Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Season of Giving is Year 'Round

Hoteliers are always aware of the need to “maintain their assets,” which generally is taken to mean taking care of the property. To this end, hotels put great effort and expense into frequent upgrading of rooms, public spaces, and other facilities. All of this remodeling and refurbishing typically results in huge amounts of material that ends up being discarded and ultimately sent to landfills. Also destined for landfills are the collateral materials left behind at hotels after events-- visors, cups, coffee mugs, note pads, pens, tote bags, and an endless stream of other promotional materials.

Luckily for our over-taxed landfill, our depleting natural resources, and for the rest of us, a small group of SF hoteliers have been busy supporting the community and saving the environment, all while maintaining their assets AND helping the bottom line for good measure.

The San Francisco Hotel/Non-profit Collaborative was started over 12 years ago by Jo Licata, Community Projects Manager at the Hilton San Francisco (who continues to organize and maintain it). The other component of the membership was non-profit organizations--some of the best and most reputable groups serving the SF community. Glide Memorial Church, Street, and St. Anthony’s were among the earliest members. There are now almost 20 large properties, as well as the Moscone Center and other hospitality businesses and well over 20 non-profit organizations that meet on a monthly basis as part of the Hotel/Non-Profit Collaborative.

The goal of the Collaborative is to take usable discards from the waste stream of hospitality organizations and divert them into a steady stream of in-kind support for the non-profit agencies. Each year through the Collaborative hundreds of tons of materials are diverted from our landfills. Non-profit agencies receive desks and beds; at-risk children receive school clothes and toys; re-entry workers receive clothing; children in the Tenderloin receive a chance to learn computer skills… it would be impossible to recount all of the benefits to the community from these small efforts. But one more benefit worth mentioning here is the reduced garbage costs to the businesses. Throwing away all those beds, sofas, foam-core signs, and give-aways costs money in labor and garbage bills. Donating them to worthy causes not only saves money by making the problem ‘go away,’ it also goes a long way in creating a positive spirit of giving throughout the organization.

This Collaborative is really Jo Licata's project and her passion. Champions like her make a huge difference in their communities and to our world. Thanks, Jo!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008's Greenwashes of the Year

The Greenwash Brigade brings us a year in greenwashing and lists their favorites.


My personal favorite this year is the motorcoach company selling itself as “The Green Alternative.” Their promotions and website clearly stated this along with beautiful nature pictures. They were working very aggressively to get my endorsement so I asked them to send me their environmental policies. The firm said, Well...we are currently developing them and will send them to you when done." So I asked what makes them a “green alternative.” They said they annually plant trees to offset the carbon released by their fleet of motorcoaches during the year. Knowing that would require A LOT of trees to be planted, I asked how many they planted last year. Their response was that they hadn’t actually started planting trees, but were looking into it. Greenwashing at it’s finest!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tips For Avoiding Greenwashing

In the past, we have talked about greenwashing (you know, the practice of "advertising positive environmental practices while acting in the opposite way). So how can you avoid falling prey to greenwashing 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 green? 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 introduced 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 that look at green operations. LEED certification looks at green construction. When researching ecolabels and certifications look for those that use clear criteria, 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 are actually operating in a green way. 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.

-Be transparent in your own practices. Do what you say and be honest about what you do. Your risk of greenwashing your own practices is reduced when you are clear and up front about your commitment, intentions and actions.

The general rule of thumb still appies: Caveat emptor – buyer beware!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

You Should Be Ashamed!

An article in The Oregonian newspaper on December 4, 2008, is headlined, “Oregon Convention Center's eco-friendly policy boosts business.” That is great news! I read on to see that,
“The International Oil Spill Conference -- worth 4,800 hotel room nights, $4 million to $5 million for the local economy and untold possibilities with worldwide visitors -- had just agreed to bring its 2011 gathering to Portland. One of the city's best selling points? The Oregon Convention Center's promotion of environmentally friendly programs.”
Fantastic, the Convention Center is seeing the competitive advantage of being environmentally friendly. This is, of course, in addition to the amount of energy (money) the Oregon Convention Center is saving by having adopted these practices. Wow, I think, that is a win/win worth talking about!

