In article entitled, "Two Words," recently published in Smart Meetings, Jim Spellos taught us everything we need to know about the tech landscape as it relates to events, in just two words. I highly recommend reading and adopting his wise words. He included the words, Sustainable Events, understanding sustainability and technology are inseparably linked in this context.
One of Jim's favorite projects, the Whole Earth Calculator, was recently endorsed by The White House as part of President Obama's directive on greenhouse gas emissions. The Whole Earth Calculator converts the total pounds of paper products and plastics that are diverted from landfills into the amount of carbon dioxide that is not produced as a result, and then sends this information to social media. The tool can also be used to convert total pounds of donated food into meal equivalents and carbon dioxide averted equivalents. Simply brilliant!
Moving forward, the two words, Sustainability and Technology, will remain inseparably linked. They will provide tools to make meeting professionals lives easier and more environmentally friendly. In fact, they already have, e.g. online registration, conference apps and hybrid meetings.
Jim Spellos talks about embracing change, because "you really don't have a choice." Certainly this is true for both technology and sustainability. I would like to add my two words worth, "Start Today," because the future was never brighter for meeting professionals ready to make a change.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
The long, hot days of summer are a perfect time to relax and enjoy live music in a beautiful outdoor setting. While listening to your favorite tunes, keep one eye focused on the environmental practices taking place at the festival. The good news is, here in the Pacific Northwest, festivals and events are going green this summer in record numbers. Hopefully, you are seeing this as well in your area.
If not, help the festival organizers along with these Top Ten Tips for Sustainable Events...
1. Talk to your waste/recycling hauler early in the planning process to develop a recycling program
2. Hire/appoint a recycling coordinator
3. Purchase green power for the stage and lighting
4. Use biodiesel to power generators
5. Require food vendors to serve local, sustainable food
6. Do not allow vendors or the venue to serve food in polystyrene and non-recyclable plastics
7. Provide incentives for the audience to use mass transit
8. Purchase carbon offsets to mitigate the travel by artists
9. Develop talking points for the artists to discuss what is being done to green the event
10. Just get started. Choosing even one idea from this list will have a huge impact. Measure what you have done and build on it next year.
As an audience member, don't forget to do your part by taking mass transit, bringing a reusable water bottle and using recycling bins provided. We're in this together!
Monday, August 4, 2014
Last week I saw a consumer product with a photo of a polar bear. Right next to the sweet polar bear was the tag line, "The Right Choice." Searching the rest of the packaging, I was unable to find any reason this product was environmentally the right choice or better than the competition. Polar bears have become the symbol for Saving the Earth and can be found on cleaning products, office supplies and even the back of buses.
In the past, we have talked about greenwashing, the practice of "advertising positive environmental practices while acting in the opposite way", and hoped it would subside. Sadly, it is alive and well in 2014 although as consumers have gotten more savvy, so have the claims being made. How can you avoid falling prey to greenwashing in the meeting and event industry?
Here are a few tips:
Be informed. The first step is to make sure you research your supply chain. What does it mean when your suppliers say they are sustainable? Don’t be afraid to ask them about their specific practices.
Understand what terms such as ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ mean. Natural does not necessarily mean healthy--arsenic, uranium and formaldehyde are natural yet poisonous. And as far as non-toxic goes, everything is can be toxic, or deadly in sufficient dosages including oxygen, water and salt.
Be clear on the criteria used by ecolabels and certifications. The hotel sector has quite a few, such as Green Seal (US), Green Key (Canada) and Green Globe (Europe and Austral-asia). These are all third party certifications which look at sustainable operations. LEED certification looks at green construction. When researching ecolabels and certifications look for those using clear criteria, that adopt third party verification and report regularly on their environmental performance.
Participate in a back of house tour. This is the most effective way to ensure that vendors who claim to be green actually have sustainable practices in place. Ask to see the kitchen and areas where waste is sorted. Vendors who are being honest will not be fearful of letting you see what they do in the back of house. Note: this is a critical step which I missed once and learned the lesson the hard way. Learn from my mistakes.
Be transparent in your own practices. Do what you say and be honest about what you do. Your risk of greenwashing in your organization is reduced when you are clear and up front about your commitment, intentions and actions.
Step away from the polar bear and remember the general rule of thumb applies: Caveat emptor – buyer beware!
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
|Celebrating MeetGreen's 20th Anniversary|
They say if you start a business and it is still in business five years later, you are a success. I would add, if you start a business and twenty years later you are still engaged, excited and passionate about what the company brings to the world, you are triumphant.
As we celebrate MeetGreen’s 20th Anniversary this year, the excitement and passion for our work as a talented group of impeccable professionals is unmistakable. Not resting on our laurels of being acclaimed pioneers in sustainable meeting management, we are pushing forward to bring the power of human connection to the future of meeting design.
