Welcome to AskGBA, where GBA staff and partners answer your questions related to all things green buildings, sustainability, and more!
This week, GBA's Events and Content Manager Destiny Knetzer gives you an inside look at all the work that goes into making a sustainable and successful GBA event.
I love attending your events! How do you make them sustainable?
When it comes to events at GBA, we are always striving for as close to zero-waste as possible. To help us get there, we use the following three Sustainable Development Goals to guide us in our decision-making regarding venues, food and beverage selection, and consideration of our community impact.
Responsible Consumption and Production
The likelihood that you come across a plastic bottle of water, or other single-use, landfill-bound product at a GBA event is slim. You’re more likely to encounter reusable or compostable cups, plates, napkins, and flatware as these help us keep our waste footprint low.
Expect to see different waste receptacles for compost, recycling, and landfill. Reducing waste effectively takes a village, and it takes practice. We are still certainly learning how to get it exactly right, but that’s okay! That’s why we do our best to track each event’s waste by type and use the data collected to continue to improve our zero-waste efforts.
GBA reduces waste by often using our own inventory of reusable event supplies including dishes, décor, linens, and more. Our supplies include recycled glass dishes for in-house events, durable bamboo dishes for off-site events, and even cloth napkins.
You may have noticed this year, instead of printed paper nametags, we repurposed the plastic nametag holders. We use chalk markers to hand-write all the nametag information and wipe them clean after each event for reuse again, and again, and again. (This idea was inspired by a similar method used at Global Links!) However, if you become a member, you can get your very own permanent, wooden name tag, along with some other neat GBA swag & other benefits in 2023.
When curating our event menus, we tend to select vegetable-forward items with vegan, gluten-free, and allergen conscious options available, and are proactive in asking caterers about sustainable sourcing and ethics of their food products.
It is important to us that our events are accessible. This is why all of our events are open to the public (with only a few member-only exceptions) and why we attempt to host events in locations that are accessible by various modes of transportation, including buses and bikes. Since Green Building is a topic that affects everyone, we work to ensure our content is relatable to all community members, offering various learning levels and experiences that ensure everyone feels welcome. While you may see reduced rates for GBA Members and 2030 District Partners, we do our best to keep event pricing affordable.
Scholarships to events are another way we make our events more accessible and work to reduce inequalities. Scholarships are available for all GBA events, and no-cost memberships are also available to those who cannot afford to purchase a membership. Free membership helps increase access to GBA’s network and its reduced member pricing for events. At our most recent Inspire Speakers Series in March 2023, nine free tickets were given to Hazelwood community members to attend the event, as the content of the event directly applied to their community.
When conducting site visits for special events, we take note of accessible entrances and emergency exits. While working with the venue to decide on layout, we take care to establish space for maneuverability and clear lines of sight to any presentations. We can also accommodate special needs such as sign language interpretation, and are working to make this a standardized offering at all our large events.
Gender neutral restrooms, or at minimum, a single-stall family restroom on-site are also preferred when we select our venues.
Another simple yet important way that GBA makes our events as accessible and convenient are through our incredibly detailed emails. You will find basic event details and a general agenda, health/safety protocols (if any), location and transit information like parking and bus/bike routes, Zoom meeting information for online events, and any other miscellaneous information we think might be helpful to our attendees. Our staff ensures that everyone knows what to expect, and we always want to be sure you feel included and comfortable before, during, and after the event!
Sustainable Cities & Communities
Another large piece in the sustainable events puzzle is prioritizing our communities. For example, those permanent wooden name tags mentioned earlier are being ordered from local artist, Vicki Branagan. For catering choices, we prioritize BIPOC and/or women-owned businesses.
We also support our neighborhoods by asking caterers to donate leftover food after a large event to places like 412 Food Rescue.
We foster sustainable communities by nourishing networks like our Women+ In Green network, giving women, gender minorities, and allies a platform to connect and uplift one another.
Green Buildings are also made a priority within the community by giving venue preference to buildings with green credentials or 2030 District Partners, so we know the spaces we have chosen to host events are making efforts toward reducing their carbon footprint and increasing energy and water efficiency.
One very big reason GBA is so good at curating sustainable events is because we recognize there is always room for improvement. We continuously review our strategies to determine areas where better practices exist, and other places we need to adjust.
Watch this Green Building Bit where we prepare for our 30th Anniversary Member Launch Party to get an idea of how everything comes together. And if you enjoyed learning about these practices, see them in action by registering for a future GBA event!
We hope to see you soon!