A WELL-Mannered Request

A WELL-Mannered Request 

By Karen Young

We are Architects, Designers, Engineers, Builders, Project Managers, Creatives, Financial Advisors, Producers, and sometimes Therapists.

Who are We, you ask?

We are Event Planners: a mighty force, typically wearing many hats while hiding in the shadows. As the Events Industry begins to peek through the cracks of an open pandemic door, it’s time we officially step into the light. We have an opportunity to reinvent our approach, so let’s introduce the ultimate party theme: Sustainability.

For some of us, working toward a sustainable, carbon-neutral event has become the norm. However, this industry has a long way to go before we stop contributing to the global effects of climate change.

So… where to start? The industry needs standards – a roadmap, a how-to guide, best practices, whatever you want to call it. Something that can be implemented for your sister’s wedding, Coachella, or the Consumer Electronics Show; social and corporate events alike. This isn’t a new conversation, but we need to start talking faster.

Google “sustainable event planning” and you’ll find many Top 10 lists that share ideas, but no how-to. There are few actual resources available –

  • Events Industry Council (EIC) – add a Sustainable Event Professional Certificate to your (hard-earned) CMP designation
  • Sustainable Events Alliance (SEA) – become a member (do they only take Euros?), then get accredited as a Sustainability Practitioner
  • Meeting Professionals International (MPI) – become a Sustainable Event Strategist via a 4-hour course (you’ll be lost without prior experience)
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO) – learn the Plan-Do-Check-Act approach within ISO 20121 (it’s totally normal to pay for things in Swiss francs)

That’s great, but let’s go back to those A/E/C Industry references from earlier. I work for a sustainability consulting firm called Verdical Group, so my perspective is focused on the 40% of global CO2 emissions generated by the building and construction sectors. This is where my personal journey of becoming a WELL AP began.

According to their Executive Summary, the WELL Building Standard focuses on the people in the building.

Hmmm. Good start. Many events include people in buildings. So, how does WELL approach the issue?

The standard is comprised of seven Concepts:

  1. Air
  2. Water
  3. Nourishment
  4. Light
  5. Fitness
  6. Comfort
  7. Mind

Tons of cross-over potential here. Sure, there’s a lot of building jargon (I don’t really need to know the Equivalent Melanopic Lux calculation), but the overall concept of Occupant Health is incredibly relevant. After all, events are, simply put, a centralized gathering of temporary occupants.

Here’s my biggest takeaway from taking the WELL exam: I can essentially cut a lot of planning corners if the venue is WELL Certified. If that luxury isn’t an option, having the base knowledge of optimizations like humidity control, drinking water promotion, responsible food production, dimming controls, active furnishings, sound masking, and transparency is extremely helpful.

While becoming a WELL AP certainly isn’t the first path that comes to mind for an Event Planner, I’m thrilled to introduce the option. Upon passing the exam in April 2021, I was the first professional Event Planner on record within the WELL AP database. (That being said, it’s hard to track – Events aren’t an option within their “Industry” or “Service Offered” lists, so I’m just an “Other.” Fancy.)

So… what’s the point in all of this?

We (Event Planners) need to spread awareness of these tools. We need to have a seat at the table. We need to be louder. We have been locked in an unmarked room, back-of-house for far too long. We are hiding behind the letters after our names. YES – get the education. Get those letters. But then DO SOMETHING WITH THEM. Lead by example. Let’s make this information public so our efforts can grow.

This blog isn’t to rewrite the hundreds of articles out there that outline the basics on how to produce a sustainable event. This is a Call to Action; an invitation to the table. Or possibly a request to be invited to an existing table. Either way, I’m in.

Karen Young, WELL AP