Until I read a little further in the article where it states they are now charging to receive measurable data
...“For an additional $800 daily, the conference organizers will receive daily breakdowns of the energy they use and conserve, how much was recycled, and composted and other savings.”

Really?…Why should the conference organizer pay more when the Oregon Convention Center is generating business and enjoying economic savings--especially in these economic times? As a meeting professional, I would either expect they provide this service at no additional cost or it would be a dealbreaker!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Maximum Profits and Minimum Costs

An article was posted on the The Financial Express website with some fascinating statistics on why sustainable restaurants are flourishing in these economic times. Here are a few examples:
- This year it is estimated Americans will spend $558 billion dining out.
- Restaurants account for 33% of all US retail electricity use.
- The average restaurant goes through 300,000 gallons of water a year.
- New York City is the most active city for the Green Restaurant Association followed by Boston.
- According to the National Restaurant Association, 62% of adults surveyed say they are likely to choose a restaurant based on how environmentally friendly it is.
- As an example, Jose Duarte, chef-owner of Taranta, reports composting and recycling costs him 30% less than traditional trash service. It also saves large amounts of energy. By composting 63.7 tons per year, Duarte figures, he saves 10.19 metric tons of carbon equivalent, or 422 trips from Boston to New York in a Prius. By replacing one conventional light bulb with a compact fluorescent one, he says, he can save $35-45 a year. “Do you know how many light bulbs a restaurant has?” And I will add to that, do you know how many hotels and convention centers serve food.
Need more proof? Read/share the whole article on The Financial Express website http://www.financialexpress.com/news/green-restaurants-move-up-the-menu/395529/1

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Recession: Seize The Opportunity

It’s Official: The Big "R" is here.

We have seen it in the headlines, “Companies Announce Layoffs”…“Economic Crisis Deepens in Europe, Asia”…”Retailers Face Financial Woes…and now it is official. The National Bureau of Economic Research reported yesterday “the U.S. has been in a recession since December 2007.” And the stock market responded by falling 680 points.

There has been a lot of talk in the meeting industry about how we will be affected. Each day I respond to a new survey about what is happening with the meetings we manage. There is plenty to worry about. There are also plenty of opportunities for reshaping our world by not doing business as usual. It is time for creativity, innovation and a new model of success.

It is time for sustainability in meeting practices--economic, environmental and social sustainability. It makes good business sense…especially now! Today, Meeting Strategies Worldwide is releasing a white paper to make the business case for green meeting practices. The White Paper, “The Economy and the Environment:
One Solution for Two Meeting and Event Industry Issues,” focuses on five key advantages to sustainable meetings providing supporting research and statistics.

Hot off the press, it is now available for download on our website at http://www.meetingstrategiesworldwide.com/files/docs/Meeting_Strategies_Worldwide_Economy_and_Environment.pdf

A passion for the industry AND for the environment provide the solution!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

So Much To Be Thankful For

Got no check books, got no banks.
Still I'd like to express my thanks -
I got the sun in the morning
and the moon at night.
~Irving Berlin

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

News You Can Use

OK, I know...more reading. But it is all great stuff!

The Green Meeting Industry Council publishes a monthly e-newsletter for it's members. It has GMIC updates, profiles, resources and a host of helpful information. With permission, I wanted to give you a link to the latest issue to keep you abreast of the happenings.

Also, for those of you not signed up for the quarterly Meeting Strategies Worldwide "Daily Plan-It" e-newsletter, here is a link. We feature a different topic each issue with a column/case study, "Ask the Expert" and resources.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Welcome, Montreal!

Best Places to Meet Green is pleased to announce the latest addition...Montreal, Canada!

Equal parts history and hip, Canada’s second largest city is one of the hottest destinations in North America. Yet despite this diversity, an underlying homogeneity exists in this vibrant population who collectively and confidently “live and let live”—and do it well. It is a great destination for meeting planners and participants alike.