Pausing to reflect during this important company milestone, I share the secrets of our triumph:
- ALWAYS surround yourself with the best, brightest and most passionate people.
- Technology is your friend, embrace it.
- Empower your team to take the initiative.
- There is no such thing as giving a client too much service.
- Make decisions based on people, profit AND planet.
- Hiring people is fun, firing is not.
- Never stop learning and growing.
- Data is important. Track it, measure it, analyze it.
- Someone else probably has a better idea than you.
- Always acknowledge an employee’s contribution.
- Nothing is off the record.
- Treat your vendors as true partners.
- Everyone pitches in during “crunch time” and that means everyone.
- Showing stress at work is contagious, so is showing kindness.
- Your very first client should still be a client.
- A bad year isn’t the end, but it is an opportunity for change. Use it.
- Look out for each other.
- Collaborate with your competitors, you all win in the end.
- Be grateful!
Reprinted from the MeetGreen July, 2014, Newsletter
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
There's a children's song called, "The Song that Never Ends" and thanks to Lamb Chop & friends, the music still plays in my head.
Likewise, in sustainable meetings, there is a "Question that Never Ends" and, by golly, it hasn't. The question is..."Is it illegal to donate food after an event?"
Rarely does a week go by, when someone doesn't ask me this question. Then it hit closer to home yesterday when my daughter asked the same question. Working for a hotel, she had volunteered for the property's Green Team thinking it was going to be an easy project given all of the "green stuff" she has been inundated with over the years. When she raised her hand at the first meeting and asked why they didn't donate food, she was told for "liability reasons." She argued her point for a while and then came looking for back up.
Here are a few links I passed along:
and there's an app for that http://www.pcma.org/convene-content/convene-article/2014/04/03/an-app-for-leftovers#.U6C2lrGEeVp
Long story, short, The Bill Emerson Food Donation Act allows you help the hungry.
What does the law do? The law protects good-faith donors from civil and criminal liability in the event that the product later causes harm to its recipient. The Emerson Act gives uniform protection to food donors who may cross state lines.
Who is protected? The law protects food donors, including individuals and nonprofit feeding programs that act in good faith. More specifically, the law protects individuals, corporations, partnerships, organizations, associations, governmental entities, wholesalers, retailers, restaurateurs, caterers, farmers, gleaners, nonprofit agencies, and others.
What sort of food is protected? The Emerson Act provides protection for food and grocery products that meet all quality and labeling standards imposed by federal, state, and local laws and regulations - even though the food may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus, or other conditions.
Where can I find a place to donate? Find a local food bank using the Food Bank Locator on Feeding America's website. Your role is to connect the local food bank and the catering firm. They will take care of the details.
In the current economy, food banks are struggling to fill their shelves to help the hungry and planners want to know how to help. I am glad this question keeps coming up because at least people are still asking about food donation. Now I just need a few lyrics and a memorable melody!
Thursday, June 12, 2014
It wasn't too long after starting my job as communications director for a national healthcare firm, when the president appeared at my desk one day. "It time we start planning our annual conference and by we, I mean you," he calmly stated. The blank stare on my face was hiding the sheer panic in my mind and my racing heart.
Over the years, I came to realize I am not the only one whose meeting planning career wasn't part of the original plan. I have met meeting planners who started as nurses, engineers, musicians, computer programmers, scientists, and yoga instructors--all accidental planners. Whether through volunteer work in their field or as job responsibility in a large corporation, they were drawn into the role of producing a meeting.
All of us have fumbled our way through learning about budgets, how many people a gallon of coffee will serve, meeting room sets, why good AV is so vital, and how temperamental VIPs can act. Dealing with the simple logistics before we ever heard anything about the ROI or meeting architecture.
Luckily for me, meeting planning was a natural fit. As the company grew, so did my professional skills until the day when I became the Director of Conference Management. But I have never forgotten my first meeting.
So for all of the accidental planners out there, I feel your pain. In an effort to help, we have put together a 12-Step Program called Event Planning 101. This list will at least get you started asking the right questions and learning a few of the fundamentals involved in planning a meeting. You've got to start somewhere, right?
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Here's the deal...there is no finish line. Marathon runners cross the line only to start training for the next race hoping to beat their best personal time. Graduation day celebrants talk about what is lies ahead. Work promotions are steps to the next goal. Event planners know they are only as good as their last event and look forward future events.
So it goes with sustainability. There is always more to learn, attempt and accomplish. First it was implementing basic green meeting practices, then came measuring/benchmarking and on to reporting. As the next event rolled around it was time to increase initiatives and beat the personal best.
The fact there is no finish line shouldn't make us want to give up and stop trying, it should invigorate each one of us to keep going to reach even higher goals. That is the beauty of the human spirit...we keep trying!
Embrace the joy, hope and excitement as you keep creatively integrating sustainability into your work and your lives.