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Sense and sustainability: the UK venues with an eco-focus

After years of hesitation, the meetings and events industry has a firm focus on creating sustainable events, starting with the venues that host them, Holly Patrick reports.  

Event planners are the agency of change. “Agencies are creative communicators and they can encourage and lead their clients to create more sustainable events and in turn create a legacy,” says Sam Wilson, managing director of specialist sustainable events consultancy, Syntiro Associates.  

We take a closer look at the UK event venues that are determined to contribute towards the legacy of sustainable events.   

BMA House, London 

Since 1925 London’s BMA House has been the home of the British Medical Association and in 2016 it achieved a zero-to-landfill status.  

The venue’s green credentials include reducing its delegate carbon footprint by 69 per cent, cutting its water wastage by 5.4 million litres a year and recycling upwards of 46,700kg of waste since 2019. These green initiatives have earned BMA House a wealth of awards including, Greenest Venue by Hire Space in 2018 and 2019, Most Sustainable Venue by the London Summer Event Show in 2019, and a silver award for Best CSR or Sustainability Initiative at the 2019 London Venues Award. 

BMA House also offers planners an inner-city sanctum in its rooftop Mindful Garden where herbs used by the venue’s chefs, are grown.  

Wellcome Collection 

London’s Wellcome Collection operates a zerotolandfill process for all waste streams. General waste is converted into energy for the National Grid with the ash produced from the incineration process collected as a source for building materials and used to make bricks or repair road surfaces.  

To reduce food waste, Wellcome Collection works with food waste management system, Winnow to monitor food waste from events. In the inevitability that food waste occurs, it is collected separately from the kitchens and sent to anaerobic digestion where it is broken down to produce biogas and fertiliser.  

Daylesford FarmOxford 

This boutique venue still operates as a working farm with a big commitment to sustainability. Across its four event venues, the eco-friendly policies include 250kW of solar panels on the barn roofs, zero food waste with peelings heading to the market garden compost heaps and meat scraps sent to anaerobic digestion with the heat captured above the ovens provides hot water for the kitchens.  

Onsite there is also a composting wormery, beehives, wildflowers, bug hotels, green roof, solar panels and reedbed filters.  

ICC Wales  

Less than a year since opening, ICC Wales in Newport, Wales has achieved Green Dragon Level 3 status from Welsh Government and the Green Key standard developed by the Federation for Environmental Education.  

The natural environment has been incorporated into outdoor meeting spaces and breakout walking trails, as well as creating daylight and woodland views inside the venue to promote wellbeing. 

Other sustainable features include water fountains with free to use reusable bottles and recycling stations. Food waste is sent to Bryn Power anaerobic digestion facility to generate low carbon electricity for the South Wales grid, tinted glass to reduce heat gain from the sun, smart low‐energy LED lighting and 15,000 shrubs and trees planted on the grounds to complement native woodland.  

Edinburgh International Conference Centre  

The Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) recently launched its ‘Step Change’ sustainability programme. This aims to provide every event at the venue with a detailed and bespoke Event Impact Report, focusing on those three key areas: societal, environmental and economic.  

The EICC’s new Step Change programme includes a ‘Desk-to-Door’ initiative which encourages everyone travelling to EICC to choose the most sustainable option for their trip. 

The venue has also vouched will mitigate the carbon impact of events through peatland restoration projects across Scotland, with a primary focus on The Flow Country in Caithness and Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands. 

 The Crystal 

Touting itself as a ‘Sustainable Gem’, London’s The Crystal is taking a forward-thinking approach to sustainability, from the BREEAM Outstanding and LEED Platinum building design to its zero waste to landfill policy.  

The Crystal’s other sustainable commitments include a green roof covered in vegetation, solar panels supplying 20 per cent of the venue’s energy, dedicated building management systems with 3,500 data collection points, rainwater harvesting, and strategically placed glazing to maximise daylight heating 

P&J Live, Aberdeen 

Sustainability practices were laid in the foundations of Aberdeen’s P&J Live, situated on The Event Complex Aberdeen. Its two-part onsite energy centre is pivotal to its reputation of being the UK’s most sustainable venue.  

Stage one is an anaerobic digestion plant which processes venue food waste and local agricultural waste, releasing a gas, which is then processed by an onsite Hydrogen Fuel Cell Plant, culminating in the provision of hydrogen power for both the venue and the two onsite hotels.  

Having sustainably sourced energy offers sustainable options to organisers to keep their event delivery as green as possible; with free WiFi for all delegates and complimentary digital signage for organisers in a quest to minimise paper use wherever possible.  

CASE STUDY

  • Client: Karen Sutton founder & CEO, Global Good Awards 2019  

    Karen Sutton

  • Venue: BMA House 
  • Number of delegates: 200-250 
  • Budget: £12,000 

The Global Good Awards 2019 returned to BMA House in Tavistock Square, London to celebrate those who champion sustainability practices. 

Why the venue was chosen? 

BMA is a fabulous venue which chimes with our ethical philosophy and has a serious track record in sustainable practices. We also work well together and learn from each other on our continuing sustainability journey.  

The Ceremony was held in the Great Hall: a majestic 28ft high room featuring floor to ceiling Corinthian columns, decorated with painted gold leaf, and comfortable theatre-style seating for 300 guests.   

How did it meet the brief?

BMA delivers a level of customer service that is rarely seen in the events industry. Our needs for a fully-vegan menu for example – at a time before it became mainstream – we were totally understood, and they delivered perfectly. 

BMA House offered free venue hire for thevent as they were keen to support and work with organisations that promote sustainability in the industry. 
BMA also holds a Gold in Green Tourism, this accreditation was paramount to the brief “a desire to ‘be the change’.

To assist the client to deliver a truly sustainable, fully carbon balanced event, BMA House’s chef created an all-vegan menu. All event material was printed on 100 per cent recycled ‘Revive’ paper by the only carbon positive printers in the UK (Seacourt), all suppliers and items for ‘goodie-bags’ were sourced from sustainable traders and no single-use plastics were used.