Now you can see for yourself how the meeting community scored on sustainable practices. http://www.bestplacestomeetgreen.com/destinations Looks to me like The Palais des congrès de Montréal would make a green planner's job much easier!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Need To Know Basis"

If you are like me, you have been involved with organizations who use the "need to know basis" as a policy for keeping you out of the process until decisions are made. Decisions that directly affect you. The green meeting standards process is exactly the opposite! It is transparent and seeking your input every step of the way.

Here is your next opportunity to learn and ask questions. MeetingsNet is presenting a webinar this Thursday on "Creating Green Meeting Standards: An Industrywide Effort." Follow this link to register http://meetingsnet.com/webinars/green_meetings_standards_1008/index.html

Don't miss the opportunity to get your questions answered!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

You Can Take Them To Bed With You

“A wonderful thing about a book, in contrast to a computer screen, is that you can take it to bed with you.” –Daniel J. Boorstin

Here in Oregon it is the rainy season (really, an inch of rain fell before 8:00am this morning). Time for me to abandon my garden and move indoors. Whether in front of the fire or snuggled in bed with the rain pounding on the roof, it is reading season. Among those books on my nightstand are business books--don’t get me wrong, I read books for pure “brain candy” too—but here are some intriguing books I thought I should share.

Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken. I just finished this book and highly recommend it. Paul Hawken talks about how each one of us individually plays a role in changing our future. He weaves together the environmental and social aspects of this huge, unnamed movement working towards a better tomorrow for our planet. There are also lots of great resources included in the book. Green champions in the meeting industry can easily see how important our work is!

Strategies For The Green Economy by Joel Makower. I have known Joel for years and he has keynoted the Green Meeting Industry Council Conference. Joel is truly a thought-provoking leader, so I was eagerly awaiting this book. In his book, he talks about the central issues of greening your business and shows you how to get on a solid footing in the growing green economy. Another “must read.”

The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones. Next up for me is this book by Van Jones, a passionate, concerned citizen whose speeches over the years have made a huge difference in my life and my business. It is especially timely as he illustrates that the solution to our economic crisis and our environmental crisis are one in the same. I am looking forward diving in.

Just a few ideas for your "rainy" season!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Get A Good Night's Sleep

The green hotel industry is booming and hotels around the globe are expanding their environmental practices. Now in addition to national programs such as Green Seal or Energy Star, 13 states have programs to assess local properties. Each of the programs has their own verification process requiring a self-assessment and many require an inspection by a state-certified auditor.

Here are the links to the Green Lodging Program in those states in one easy-to-use place (thanks to the “Closing the Circle News” publication from the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive).















New Hampshire


North Carolina


Rhode Island








Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Today is a Brand New Day!

It is a brand new day...for the world and for our industry! Today there is a shift in audience sophistication toward the topic of green meetings. Sustainability and green meetings encompass more than the tactical strategies of recycling and conservation. They also include presenting solutions to the global concerns of corporate social responsibility, ethics in green marketing and reducing the environmental impact of the entire industry.

Green Meeting Industry Council's leadership feels a strong need to move beyond awareness of green and toward driving change within the industry. Thus the new mission statement of the GMIC, “transforming the global meetings industry through sustainability” and a new visual brand identity. The new brand and mission statement integrate GMIC’s international outreach as well as its commitment to sustainability.

According to executive director, Tamara Kennedy-Hill, “It is important to balance the growing awareness of green with making a commitment to change behavior. The GMIC is not an organization that will be satisfied with merely a checklist. We realize these are important tools and will continue to provide training and tips for best practices. However, the leaders and members of this organization feel strongly about engaging the meetings industry to embrace responsible practices today in order to leave a legacy for future generations.”

If you haven't already, join us! It is time to get involved! http://www.greenmeetings.info/

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Your Comments Appreciated

Mark Petruzzi, VP of Certification at Green Seal, let me know Green Seal has been working on the development of a new environmental standard for restaurants and foodservice operations. The draft standard was just released for public comment (http://www.greenseal.org/certification/gs46_food_service_operations.cfm).Take a look and add your two cents worth!

