How to make your events more sustainable

Environmentally Friendly Bag

Looking after the environment has become an increasing area of interest and concern for the public, with a YouGov poll showing environmental issues as one of the top three topics that people are currently thinking about. It’s important to be mindful of the issues that your supporters are interested in, which is why we’ve created a short guide on how to produce a more sustainable event.

For many charities, running events are a key way to generate valuable funds throughout the year. However, they can generate a huge amount of excess waste. By making small but simple sustainable changes, you can reduce your event carbon footprint and show your supporters that you’re listening to their needs.

Avoid balloons

Not only can it take up to four years for a balloon to decompose, a new study has found that balloons are especially harmful nature such as seabirds. Why not invest in decorations that can be used more than once or that are recyclable such as tissue paper pompoms or ribbon dancers.

“We never use balloons at our events, not even ‘degradable’ ones as these can also last a number of months, even years, and pose a choking hazard to wildlife at sea, and on land. And let’s be honest, it’s not the balloons making your event fun or successful. For our cheer stations we make ourselves visible with re-usable flags, barrier banners we all wear our WWF t-shirts and we bring on our brilliant Panda mascot, Polly! Our supporters love it and fully understand why we’re not using balloons or handing these out in fundraising packs.” 

– Fruzsi Kozma, Community Fundraising and Events Manager at WWF

Give plastic bottles the boot

Encourage your participants to bring their own reusable bottle to events rather than buying disposable plastic bottles. If you want to provide cups, then try using compostable cups as these will naturally breakdown over time.

Go paperless

Instead of posting out information packs, cut down on paper products (and postage costs) by emailing and texting event updates to participants. If you have the resources, then it might also be worth thinking about investing in an event mobile app which shares all of your event information in one, easy to find place.

“In 2019 London Marathon Events moved all race instructions and registration materials online, and integrated our printed marathon spectator guide into our App. We also successfully trialed print-on-demand race numbers at the Marathon to reduce waste.”

– Head of Charities at London Marathon Events, Kenneth Foreman

Waste not, want not

The thought of not providing enough food for your attendees is enough to wake you up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. However, it’s estimated that a 1/3 of all food produced is being lost or wasted, so think about the following factors before ordering too much catering:

  • Number of attendees
  • The event type and timing of activities or breaks
  • Dietary requirements in advance

If you do have surplus food after your event then why not donate it or give it away to those in need. There are several charitable organisations that tackle food waste through accepting unwanted food and giving it to shelters, such as The Felix Project and FareShare. You can also place the food on sites such as Olio – a food sharing site which allows local people to come and collect any unwanted food directly from you.

Say goodbye to pre-filled goody bags and hello to treat tables

It’s great to show you appreciate to your fundraisers, but giving out goody bags normally means offering a lot of single use items. Reduce the waste and save yourself time by saying goodbye to pre-filled goody bags, and instead offer a merchandise table or tent full of sustainable items. Participants will only take what they want, meaning you can save any extra items to be used at future events.

Inspire sustainable practices

To run a truly green event, you want to encourage your attendees to also get involved. Make sure that you let them know in advance through pre-event communications that you’re going green. Any sustainable changes that you make are an amazing step towards being more mindful and environmentally friendly, so make sure that you shout about your hard work! Highlight the changes you’ve made in supporter communications and on social media, no matter how big or small. You never know who you might inspire to support your charity and make changes to their own lifestyle.


The London marathon is one of the biggest fundraising events of the year, raising over £66million for charities in 2019. Last year the organisers made the fantastic announcement that they’re trialing new sustainable practices and so, to help support their efforts, we’ve launched #ReadyOffsetGo. Our new initiative will plant a tree for every London marathon fundraiser that creates a JustGiving Fundraising Page. Thanks to our partnership with Trees for Cities and their friends, #ReadyOffsetGo aims to mitigate some of the marathon’s carbon footprint whilst incentivising runners to start fundraising for their chosen cause. Pretty treemendous! Read more about #ReadyOffsetGo here.

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Lauren Levy is a Customer Success Manager at JustGiving. She’s passionate about helping charities make the most of their JustGiving account and working with them to raise more money.