The Sustainable Dilemma
There has been one winner through the coronavirus pandemic; the environment. Changes we never dreamt were possible have happened in a matter of months. And on a global scale. We’ve seen the cancellation of eight out of ten international flights. Waters are clearing of plastic and pollution. Air quality is improving. Endangered species are returning to their natural habitats. In Venice, the waterways are clear. The people of China are able to breath clean air. And in New York, where my daughter lives and coronavirus has devastated so many, the levels of pollution have dropped by 50%. This city epitomises the sustainable dilemma – can we maintain the environmental benefits without the threat of pandemic pain?
It may be a miracle amongst the madness, but will we learn lessons for the long-term? Will doubters such as Donald Trump accept global warming as a scientific fact? It was the change our planet badly needed. Yet it may never have happened without a threat more imminent than the environmental catastrophe that has been lingering in our peripheral vision for many years.
The Events Industry
Within the events industry this raises a huge dilemma; one that I shared my thoughts on in my Conference News column at the beginning of this year. Events are by nature consumers of environmental resources. Energy use for a full lighting production for instance is substantial. Many elements of an event will be single use. Then there’s food waste, plastic consumption, car travel and air miles. Plus, a whole host of other factors to consider. It gives planners the sustainable dilemma – and a challenge!
In recent years, the conundrum has been that people have been eager to reduce their impact on the environment, yet they still want the impact and drama of lavish, glamourous events. As event planners, we’ve been charged with marrying desires that are polar opposites to one another. An almost impossible task. But has the coronavirus crisis given us the beginnings of a solution?
In the short term, social distancing measures will go some way towards keeping up the progress we’ve made environmentally. It’s unlikely we’ll be allowed to host large-scale events for some time. While we find our feet in a new world, small is better. We’ll have to throw all of our creativity into making events that are pared back in scale, but NOT in vision.
Another consequence of time spent in lockdown, is there has been a renewed understanding that we can survive on less. People are taking joy from the smaller things in life. Events will therefore need to respond and show reductions in energy, food and environmental consumption, honing-in on attention to detail. Small events CAN be beautiful. More thoughtful. More manageable. Clients will however need to invest in the finer details to make them successful. That TLC touch that makes all the difference.
A different question is, can events really become more sustainable while maintaining their scale and impact? On this point, only time will tell. Event planners need to turn to their greatest assets to solve the dilemma: innovation. As I mentioned, I wrote a column about this very subject at the beginning of the year and I’ll leave you with some of those thoughts to summarise now.
“We need to tackle the challenge in the way that I deal with every event. I take every individual element and assess how we can deliver it with creativity and style, and now, with a more sustainable edge. Work with suppliers to minimise plastics and packaging. Look at low-energy options. Take care of your team’s wellbeing. Employ local venues, caterers and ﬂorists to lessen the burden of travel. For large events, I accept the task is daunting, but it shouldn’t be avoided. Perfect? Your solutions will evolve over time. You may not be able to change everything at once. But every swap, change, new idea and alternative option will make a difference.”
THE EXTRA FACTOR
Finally, this article in the Independent takes a closer look at the air pollution rates, and the changes we have seen in just a couple of months: TRULY startling! https://www.independent.co.uk/news/coronavirus-pollution-environment-lockdown-carbon-emissions-charts-a9510636.html
Having also been lucky enough to visit Venice for work and fun, the pictures here of the beautifully clear canals are astonishing and make the sustainable dilemma more apparent: https://youtu.be/HVwjs_D_kRI
-Liz Taylor, CEO. Taylor Lynn Corporation