Green Seal, in case you’re not familiar, is an independent, non-profit organization that uses science-based standards and the power of the marketplace to create a more sustainable world. They have had an outreach to the US lodging industry for roughly 15 years now, including participating on the Environment and Engineering Committee for the American Hotel and Lodging Association, articles on sustainability in lodging publications, working with the Green Meeting Industry Council(!), and most visibly, their environmental standard for certification of lodging properties (GS-33, http://www.greenseal.org/certification/standards/lodging_properties_GS_33.pdf).

For those of you who don't know Mark personally, he is probably one of the most passionate champions for green meetings I have ever met. And a genuine, "good human." Take a moment to get to know him at the Green Meeting Industry Council Conference in February.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Want to spend time with fellow green meeting planners? Learning? Sharing? Laughing? I know the place!

The Green Meeting Industry Council's annual “Greening the Hospitality Industry Conference,” scheduled for February 24 – 26, 2009 in Pittsburgh, PA.

The 2009 GMIC programs committee has taken a comprehensive look at our industry and identified global and tactical concerns facing corporate and association meeting planners, industry suppliers, government and the global meetings industry.

The 2009 conference will offer tiered educational tracks for meeting planners and industry suppliers. The participants learning experiences will range from “Future leaders” 101 tracks, to hands-on experiential learning, to an expert “Leaders” track in the field of green meeting management. The Leader’s track is a new advanced learning series that will require participants to present individual projects and then collaborate on an action plan relating to the larger social issues impacting the meetings industry.

In addition to the educational tracks, the conference will also feature exhibits showcasing green products for the industry, community legacy projects and an industry call to action.

For conference session details and registration information, visit the Green Meeting Industry Council website at http://www.greenmeetings.info/conference.htm.

I hope to see you at the conference where we can continue learning from each other!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Free Wi-Fi for All

As many of you probably know, I keep musing that "VIP Service" at hotels should keep up with the times. Today's up and coming business travelers don't want their sheets and towels changed daily (or the soap changed hourly). Instead, give VIP's something they really want--free wireless internet. According to the September, 2008 issue of Meetings & Conventions Magazine, the following hotel brands are now offering free wi-fi...

Four Points by Sheraton
Hotel Indigo
Hyatt Place
Ramada Worldwide

To everyone! Even better yet!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hungry For Answers

During the Q&A answer period of the webinar I presented today, the same question came up. I say “same question” because this is one is asked during every single presentation I have given for years.

The question is….”Isn’t it illegal to donate food after an event? I am told it is against health codes.”

I am glad this question keeps coming up. 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 have blogged about this before, but it bears repeating:

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 get a copy of the law? For a copy of the Bill Emerson Food Donation Act, just click on this link http://www.usda.gov/news/pubs/gleaning/appc.htm
Where can I find a place to donate? Find a local food bank using the locator on Feeding America (formerly Second Harvest) http://www.feedingamerica.org/ Your role is to connect the local food bank and the catering firm. They will take care of the details.

Thanks to you, families in need can be served!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Technology Is Your GOOD Friend!

A while back I was talking about the strong connection between technology and green meetings and gave some real-life examples. My good friend, Corbin Ball, has taken that a step further! He has now put information in one place by giving you the links for "45 Ways to Use Technology to Green Meetings."


This is a fabulous resource. Thanks, Corbin!

Monday, October 6, 2008

What Is Green Washing?

Does it require a special detergent?

Hot or cold water?

Should I separate my greens before washing?


"Green Wash" is just one of the new terms popping up in the environmentally friendly meeting world. We are trying to keep ahead of the curve and add the newest lingo to the Meeting Strategies Worldwide Glossary http://www.meetingstrategiesworldwide.com/resources/glossary. We added ten new definitions today. Please let us know if you have others we should include.

Meanwhile, check out the updated glossary to find out if your "Green Collar Job" includes doing the laundry!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Calculating Moves

When looking for a city to hold your meeting there are a variety of questions to ask yourself. One of them being “How green is the city?” Another should be, “How far will our participants have to travel?” An important question both for their ease of travel and also for the event’s carbon footprint.

