Julia Spangler is a sustainable events consultant who specializes in reducing and diverting waste at meetings and events. Julia helps organizations and event professionals reduce the environmental impact of their events in order to preserve our planet and deliver powerful sustainability stories.
How Has the Pandemic Changed Public Opinion about Green Events?
In my blog post Can Events Be Sustainable In a Post-Pandemic World?, I talked about the many ways event planners can continue to follow green practices in a safe and sanitary way.
But now that you know you can still plan green events, you may be wondering: should you?
With many guests feeling anxious about attending their first meetings after the shutdown, you might be concerned about how guests will perceive your green programs. Will having a visible green program seem insensitive to attendees? Will it give the impression you’re not putting enough effort into health and safety?
You may also be wondering, do attendees even care about the environment right now? We all have a lot of concerns on our plates, from worrying about job security to planning our kids’ childcare and education to making sure our family members stay healthy, so the environment probably isn’t at the top of everyone’s list right now.
To be honest, these were my initial assumptions as well. Even in the best of times, environmental concerns sometimes don’t feel immediate to people living outside the “sustainability industry bubble,” even though the planet we live on affects nearly every aspect of our lives. I thought that surely people’s interest in the environment would drop in comparison to an urgent situation like the pandemic.
However, research shows this isn’t the case. Consulting firm Kearney conducted a survey of 1,000 Americans in April 2020, after the severity and significance of the pandemic was abundantly clear. One of the questions they asked was: How concerned are you about the environment since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic?
The responses to this question blew my mind. They were the total opposite of what I expected.
· 46% of respondents reported having the same level of concern about the environment as before the pandemic.
· 48% reported being more concerned about the environment than they were before the pandemic.
· Only 7% reported being less concerned about the environment since the start of the pandemic.
There are a few different theories about why people’s concern for the environment would actually be going up at this time (these are my own theories, not Kearney’s). First, as people spent more time at home, they were confronted more directly than usual by the amount of waste they generate. Some recycling providers reported an uptick in new recycling subscribers during the shutdown, possibly for the same reason. Second, there have been multiple news articles exploring the relationship between ecological destruction and the likelihood of diseases passing from animals to humans. There has also been so much press lately regarding the correlation between climate change and the natural disasters that have been plaguing the globe. Regardless of the reason, people’s growing concern for the environment means public opinion is on your side if you’re hoping to continue your green event planning program.
What do these results mean for event professionals?
· Keep following green practices and offering green options to your clients. Don’t assume that budget shake-ups or health concerns will automatically keep clients from being interested in green programs. Even if your clients aren’t able to take advantage of some green options right now due to budget constraints, they will appreciate knowing what you can offer and potentially be interested in using your green services in the future.
· Keep asking your vendors and partners what green options they can offer you. Planners, you may be in a strategic position to negotiate with venues that are eager to start booking meetings again. Put your green expectations and requests front-and-center in your RFPs, and make sure your partners aren’t erroneously assuming that sustainability is no longer a priority for you or your guests.
The data is clear: Americans continue to care about the environment, and many now care even more than they did before the pandemic. By continuing your green event practices, you’ll give your guests peace of mind that their growing concerns are not being ignored.