Thursday, 19 April 2012

Captain Fun Sponge, Redeemed!

The business case for sustainable events: often we assume if we build it, they will come. Yet in spite of proven cost savings and reputational benefits many event professionals are yet to dig in to measure the impact of investing in environmental and social responsibility programs.

Why? My theory: the main barriers to sustainability aren’t just business-related. They’re psychological. Specifically and simply: we avoid things we think are complicated, not fun and might cause uncertainty or shame.

These are legitimate feelings. Sustainability in events often falls on the shoulders of someone to do as an extra part of their job. It takes more time. That person may have to go back and negotiate green ‘extras’. Sometimes they’re the ones who suggest taking away things, like giveaways, extras, and the nice-to-haves. On-site they can become notorious as the ‘green police’, making sure best practises are followed by vendors, staff and exhibitors. No one wants to sit by them in the lunch room for fear of being reminded what is wrong about the food everyone is eating.

Needless to say: it’s common for the green team leader to come away feeling less like a planetary super hero, and more like Captain Fun Sponge.

Then there’s the anxiety of wanting to do the right thing, but not having enough information to know if you are. And what if someone has more information than you? Oh man, what if they call you out for making a bad decision about your green program, in spite of best intentions? In light of that kind of uncertainty who wants to risk it? The potential emotional impact hits at something we all seek to avoid: shame we are wrong.

What if you could cut through the psychological barriers and make event sustainability fun and a source of certain reward? That combined with the business case would seem to be the holy grail of market transformation to more sustainable events.

Last fall I took a small step forward to experiment in how an event game could be used to influence attendees to have fun and get rewarded for making easy sustainable choices. Lessons learned from the Get Your Green On project were recently included in a report by collaborators Footprint Management Systems, MeetGreen and QuickMobile.

What did I learn? That even Captain Fun Sponge can be redeemed when you relinquish control over the outcome and open yourself to the possibility event attendees can be a force for sustainability! For more information on Get Your Green On and how games at events can help make sustainability easier, more fun, and a source of positive reinforcement check out our case study.

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