The Best Places to MeetGreen® Calculator will help you determine the best location for participant travel. It is the second resource in our recently launched website http://www.bestplacestomeetgreen.com/.

The Calculator feature allows you to evaluate which potential destinations have lower estimated emissions footprints relative to their attendee travel. Simply enter how many attendees you have from each region around the world, and then select destinations where you are interested in holding the event. The Calculator provides a report comparing the attendee travel footprint for each of the cities you are considering. The work is done for you!

So there you go, another resource to make planning green meetings easier!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Where Can We Meet Green? For FREE!

Probably the most important decision you will make as a green meeting planner is where to hold your event. If you choose a city that already has green venues and hotels, commercial recycling and environmentally responsible vendors, a good deal of your work is done.

If not, you could potentially need to educate the venue and hotels about practices your group requires such as recycling or a towel and sheet reuse program. If there is commercial recycling available to these properties, it is much easier to get it implemented for your meeting. Likewise, if the local convention bureau can provide you with a list of green vendors, you don’t have to research what companies to work with to provide sustainable practices.

We are often asked, “What city should I choose for my group? Who has the best green resources?” In answer to your questions, we--Meeting Strategies Worldwide--are launching our latest website tool, “Best Places to MeetGreen®.” The website provides two innovative resources, the Best Places to MeetGreen® Scorecard and Calculator, for helping meeting and event planners to select the best green destination for their group. The site is free to use and is located at http://www.bestplacestomeetgreen.com/.

The Scorecard ranks cities according to the green programs implemented by the destination’s convention and visitor’s bureau, convention center and hotels in the city’s conference package. The practices are third-party verified by Meeting Strategies Worldwide. You can sort cities by total score, city name and city size. Listings for each city include their respective section and total green scores, brief descriptions of the city and its green practices, as well as URL and contact information.

Cool, huh? Finally, a verified list of destinations for us all to use!

Congratulations, Tonie!

Tonie Gilbertson, Program Manager at Intel Corporation decided to take the leap and not serve individual bottled water at a conference she was planning. Instead, Tonie provided participants with their own water bottles and water filling stations. After the conference, she reported to me this was tremendously successful and they saved $50,000 off of the bottom line!

Recently, Tonie was awarded the 2008 Environmental Excellence Bronze Award from Intel’s Environmental Leadership Team. Nominated by her manager for the “ISMC 2008 Reusable Water Bottle Project,” this award was chosen from the 53 applications. Traditionally these awards have been going to facilities for energy and water conservation projects.

The Award letter reads, “The Environmental Excellence Award Committee selected your team’s project because we felt that it exemplified environmental excellence and Intel’s commitment to environmental leadership. This award is in recognition of your green efforts, driving the use of reusable water bottles at Intel’s ISMC 2008. Thank you for your continued efforts to improve Intel’s World Class Environmental Performance,” Martin Todd Dorris, Environmental Excellence Award Team Leader.

WOW!!! You go, girl!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

From San Francisco to Margaritaville...By Bicycle

Here at the Wrap Party for Oracle Open World they are using pedal power to run the blenders making this frosty concoction. Now there’s an incentive! As the conference draws to a close and the beverages are flowing, we have the enviable job of watching the move out on the show floor and checking the recycling systems on the back dock.

There is so much to share about the Green Program. If you want to know more details on the greening of Oracle Open World, check out this website http://www.oracle.com/openworld/2008/green-program.html

We now wait for the measurements to come in from many different sources to see how high Oracle Open World was able to raise the bar on greening this conference. Was it perfect…no. No one is. Is it a major improvement from years past…yes!

One of the successes that cannot be measured is one which may impact you. Because Oracle took on this green program, the entire local hospitality community has learned, grown, and taken great strides to be more environmentally responsible. It is a legacy they leave to every meeting professional who will do business in San Francisco in the future. They have blazed the trail for those who follow.

They are not alone. Many of you are also doing this every time you push the demand for greener meetings in the cities where you choose to hold your meetings. Each time this happens, it gets a little easier for the rest of us.

