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5 ways to incorporate sustainability into your company offsite

Last week, we celebrated our first global get-together since January 2020. It was an occasion to remember, with Quadmarkers old and new spending time with each other in the tranquil Scottish Borders. We enjoyed Highland dancing, archery, gin tasting and finally discovering just how tall everyone was (one of the quirks of being remote). 

One thing we wanted to do differently this year was to mitigate the ecological impact of our offsite. Flying people in from our Singapore and US offices certainly has a negative impact on the climate (around 2.4% of global CO2 emissions come from aviation). However, the once-yearly opportunity to meet, exchange ideas and build community in-person is something that we believe adds real value. 

Integral to ensuring that sustainability was front and center was the inclusion of our Eco Community. In the run up to the offsite, we asked them to voice their concerns and offer tips to ensure that the offsite was as environmentally friendly as possible. Ideas included sourcing local ingredients for meals, avoiding plastic swag, and offsetting the event by looking for environmental organizations or projects to support. Si James, one of our Eco Community admins, spoke to the importance of responsible event organization: “How can we minimize the impact of what we’re choosing to do, while at the same time leaving a positive impact on the place that we’re visiting?” 

Here are our Event Teams’ top five tips for organizing a sustainable offsite:

1. Rent, reuse, recycle 

In aid of Plastic Free July, we wanted to avoid single-use plastic at the offsite. This meant renting most of the equipment and materials used for the event, reusing cutlery and crockery and, as a last resort, recycling what couldn’t be reused. In fact, all bottled water at the hotel is recycled and then rebottled on site. Super cool! 

2. Trains over planes 

While it wasn’t practical for everyone to get to rural Scotland using public transport (we have teams in the US and Singapore after all), we encouraged UK-based Quadmarkers to leave their cars at home and avoid flying where possible. For those with an electric car, the Peebles Hydro Hotel had recharge points to ensure their batteries could be recharged, ready for the homeward journey.

3. Eat local 

All food throughout the event was locally sourced to reduce our carbon footprint and support local producers around Peebles, from the haggis to the gin from the hotel’s own distillery.

4. Proper waste management

We opted for an eco-sustainable approach to waste management. We worked with the hotel to plan measures such as separate paper collection and the proper labeling of paper, glass and plastic bins. We also prioritized digital communication over paper, adding all attendees to a group chat with key updates and only printing out one set of agendas in the main foyer.

5. Create a culture of sustainability

Creating a culture of sustainability that extends beyond the event is integral to ensuring our efforts have real impact. This is why our Events Team are working with Senior Managers to permanently incorporate sustainability into the offsite planning process. We have also partnered with Conference Care to help us to measure, reduce and assess the impact of the offsite and, finally, to offset the negative impact by supporting projects that have a positive environmental impact.

Although we have a long way to go when it comes to our sustainability journey, we're confident that these small steps will lead the way to lasting change. If you want to find out more about Plastic Free July and the steps you can take to reduce your plastic footprint, check out the Plastic Free Foundation website and the Plastic Free Challenge app. To find out more about the plastic pollution crisis and its effects, check out this National Geographic article.

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