Your future event is a HUGE opportunity for action!
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
We believe gatherings should be a joyful, intentional reflection of who you are. Most of us are good people who love each other and the planet. So, why the heck are we mass-consuming our way through events?
Here’s what we’ll cover step-by-step:
A note about this month's content—much of it is focused on the "Western" world, especially countries like the US and UK, which over consume and waste far more than our fair shares.
🎯 Action step 1 of 4: READ — Let's start by looking at a few articles together.
Let’s explore some facts about what's going on with the events industry. We encourage you to read one article on how the event industry and mass consumerism became best buds.
The "it's only one day!" mindset is literally toxic.
A Chicago Tribune article from 2017 reports that an average wedding produces 400 pounds of garbage and 63 tons of CO2, which is 4x the yearly carbon footprint of the average American.
When we think about sustainable events, we can't forget larger scale ones.
According to the BCC, music festivals in the UK produce ~23,000x tonnes of waste than the average UK household does in a year. This is about as much weight as 78 fully loaded Boeing 747 jets.
Marketing is wreaking havoc on our lives and the planet.
Social media (especially Instagram) wires our brain to FOMO. This fear of missing out makes it so that, when it comes to making purchases, "we are driven to act immediately. Normal values can be overridden by the power of the platform." This HuffPost article sheds light on why the zillions of trends on social media can have a direct negative impact on our planet.
As Grist reports, the gap between the choices we make via the $50B+ luxury-focused wedding industry and our eco-friendly identities is giving ✨cognitive dissonance✨. The good news is, it's a HUGE opportunity for action!
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 1 of 4: READ.
🎯 Action step 2 of 4: LISTEN — we'll watch a short video or listen to a podcast to further expand on our topic.
If you haven’t seen videos from Adam Ruins Everything, you’re in for a ride. All his videos give “knowledge is power, but make it comedy.” For example, let’s break down marketing for weddings.
The key takeaway is that marketing is one hell of a drug. Until Adam Ruined Weddings for us, we had no idea wearing white as a bride symbolized wealth and not necessarily purity. It’s WILD to think our conceptions of what weddings “should” be… are super recent, and driven by corporate marketing initiatives.
But if happiness or a long marriage is what you’re after, it’s worth asking if the objects embedded in our rituals are special to you––or special to a mining corporation with excellent marketing.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 2 of 4: LISTEN.
🎯 Action step 3 of 4: ACT — Now it's time to do something. Let's go!
Here's some tips on creating planet-friendly and just friendly events! When we were researching this topic, the biggest gap we found was basic thoughtfulness and intention.
1. CLEARLY define your purpose for your gathering.
Whether it’s your best friend’s birthday party, a work happy hour, or a neighborhood block party, your gathering needs a purpose. The purpose should be defensible, and not everyone should agree with it.
2. Get specific about your values and how you want to show up in any setting.
OUr hypothesis for why huge milestone events like weddings stress couples out so much is this: it’s a test of your integrity. Conducting a huge event the way Instagram wants you to can make you feel like you’re betraying your soul… because it’s often NOT what you want! In this video, Soapbox Project founder, Nivi, talks through how she implemented sustainable values and actions for her wedding.
3. Inventory the “default” decisions.
A few years ago when beeswax wrap and reusable food storage bags became all the rage, we ran out of plastic wrap and ziplocs. We had a profound revelation: WE DIDN’T NEED THEM AT ALL! We didn’t need to spend more money on sustainable alternatives—we could just use our existing Tupperware! It's time to stop autopiloting our way through event planning.
4. Okay, NOW the logistics — start with a venue.
You can choose a venue that prioritizes sustainable waste management. Or a venue that’s already beautiful so you don’t feel compelled to decorate. Or one that’s close to a majority of attendees to cut down on travel! There are MANY ways to choose a “sustainable” venue.
5. Cut out red meat in your food options.
Even better, go plant based! Cutting out red meat is an easy decision that’ll save you money and help your event be friendlier to this beautiful planet.
6. Have a plan for food waste.
For example, give people to-go boxes to bring home any leftover food. At smaller events you can ask people to bring their own. If that sounds bizarre to you, just know that people are so excited to leave with leftovers when it’s the norm!
7. Get stuff locally, seasonally, and secondhand.
Food and decorations don’t need to be flown in. Getting decorations and furniture from a thrift shop is another super fun activity that you can do with any co-planners or friends. Also, secondhand outfits are often even MORE fabulous than new ones.
8. Rent and buy nothing where you can!
We love Something Borrowed Blooms for their gorgeous silk flower rentals. They’re also way more affordable than fresh cut flowers. You can generally rent decor locally and if you’re a DIY person, your local Buy Nothing group probably has some GREAT stuff for any event!
9. Most importantly. Remember YOU are a role model and a leader!
When you’re in charge of an event, you have a captive audience, whether that’s the people at your company giving you budget, your vendors, or your friends and family. If there’s ONLY ONE THING you take away from this whole module, it’s this:
Share your choices with others, and you’ll create more positive ripple effects than you can ever dream of. YOU can push back on unnecessary swag bags. YOU can make your company’s policy for events to be plant-based! YOU can inspire hundreds of people to wear outfits they already have! Your voice is special, and it matters.
10. Actually even more importantly, give yourself grace.
The only truly sustainable decision most of us can make for events is not having an event at all. But community is key to being a whole, happy human, and we’ll all have to make some hard choices when we have gatherings! We’re all imperfect—let’s just commit to trying our best, every single time! We can't do this alone.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 3 of 4: ACT.
Before we go any further, it's time for you to pledge your commitment. It takes less than 30 seconds to pledge and we can bother you about it in a friendly way, so we can hold each other accountable. Pledge here!
🎯 Action step 4 of 4: REFLECT — what can you commit to? What fresh perspectives can we look at?
HUGE REMINDER—YOU have the power to change the world. We don't mean that in a vague, cliché home decor sign way.
Every time you host a gathering, have people over, connect a group of friends, or even show up anywhere, you have the power to make someone's life better.
So let's put some more thought into that! Think about the next gathering you’re going to, preferably one that you play some part in planning. Then, think about the purpose of it and one thing you’re going to do differently / more thoughtfully. It doesn’t even have to be about sustainability. It can be “get name tags so people can feel more comfortable getting to know each other.” It can be “break up my huge conference into 100 mini-conferences that are more geographically convenient for people.” It can be “HAVE MORE FUN AS A HOST!”
Humans are magical, creative weirdos. Let's lean into that and see what happens.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 4 of 4: REFLECT.
Check out our membership community for more resources like free weekly events with social justice experts, sustainable product discounts, pre-written email templates, a social impact job board, and in-person hangouts with new friends. Thanks for taking action with Soapbox Project!
Get our free bite-sized climate action plans before you go!