The Greenest Event of Them All, Part 6: Paper Use

Paper Mill, Powell River, British Columbia

Paper Mill, Powell River, British Columbia

Last week I waxed about waste management systems, this week I will focus in on how to manage and source paper.

Event organizers will recognize two distinct uses of paper. Internal paper is paper which is intended to be used in-office, from daily memos, white papers and meeting information to event-time score sheets, news briefs and other postings (for example, those tacked on corkboards or handed to announcers).

External paper is intended for printing tickets, spectator information, maps, annual reports and other public company filings leading up to the Event. External printing normally requires special paper, sizing and/or finishing and may either be purchased through local or national print shops.

Although you will likely have the most control over internal print jobs, realize you can select which external print shops you use as well. Harvested trees are sent to a few, very large mills North America, located mostly on the East Coast. Print shops throughout the country then purchase paper from these mills for commercial jobs. Events like the Vancouver Olympics face one of two options to external paper purchasing: a) have the finished printed materials shipped from an East-Coast print shop, or b) purchase from a local Vancouver print shop which has sourced paper from the East Coast. From a socially-minded (and – perhaps – environmentally friendly) viewpoint, the Vancouver Olympics has chosen to support local jobs by sending external paper requests through Vancouver-based print shops. Some shops, in addition to providing jobs, also guarantee FSC certified processes and other environmental benefits such as carbon emission offsets.

Internal paper stock is critical for your organization to manage effectively. Using recycled paper is one of the surest ways to communicate and cultivate an environmental ethos in the workplace or at your event. According to, a simple tool developed by the Environmental Defense Fund, 1 ton of paper (about 100 reams at 20lbs per ream) containing 30% recycled content will save 3 tons of wood biomass, 0.4 tons of carbon, and over 3,000 gallons of water compared to 1 ton of virgin paper stock.

However, many unsubstantiated myths continue to lambast recycled paper for commercial purposes. Simply put, complaints of paper jams, attraction to dust, and shoddy texture are symptoms from the past; with 20+ years of recycling technology improvements, even 100% recycled paper can be used successfully in any office setting. Some of these views were expanded in the Conservatree Paper Listening Study from 2003 – 2009, found here:

Use simple tools like these to convey the environmental benefits to your procurement division when sourcing paper for your event. Recycled content may or may not cost more depending on your location, but hopefully the benefit of sending a strong environmental message will make the selection a no-brainer.


The Greenest Event of them all, Part 4: Choosing the Right Venue

Looking to green your event? It all comes down to location, location, location. LEED buildings are designed to give occupants assurance that certain energy-saving features are installed, such as user-interface devices that call attention to simple things like turning off unnecessary lighting. However, LEED-certified venues are fare and few between, especially those designed for sporting events. Here are a few tips for conserving energy in the rest of those places.

Managing electricity – set electronic timers, if any. If there are no timers, staff and athletes can be instructed to turn off all lights when not in use and when away at night. This is easier said than done, but especially applicable for summer events, since natural lighting will be more prominent. One way is to place stickers under the light switches in bathrooms and offices reminding guests to hit the switch on their way out. If purchasing or installing appliances for the event, choose those appliances with energy-star (lo-energy) rating and compact fluorescent lighting.

Remember this is an ATHLETIC event, and it is possible to advise guests and athletes to use the stairs when possible, and avoid the elevator or escalator. Walking a flight of stairs is an easy way for athletes to begin to warm up, and getting the blood flowing is a great way to relieve cramping and stiffness in attendees who are sitting during the event.

Heating and Cooling – air conditioning is a key factor for indoor events in the summer and winter, such as swimming, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, wrestling and volleyball. When possible, use fans, which consume far less energy than air-conditioning units. Secondly, ensure your air-conditioning unit has been properly commissioned, which is one of the biggest (and cheapest to fix) sources of wasted energy.

For winter events, check that the venue is adequately weather-proofed. Extra insulation can be easily added by adding weather stripping or caulking to cover gaps in doorways, windows and other openings, which will reduce drafts and thus the heating load.

Lastly, don’t forget to monitor your energy use! This is a critical measure of success for your green-event program. In order to prove to those who are funding the event (not to mention guests and athletes) that you have made a difference, an easy way is to break out the energy bill showing kilowatt hours (kWh) of usage. Critically, it is important to get estimates or actual reports of the standard energy consumption in the venue prior to your event, as you can use this number to see how your savings stack up.