management. I'd better keep telling that to my students.

For more information about sustainable event management you can download the online workshop on my website