Sustainable events

Making good events great for the environment.

Adelaide has long been recognised as one of the world’s great festival cities; facilitating over 800 events every year. Events play an important role in stimulating the local economy and creating a city that’s designed for life. Many are held on the green community squares in the city and in the surrounding Park Lands, so it’s no wonder there is a growing expectation that events are sustainable.

Sustainable event guidelines

The City of Adelaide has developed a set of Sustainable Event Guidelines. They were developed collaboratively with event organisers, the waste industry and event suppliers in 2017 and 2018. The guidelines provide practical ways to improve sustainability and set ambitious targets. You can then promote your event’s sustainability achievements and gain certification for your efforts.

Use of the guidelines is voluntary and event organisers can select actions that are specific to their event. Continuous improvement and adoption of further actions over time are encouraged as part of the journey towards more environmentally sustainable events and becoming known as leaders in environmental change. The Guidelines can be used by anyone working on or supplying to events of any size.

In addition, the following brochures provide information that can help make your next event more sustainable:

Guide to Compostable Packaging Suppliers.

Alternatives to single use straws

Action areas

There are six key action areas within the Guidelines. We’ve explained them here for you, and featured and example of a local event which has successfully implemented positive actions.

Waste reduction and recycling are better for the environment, aligns with community expectations, and presents cost and operating efficiencies.

Ideally, waste management at events should follow a waste hierarchy of avoid, reduce, reuse and recycle. This means top priority is avoiding the use of unnecessary materials/substances where possible, utilising renewable and compostable materials where possible, followed by reducing the amount of waste generated, and reusing or recycling materials.

There are opportunities to improve waste separation and recycling systems at events. Adopting the three-bin system that consumers are used to using in their home is one great action. Patron education by utilising volunteers or gamified interaction are also great actions. Further waste management information is available from Green Industries South Australia.

Sustainability success story: The Vogue Fashion Festival is part of the annual Adelaide Fashion Festival. Their 2017 festival launch was a private event for 175 guests. Most of the materials from the launch were co-mingled recyclables which were sent to appropriate recycling facilities. After the event, their banners were recycled into 91 totes, 16 clutches and a dress. Who says you can’t recycle fashion!

Events use energy predominantly for lighting, audiovisual, cooking, heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

You can improve sustainability and operational outcomes through:

  • designing low energy systems/operations
  • efficient use of energy
  • greater use of solar and energy storage technology such as solar lights
  • utilising onsite renewable or low emission energy
  • investing in or donating to community renewable energy schemes
  • utilise carbon offset providers that offer NCOS certified offsets to account for electricity use or accredited Green Power for the event.

Sustainability success story: The Vegan Festival Adelaide is held annually in Victoria Square/Tarntanyangga and has seen a significant growth in patronage and size each year. The 2018 event showcased renewable energy, good waste management practices along with education and community engagement around sustainable living. Their unique ‘solar tree’ provided a convenient and renewable recharging station, encouraging creative thought whilst enjoying the event.

Transport to events by attendees, performers and staff, as well as freight to move materials to and from site, is a significant source of carbon emissions, especially air travel.

We recognise that transport is one of the more difficult areas to control, however you can influence behaviours and lead by example. Sustainable events can encourage car sharing, public transport and active transport such as cycling and walking. Public transport has the lowest emissions of motorised transport to events and should be encouraged wherever possible.

Sustainability success story: The City of Adelaide’s New Year’s Eve celebrations attracted a massive 55,000 people to the city centre in 2018. Pre-event messaging encouraged patrons to use active or public transport and supported this with on-site facilities. 

The City of Adelaide provides connection to a mains water supply for most events to be used for drinking, food preparation, washing up and irrigation.

With longer and hotter heatwaves occurring, it is important that free drinking water is available to everyone at events. Water use by event vendors should be as efficient as possible.

Sustainability success story: The City of Adelaide’s 2018 New Year’s Eve celebrations attracted 55,000 people into the city of a warm summers eve. Many arrived in the afternoon to secure prime viewing positions. Council encouraged patrons to bring their own water bottles and provided free water refill stations. This greatly reduced the number of plastic water bottles in circulation.

Event managers and stallholders can play a significant role in making informed choices throughout the event supply chain.

Your sustainable choices can influence the wider industry, promoting new technology and products that are more environmentally responsible, ethical and with local economy benefits. The concept of a circular economy means that materials are kept in circulation longer, waste is minimised, and material reuse is maximised, for the benefit of the local community.

When making purchasing decisions, consider several elements for sustainability, including:

Sustainability success story: The annual Vegan Festival Adelaide, is one event which has a high percentage of food stalls, placing an emphasis on local produce where possible.

A truly sustainable event results in additional benefits to staff, stallholders, suppliers and attendees such as operating efficiencies, a safer workplace and cleaner environment. Gaining commitment from others will maximise the overall benefits. 

With accurate monitoring and measurement of sustainability actions, events can confidently reflect their achievements and substantiate any public statements. You may wish to tailor communication and engagements to different audiences.

Sustainability success story: In their pre-event marketing, the City of Adelaide encouraged patrons to bring their own reusable water bottles, use of active or public transport and used the hashtag #StrawFreeADL to promote the event would be free of single-use straws.