Reimagine your future events: UK venues making a sustainable impact

Friday 16 April 2021

With the business events inudstry making strides to become a more environmentally friendly sector, sustainable venues are becoming part of the norm in the UK.

According to an ICE Benchmarking Research study, published in November 2020, 70% of corporate event planners voted ‘Ensuring the sustainability of their events’ as the most important issue facing their roles over the next three years, with association planners following suit. This importance is furhter magnified through ISO 20121, a world-renowned industry standard that all venues across the UK have participated in. This certificate is recognised in the global events industry as a best practice to help manage events and control their social, economic and environmental impact.

It’s no surprise then, that a venue’s environmental and CSR (corporate social responsibility) credentials will be key considerations for how meetings and events spaces are sourced in the future. 

Here’s some of the ways UK venues are fulfilling their sustainable responsibilities.

BMA House: London, England

Home to the world-leading British Medical Association since 1925, BMA House offers 11 purpose-built meeting rooms for up to 320 delegates. 

The world-renowned venue has taken many steps to reduce the its environmental impact, reducing its carbon footprint by almost 70% and signing up to the Meetings Industry Association’s #20PercentLess scheme, aimed at reducing reliance on single-use plastics by 20% each year for the next five years.

The venue has also reduced water usage by 5.4 million litres per year via initiatives such as water-saving devices on toilets. Recycling also takes centre stage, with a snack packet recycling scheme where empty packets are processed into plastic pellets to make recycled products. It also uses recycled paper for flip-charts, with recycling units in all meeting rooms and locally sourced catering that supports FairTrade tea and coffee growers.

Moreover, the venue has partnered with Cross River Partnership to promote a short ‘clean air walking route’ from Kings Cross St Pancras International train station to provide delegates with a ‘cleaner’ journey to BMA House. The route takes guests off the busy Euston Road onto backstreets where air pollution is 57% lower. Furthermore, when combined with a Eurostar train journey to St Pancras International, overseas delegates can be assured of a low carbon impact.

Edinburgh International Conference Centre: Edinburgh, Scotland

The Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) has sustainability policies and programmes implemented throughout every part of its operation.

The EICC’s 'Plan-it green’ initiative couples low carbon and low-cost operating efficiency with sustainable event management counsel, in order to ‘create an environment which inspires ideas that change the world.’

Its sustainability programme, ‘Step Change’ meanwhile, focuses on three equally significant, interconnected areas of impact: environmental, societal and economic.  

The venue also has a ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ scheme, which is continuously being optimised by cutting down on food waste and packaging. The short-term aim is to increase the amount of products sent to compost by 70%.

Fairmont St Andrews: Fife, Scotland

Winner of the AA’s Eco Hotel of the Year 2018–19, Fairmont St Andrews is committed to maintaining its surrounding coastal land and organises a quarterly beach cleaning event. 

The five-star Fairmont St Andrews is also a local employer, with 75% of its staff residing in Fife and a further 20% coming from nearby Dundee.

It offers more than 30,000 sq ft / 2,787 sqm of events and meetings space and can host 800 for a standing reception in the Robert Burns Ballroom or 550 theatre-style. 

Recent investment in the hotel’s systems has led to a significant reduction in water and energy consumption. A new initiative has seen the recycling of 250kg of the hotel’s soap and hygiene products, which are donated to humanitarian organisations through Clean the World.

British Airways i360: Brighton, England

The world’s tallest moving observation tower rises 162 metres (531 feet) above the Brighton coastline. The giant glass viewing pod at the summit can be hired either as part of your event or exclusively, for receptions for up to 175 people. 

Designed by Marks Barfield Architects, designer of the London Eye, the i360 serves as more than just a ‘nice view’. The landscape visible from the i360 makes it a key location for wildlife and environmental observation, as well as providing education to the community. 

Sustainable energy is high on the agenda for the i360. Only green energy sources are used as well as energy generated from the viewing pods descent, which accounts for around 50% of the energy required for the pod’s next ascent. As a result of this on-site generation, the overall energy use of the i360 is less than 1kwh per visitor. 

The British Airways i360 also boasts a variety of waste-mitigation solutions, including only serving locally-sourced food in the restaurant, using biodegradable packaging and encouraging similar packaging solutions in its supply chain by asking suppliers to deliver goods in reusable containers.

WISE at The Centre for Alternative Technology: Machynlleth, Wales

The Centre for Alternative Technology’s WISE Building has outstanding sustainability credentials.

Situated in the UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere in mid-Wales, WISE has impressive facilities that can deliver conferences, meetings, training sessions, celebrations or one-off events. 

It has en-suite accommodation for 90, a tiered lecture theatre for 150 delegates and meeting rooms with capacities ranging from 12 to 40 attendees. 

Designed for low energy consumption, electricity contributions come from on-site renewable sources including solar photovoltaic panels, hydro and wind turbines.

Eden Project: Cornwall, England

The Eden Project, Cornwall, England

The Eden Project, with its impressive architecture and inspirational story of transformation from a disused clay mine to a world-famous global garden, is a stunning backdrop for conferences of all types. 

The 400-capacity Rainforest Biome is the world’s largest conservatory with lush tropical vegetation, a waterfall and bamboo huts. Whilst the Mediterranean Biome can also host receptions for 400 standing guests, as they network against a floral backdrop amidst the sweet aromas of herbs and citrus plants. 

The Eden Project recycles everything it can and buys as much as possible made from recycled materials. It also prides itself on 81% of its food and drink being sourced locally. 

Eden is also a charity, so everything planners spend with the venue helps it to further its transformational social and environmental projects, both locally and abroad.

Woodland Grange: Leamington Spa, England

Part of the Make Venues group, Woodland Grange in Leamington Spa is a residential events venue set in 16-acres of grounds. It features a four-star, 114-bedroom hotel, plus meetings and conferencing space for up to 200 delegates. 

In 2019, Woodland Grange achieved Gold Status for the IACC Code of Sustainability

IACC has a rigorous Code of Sustainability, which covers 60 tenets, including; Education, Awareness & Public Declaration, Waste Management, Recycling, Reuse, Water Conservation, Purchasing, Energy Management, Air Quality, and Food & Beverage. 

The association monitors and updates the Code periodically in order to ensure that it reflects state-of-the-art best practices. Woodland Grange is also loyal to its ethics of ‘nutritional, colourful and ethically sourced food’ and has an on-site water bottling plant, plus flow reducers fitted to all shower heads and tap outlets.

EarthSpirit Centre: Glastonbury, England 

Located just five miles from Glastonbury in England’s South West, on the edge of Compton Dundon village in Somerset, EarthSpirit Centre lies within the 'temenos' (sacred enclosure) of Avalon. 

The centre is situated between two nature reserves and just two minutes walk from St Andrew's church, which has an 1,800 year-old yew tree in its cemetery..

The 17th century farm buildings have been restored and specially converted for use as an events venue. They are covered with solar panels and heated by a number of hot water and biomass boilers. In fact, they use the UK’s only Hargassner biomass pellet boiler, which is 95% efficient and produces virtually no carbon emissions. They also use thermal insulation and heat exchanges throughout the buildings to ensure maximum energy efficiency. 

In addition, an on-site grey water treatment plant reuses all shower and basin water (topped up with rainwater) to flush the centre’s toilets.

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