Continuing our discussion of event design (and please, make it a discussion by commenting)...
More about our Event Design Series here at Day 1, and where the questions came from
Day 3: Sustainability: Special events can be wasteful. What steps can
planners take to make sure they are producing a sustainable event? And
how can you use alternative materials in your design work?
I think you have to look at the event's purpose and make sure you can align it with sustainability before you proceed. If you want to be known for sustainable events, yet promote events like Black Friday, you're getting off on the wrong foot.
That out of the way, then you should take the event apart critique each element for the following: 1. Is this element creating waste -- and can this waste be diverted or recycled? 2. Is this element using resources in an ethical way? (Ethical labor, ethical apportionment of food, water, energy)
Also, looking at the event as a whole: 3. What is the environmental legacy of the event? 4. What is the moral and ethical legacy of the event?
Alternative materials are everywhere. The last ISES Art of the Party event showed some great examples. I saw everything from Home Depot yard cloth used as table covering (which could be used in gardens after the event) to upcycled books (that would have been recycled anyway) being used as design materials. Catering is part of event design. Much has been covered regarding local and sustainable food sources. Lighting is part of event design. We have wonderful, low wattage light treatments available to us now. Look at every aspect you possibly can.
Event materials that are sustainable 1) do not draw heavily on, or entirely avoid, virgin resources such as cut trees or mined metals; 2) divert waste from landfills; 3) or can be reused, thus staying out of landfills; and 4) do not promote toxic chemical buildup through their use (e.g. batteries going in the trash)
You have a responsibility as a planner and a designer to explore alternative, sustainable sources first when creating your designs.