I want to talk about eco-friendly events. I know what you’re thinking: “I care about the environment, but my event still needs to look good. Centerpieces made out of used paper towel rolls don’t do it for me. Or my boss. Or the folks on our guest list. Also: I can’t spend more to waste less.”

I get it. Just because something is eco-friendly doesn’t make it pretty, no matter how noble. And purchasing carbon offsets is nice, but not usually in the budget.

Doing right by the environment is vitally important to me as an event designer (and as a “civilian”, for that matter), so I’ve done a fair amount of thinking and researching, to see how events can be less wasteful while also being beautiful and not budget-busting.

Just because something is eco-friendly doesn’t make it pretty, no matter how noble.

Below are some of my favorite ideas and techniques, as well as some suggested partners in the effort to make events more sustainable. Have a tip of your own? Send it my way!

    • Use online resources. This is a big “reduce.” If your crowd is open to an online invitation, consider it. The cost of a good designer to make it happen will be less than design and printing costs for an old fashioned hard copy.Not right for your audience? Then send an old school invite and direct guests to a site to RSVP, get directions, etc.
    • Go green, literallyIt hurts to see all those fresh flowers bite the dust after just one night, doesn’t it? Consider potted plants. Think lush tropical foliage, glamorous oversized palms. I love to use succulents (currently as on trend as you can get) as part of centerpieces, and invite guests to take them home as gifts.
    • Ditch the bottled water. This can be a big money saver. Offer pitchers of water to guests instead of an endless supply of H2O in plastic bottles. If appropriate for your event, give guests a branded bottle and provide spots to refill throughout your venue or event.
    • Guzzle less gas. If you’re hosting an event with a slew of VIPs, skip the town car and send a hybrid to pick them up or shuttle them to and from the venue.
    • Pass it on. Even though I’ve been at this a long time, I’m still always astounded at how much stuff is left over after an event. Do something with it all.

I love Materials for the Arts, a non-profit organization that takes unneeded items from businesses and individuals and redirects them to schools and agencies with arts programming. (Full-disclosure: I’m on the board. But that doesn’t make them any less awesome.)

Got tons of food? Give City Harvest or Rock and Wrap it Up a ring — they’ll make sure those appetizers end up in someone’s mouth, not in the trash.

More to follow next week