Ideas for Earth Day arts and crafts for kids abound, but how do you integrate an environmentally friendly theme into an adult conference or corporate event in a way that won’t leave attendees smelling like patchouli and singing kumbaya?
- Earth-friendly centerpieces: You could use cut florals that are shipped many miles, or you could choose a centerpiece that is gentler on the earth. My favourite? A mix of live native plants. Whether it’s ferns in the Pacific Northwest or interesting succulents in the south, each can add a local, earth-friendly flair to your decor. Add to the experience by sharing information and local lore about the plants on menu cards or seating charts. Also consider sending each centerpiece home with an attendee, perhaps in return for turning in their name badge for reuse!
- Up-cycled fashion for ambassadors: Does your event use greeters or directional staff? Have ambassadors or wait staff that need to stand out? Think about partnering with a fashion or design school to dress them in hats, vests or clothing that have been made from pre-loved materials. Want to go further? Auction the designs off to raise funds for a local earth-oriented charity. Want to go even further?! Make the fashions from branded materials provided by sponsors who also agree to buy back the up-cycled items!
- Unique, earthy event space: You talk differently around the campfire and might network more authentically when relaxing on a garden bench. So think about unique event space designs, like these beauties from Greenscape Design and Decor.
- Earth-friendly name badges: And I’m not talking something that is “biodegradable”. Let’s do something cool, innovative and up-cycled. I mean the kind of badge that your attendees will be saying “no way am I giving THIS back”.
Exhibit Hall Excursions
- Earth Day Scavenger Hunt: A great idea for trade shows that fall on Earth Day or Environment Day! Ask your exhibitors to provide or sponsor a “green” trivia question. Attendees earn points by visiting booths to get trivia questions answered. Points can be redeemed for green-themed prizes.
- Earth Day Exhibit Village: Make a connection with your host community and increase the profile of environmental groups at your trade show by organizing a special Earth Day or Community Village in the exhibit hall. Charities or local “green” business could be given free or discounted space that is specially marketed to attendees.
- Take-back and recycling programs: If your trade show attracts an audience that uses special equipment or materials, set up locations in the exhibit hall that can take back these items for recycling. Particularly suitable for lifestyle, home, technology and fashion shows where items like paint, electronics, books and gently used clothing could be taken back for donation or proper disposal.
- Trade-in programs: A step up from the above, consider giving something back to attendees who bring in items for recycling. This could be a good idea if you have a sponsor or exhibitor who is looking to promote a new earth-minded product, such as a green-certified cleaner or organic food item.
- Where ya from?: Earth Day is about the planet and the people who live on it too. Consider tapping the theme for creative “get-to-know-you” ideas, like this cool attendee photo map. A great conversation starter!
Food and Beverage Themes
- Fair trade breakfast: World Fair Trade Day is technically in May, but this theme works well for Earth Day, too. Plus, there’s already a handy do-it-yourself guide online, including recipe cards to give away. Bring on the coffee, bananas, chocolate and other kinds of fair trade breakfast goodness!
- Zero-waste Health Break: Draw attention to healthy eating and reducing packaging by hosting a zero-waste health break. Ditch the disposables, grab some tasty house-made energy bars and provide some optional light exercise or stretching to re-invigorate attendees.
- Chef’s Select Sustainable Meal: Sometimes, the best thing you can do to celebrate Earth Day everyday is to put your trust in your Chef. Talking to your Chef about your desire to have a sustainable meal frees them to be creative and find most affordable seasonal options for you. Be sure to invite the Chef to share the story of their meal, and display information about the farms used. At a coastal destination? Adopt a seafood theme for your sustainable meal (ideal for Oceans Day). Ensure product is sourced in compliance with Seafood Watch or Oceanwise, and provide attendees with steps they can take to conserve marine ecosystems, including their own safe seafood wallet cards.
- Think.Eat.Save. Meal: This idea may sound a little strange at first but here goes: make a meal from rejected produce. UN VIPs recently dined on food rejected from UK grocery stores in order to call attention to some of the crazy ways we waste food. Ministers were served food purchased direct from farmers whose crops had been rejected by distributors and grocery stores who deemed the food unmarketable due to cosmetic reasons. Go farther by tying in rustic, seasonal centerpieces using interesting “wonky veggies”. Food waste facts could be added to buffets and menu cards to further the message.
- Show the Ugly Fruit Some Love! Pie Buffet: A variation on the above, but with (mmmm) pie. If you do this at your event invite me please. I love pie. And I don’t care how pretty the fruit was.
- Candle light dinner: As a pre-cursor to Earth Day, many Earth Hour participants will be hosting candle-lit dinner parties to highlight the importance of reducing our energy use year-round. This idea can be reprised for Earth Day, where you might also want to feature the World Wildlife Foundation’s special healthy candle light menu.
- Trash Can Soup Buffet: Saw this idea in BizBash a few weeks back and thought it was a clever way to highlight the important way soups reduce food waste. Would be great for a lunch on the last day of a multi-day event to use up all those left over meats and veggies!
- Edible Garden: Yet another shout out to BizBash for sharing this cool idea. It’s part decor, part food, and I like that it’s vegetarian! Increasing the amount of vegetarian meals and snacks at your event not only promotes health, but typically has takes less energy and water to produce, ultimately reducing your food footprint (as well as your cost!).
- Climate Change Cocktails: Okay I’m likely being a bit cheeky here, but what about serving a special Earth Day cocktail with these conversation-provoking ice cubes?! After all if we’re serious about the temperature projections we just may need a stiff drink. Might as well make it a green one!
- Water-wise menu: Did you know certain foods use more water than others? They do! For example, it takes more water to raise beef than chicken. Check out Waterfootprint to compare menu ingredients and choose those that are not as thirsty. Pair your menu and function with a water-wise cause, such as One Drop.
- Change a light, change the world: Branded energy-efficient light bulbs are a thoughtful giveaway, especially if accompanied by an interesting fun fact that inspires attendees to use them!
- Branded preserves: Ugly, leftover fruit represent! If your pie buffet doesn’t take care of it, consider bottling the fruity flavour of your destination as a jam or jelly. It’s a great way to support local producers, reduce food waste and give attendees a taste of the event to take home with them.
- Seed bombs: Hosting a rebellious group? Seed bombs are a creative giveaway to encourage them to become guerrilla gardeners. (One word of caution: make sure the seeds you choose are respectful of the locations attendees may take them, and do not promote species invasions.)
- Shower timers: If your company is particularly concerned about water use consider shower timers as a gift. Four minute shower timers are a fun, easy way to encourage water conservation at home.
- Pedometers: Encourage your attendees to fall in step with a healthier lifestyle that also benefits the planet. Give participants a pedometer at the start of your event and consider challenging them to use it throughout. Award prizes to those attendees who walk the farthest.
- Earth Day Superhero Kit: If your event calls for a bigger giveaway item, seek sponsorship for a kit that includes some of the items above. To add a special touch, bag the items in hand-coloured brown paper “Hero” bags decorated by school children, in return for a donation to their school green fund. If making a kit for every attendee sounds like a bit too much work, make fewer and present them as a random prize draw from name badges returned for recycling after the event.
- For those events that have time and resources to plan a special service activity, consider hosting an Earth Day volunteer project, such as tree planting, litter pick up, community garden maintenance, or a healthy heart-healthy planet fun run.
And remember – Earth Day is just one “green” holiday theme that can add something different to your event. Don’t forget these other earth-mined holidays as well: