GREG JENKINS founder
Bravo Productions | Long Beach
One thing we do is look at eliminating preset water bottles in breakout rooms. At one event we did for the County of LA, we provided small water bottles to guests and set up water stations, so people could get water on their own. It lowers the cost and also uses smaller portions. You can have a cucumber and water station, or throw some berries in it with ice. You can also provide smaller, recyclable cups. People will consume that without using so much waste.
When water is served we’ll recommend using smaller cups, because a lot of times servers fill up the water glass, but we’re concerned about how much water is wasted that way. Or you can leave a pitcher of water on the table and let it be self-serve. If that water isn’t used, we then pour the water into the plants. We just did an event for Mazda where we used all the ice that was left over and poured it into plants and flowerbeds.
For décor, a few years ago, right when the drought started, we started using drought-resistant plants before they became popular. Pressed flowers are another good option. You can recycle or guests can take home with them.
Everything has an impact. When lighting heats the room, people need more water because they’re overheated. When you set up transportation, you want the shuttle buses clean and washed and that requires water too. You’re just hoping the company has the technology to not waste water when washing vehicles. When you’re cleaning vegetables for food, how much water do you really need to get vegetables clean? The biggest point is that just like with donations to nonprofits, every little bit is helpful, regardless of the amount.
CORINA BECZNER owner
Vibrant Events | Bay Area
As a green event planner, I’m filtering all the choices we make through a green lens—food, décor, flowers and transportation. I’ll sit down with the client and identify what eco-minded values mean the most to them and filter decisions through that.
If the main focus of an event was water conservation, I would filter food through this lens, and talk to the chef about purveyors that, for example, use dry farming, an agricultural technique that relies on residual moisture in the soil. It’s a very cutting-edge way of crop production. The plants are working extra hard, so the fruits grown are incredibly sweet and delicious, but also fragile.
I would also use seasonal and local flowers, anything that’s in the wild and not in greenhouses. Lavender is a great example. In California, we have a Mediterranean climate and water-thrifty plant foliage thrives here. If design is more minimalist, succulents work really nicely, but if you want to create a big lush experience in a large room, that’s where foliage can work really well.
I would also integrate the concept of creating centerpieces that can be reused so their usefulness is lengthened. Look at the life cycle of the materials and products you’re using to lessen the impact on the environment. Consider live plants, reusable ceramic baskets and fruit, like peaches or cherries, integrated into arrangements for added pops of colors that will have a second life after the event.
Eco-tips signage is very fun and an opportunity to educate people along the way. You can start with the company or event website and have a page that says that California is in a drought, encouraging guests to keep it in mind. Weave signage throughout the event, in the welcome packets, in the hotel, at the bar, at the table for dinner, making sure that signage is inspiring people to be drought tolerant at each touch point.
Also, consider how to design an experience that has less stuff to wash. I’ve done picnic experiences that have compostable tableware and utensils. And farm tables don’t require linens.
AJ PELL owner
Peridot Events | San Rafael
On a very basic level, at all events we encourage people to bring their own water bottle. Then we look at what we need that requires water, and ask ourselves if we can live without it. How can we recycle water for plants when we’re having a drought? We look for somewhere with water stations where leftover water can be recycled with live plants in the area and not just dumped. It helps to just try to be more conscious.
With tented outdoor events, tents are often held down with big water barrels because it’s the most cost-effective. It’s worthwhile investigating alternatives that don’t waste all that water, such as using stakes or concrete weights.
We’re trying to stay mindful and consider all the little steps we can take to save water. We’re conscious of not putting out extra dishes that will need washing. On the floral and design end, we’re looking at what takes less water, what’s in season and what’s native; aloe plants, for example, are a good, waterconserving choice.
When it comes to sustainability, you have to get whatever facts you can. Are the products you’re using being flown in? How much water does it take to wash all the dishes? And how much water does it take to grow the materials that make compostables? I will lean on past clients, like the Bay Institute, when I have questions about eco-policy and science.
We need to think of the big, holistic picture and look at every aspect of an event, including menu, rentals, décor, floral, paper trail, registration material and signage. Everything you’re using should be making the smallest footprint as possible.
SANDRA DIDOMIZIO owner
Green Fox Events & Guest Services | Mammoth Lakes
With any kind of event, you’re only as good as your partners—the venues, caterers, vendors, whoever is chosen. If they’re not following certain eco-conscious approaches, we’ll try to educate them or do it for them. With caterers who don’t compost, for example, we will facilitate as much as possible to make sure they do that.
We also encourage the selection of venues that are conscious of water use. For outdoor spaces, we’re partial to artificial lawns and venues that have a landscape that doesn’t require much water. A site inspection is always a surefire way to see firsthand what a venue’s practices are. More and more properties now are abiding by green standards, and implementing certain measures to reduce consumption.
When we do an event in an outdoor venue, very little water is used. We fortunately have a lot of venues that we work with that have a dry, rocky landscape or naturallooking faux grass. When properties here do water their landscape, they’re using reused water that the district makes available.
We’re located in a high elevation, so we want guests to stay hydrated. Instead of water bottles, you can have a handsome water station and people can hydrate whenever they want. Leftover water can water the plants.
We just went through a certification process for green weddings. As part of it, we identified partners that follow the same measures that we do: vendors that would go out of their way to work with organic local farmers, like a local lavender farmer who provides them with all the lavender for the season; succulents you can throw in the yard after an event and it will reroot and thrive. You can also donate flowers after an event; even if they are flowers that require water, they’ll get a longer shelf life and get reused. We donate flowers to local hospitals, day cares, school officials and the police and fire departments.
You can also dress up an event with natural items from your surroundings, like river rocks, driftwood, wood pinecones, leaves, boughs and feathers. Curly willow can be really pretty and can be painted. Once it’s cut, it’s not alive but it can last forever. It has such a versatile rebirth.
In terms of food, a lot of herbs and edible flowers are becoming a presence. Consider dandelions, chicory and fennel. They might be more expensive, but you can get them at local farmers markets or from local flower groups. Dandelions are very, very good for you. Stinging nettle is also very good for you and you can make soup, stew, or tea from it. Medicinal and edible herbs and flowers are a great way to not use harvested produce and also be healthminded. Edible petals and flowers can also be used in dessert displays.
It’s difficult to do green events because you’re only as good as your partners. You have to be careful that no one is green washing. If your print company isn’t using recycled paper, it’s not a green event.
These organizations can help with education and practical advice on how to cut water usage at events.
GREEN HOTELS ASSOCIATION: Encourages, promotes and supports greening of the lodging industry. greenhotels.com
GREEN KEY: Voluntary, self-administered program designed to assist hotels in improving their environmental footprints. green-key.org
GREEN LODGING NEWS: Tracks sustainability issues and developments in the lodging industry. greenlodgingnews.com
GREEN LODGING PROGRAM: Two levels of certification; geared to government meeting planners. dgs.ca.gov/travel/programs
GREEN MEETING INDUSTRY COUNCIL: Sponsors meetings on sustainability issues and provide tips and guidelines. gmicglobal.org
GREEN SEAL: Rigorous certification program requiring fees and annual audit. greenseal.org
LEADERSHIP IN ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN (LEED): The premier green rating system worldwide. usgbc.org/leed