The vital importance of the ‘three Rs’ has taken on a whole new significance for leading conference, exhibition and outdoor events centre NAEC Stoneleigh, as it looks to life post-COVID-19.
However, NAEC isn’t brushing up on reading, writing and arithmetic, rather than pulling out all the stops to ensure Reducing, Reusing and Recycling is at the very top of its agenda once business returns to normal.
NAEC head of operations Rob Patterson said the 250-acre Warwickshire venue had conducted a thorough review of its internal operations and is committed to working closely with clients to cut down on waste and improve sustainability.
Rob said: “The aim is very simple but incredibly important – to reduce the waste and be more sustainable.
“The mindset of the industry is changing, and more organisers are now asking for a venue’s credentials regarding sustainability and putting the onus on the venue to deliver.
“At NAEC, we have already implemented a push for more sustainability and less waste throughout the business.
“All our waste goes through the vigorous sorting system run by the local council which specifically separates all the recyclable elements and treats them accordingly. Even the non-recyclable waste is sent to a processing plant which turns ‘waste to energy’.
“Our electrical energy is sourced from a supplier that uses 100 per cent renewable energy. On site, we are replacing all failed lights with energy efficient LEDs and have installed motion sensors in key areas, which automatically turn lights off after a set period.
“We post our used printer cartridges back to the supplier who recycles them, with 89 per cent turned into renewable energy.
“In our toilets and bathrooms, we use wall-mounted dispensers with eco-friendly products to reduce our waste and impact on the environment. We are also moving away from paper towels and increasing the use of more efficient electrical hand dryers.
“The ability to fill and refill from large containers avoids the need for small, single-use plastic in all the restrooms and throughout our on-site hotel. The hotel also has three charging points for electric vehicles.
“On the catering side, we have replaced our plastic straws with paper alternatives, sugar sachets with cubes and plastic cutlery is being replaced with wooden.”
NAEC Stoneleigh is not content to stop there and will be continually reassessing its operations in a bid to cut down even further on waste.
The venue’s business development manager, Ross Stewart, is working closely with clients to forge a joint approach to making all conferences and exhibitions as clean, green and sustainable as possible.
Working with DRPG, a leading global creative communications agency for a major high street client, many initiatives were put into place.
Ross said: “We filled 400 one-litre carafes to enable delegates to refill their own water bottles, used paper cups rather than plastic at the water stations and recycled cutlery rather than single use black plastic ones. sLunch products with minimal plastic packaging were chosen along with drinks in cans.”
DRPG’s Ryan Curtis-Johnson added: “Positive change both within DRPG and throughout the wider industry is a core focus for businesses and it’s all about collaborating with clients, suppliers and local communities which will help to leave a lasting legacy.”
When NAEC Stoneleigh works with client Product Earth, the UK’s largest event for the Hemp, CBD and legal cannabis industry, a three-pronged approach is implemented based on ‘leave no trace,’ plastic reduction through working with the right vendors and encouraging visitors to not bring plastic to the event.
Product Earth chief executive Matt Clifton said: “This year, we will be openly speaking about the importance of being a ‘leave no trace’ event, which will pique the interest of our community, which cares for the environment, the health of the planet and the people that inhabit it.
“That’s why we will not be selling water in plastic bottles. All drinks will be in cans and we will also be using water butts and recyclable cups.
“Lastly, we will be asking people not to bring plastic onto the site. The aim is not so much for us to enforce this as a rule, but to position this as a shared responsibility amongst everyone in attendance. Sustainability, after all, is a shared responsibility.”
Ross said NAEC Stoneleigh was keen to do even more and concluded: “Education is vital and that includes feedback to organisers after events about ways in which they can help us do more in future.”