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julia charles

Event Upcycling Revolt

Julia Charles-Wiginton, MD, Julia Charles Event Management, is launching a new Facebook group with an aim to improve sustainability in events

After reading my last CN column, an exhibition stands design company got in touch to tell me about its sustainable stands. It got me thinking about how much ‘stuff’ our industry uses: sets, stages, props, graphic panels etc. We put a lot of time, effort, money and creativity into designing and building the physical environment that events need, but how do we create these props sustainably, and what do we do with them after the event has finished? 

When creating props, I urge you to consider the materials that you are using and ask if you could actually re-purpose items instead of assuming that you need to use new materials to create something from scratch. For example, we recently created a bar for Dark Horse Wines to host visitors at a series of food festivals and we re-purposed old pallets to create a rustic but contemporary bar area. The pallets would have otherwise been burnt so by re-purposing them we not only saved the materials but created an amazing, stylish and exclusive bar. The client loved our approach and their bar really stood out. 

We undertake numerous Christmas installations; decorating many of the top London hotels, and creating themed party environments. Our designer is an absolute whizz at finding and re-purposing ribbon, fabrics, beads and baubles found in charity shops and our local charity-run scrap store. I’m sure that most cities have such places, ours is a treasure trove of interesting things: materials, paper, fabrics, plastics, cords etc, all donated by big companies who would otherwise have to take them to landfill. By re-purposing materials, we help keep costs down and again, save these materials from the skips. You would never have thought that many of the top London hotels are decorated with charity store finds, but it shows what you can do with a lot of creativity and ingenuity. 

What happens to your props after you’ve finished with them? Do you store them for future use (we have a huge warehouse we use) or are they relegated to the skip? Have you considered that there may be someone out there who would like to re-purpose your stage set, or your used event carpet? Shouldn’t we have a group for the sharing and recycling of event industry items? We should, so the Champions of Sustainable Events is launching ‘Event Upcycling Revolt’ a Facebook group for everyone to promote and offer free items for upcycling. 

Please find the group and share your items and together we can help to reduce waste in our industry. And that exhibition design company that got in touch? It was beMatrix. I haven’t used them yet, but I like the fact that they are on the case and seem like one to watch for sustainable stands.