Thank you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Yep, Still Here

Hello from sunny San Francisco and my blogging on Open World’s green program. Working my way to the Green Pavilion I spy, "Pedal Power”. There are stations around the conference where you can hop on a stationary bicycle and generate your own electricity.

Just 15 minutes of pedaling generates enough energy to:

Power a laptop for 1 hour
Power a cell phone for 5 hours
Cook in a microwave on high for 1.2 minutes
Watch a flat screen LCD TV for 9 minutes (only 4.5 if the TV is plasma)
Use a hair dryer for 1.2 minutes
Toast 4 slices of bread

All this while burning 26 calories! I wish more participants were taking advantage of this great idea. Applause to those who are “off the grid” and on a bike. Personally, I think every house with a teenager should have one of these.

Next stop is a visit to one of the many water stations where you can refresh yourself using a biodegradable/compostable cup. Take it to go, or use the compost can is right next to the station. Oracle made the decision to do without any bottled water this year and according to those on the front lines there have been NO complaints! The risk is paying off.

Tomorrow is our last day here with a back-of-the-house tour and watching the move out on the show floor. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Still Live from San Francisco!

As promised, I am blogging live from Oracle Open World. It is my attempt to share what is actually happening at a conference that has taken on green practices. Last year’s conference set the benchmark and this year all efforts are towards raising the bar.

Now, I have planned conferences for a few thousand and know what it is like to work with large numbers of participants. Or so I thought. I must say, however, there are A LOT of folks here all wanting to work, play, network, and learn. Not to mention…eat, drink and sleep!

A conference program is really is a necessity this year. Planners took a look at what could be cut out of the program and reduced its size by one-third. They also switched to 100% post-consumer paper. In a related decision, they limited the amount of collateral printing at the show.

What was the impact of those decisions? A savings of….

965 Trees
411,585 gallons of water
692 million btu of energy
45,533 lbs. of solid waste
89,925 lbs. of greenhouse gases

The savings were announced at the opening session with great audience response!

Today’s lessons: look for ways to minimize printing; use 100% post consumer paper when you must print; measure it; and tell everyone what has been done on their behalf.

Tomorrow it is off to the conference’s “Green Marketplace.” Stay tuned!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Live From San Francisco!

This week finds me at Oracle Open World 2008 working with their team on the greening of their conference. The event takes place in San Francisco which is one of the greener destination cities in the US. The CVB estimates this event will generate over $100 million in revenue for the city.

Oracle OpenWorld 2008 will bring together over 40,000 participants during this week long program. They will occupy 88 hotels using approximately 73,000 room nights. Participants will have their choice of more than 1,800 sessions to attend. And the list of amazing statistics goes on.

Can a conference this size be green? Absolutely! Consider the impact on the environment possible with each decision. The Conference Team has focused on a Sustainability Initiative in partnership with their vendors, meeting venue and hotels. They started early in the process, they know what will be measured, they have educated the participants and now it is SHOW TIME!

Stay tuned as the week progresses. I thought it would be fun to blog about some of the creative ideas they have implemented and the excitement that is generated by the new green program as it is happening!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Travel Green

Here is the latest information on those of us who travel from the Travel Industry Association and the YPartnership…”

“According to a recent national survey we conducted with the Travel Industry Association, almost nine out of ten American adults profess to be “environmentally conscious.” The majority manifest their environmental concern by turning off the lights when leaving a room, being energy efficient by regulating air conditioning/heating temperatures when not at home, and recycling and/or composting trash. These activities are mentioned by more than eight in ten Americans who claim to be “green.” Here is what the travelers reported:

85% Are Environmentally Conscious

87% Turn off the lights when leaving the room

85% Regulate air conditioning/heating when not at home

82% Recycle and/or compost trash

73% Keep showers short

67% Read books/magazines or watch movies/videos about nature or the environment

57% Buy environmentally safe household products, even if they cost more

33% Use public transportation whenever possible

31% Car pool

Now let's all do the same when we are on the road!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Well That's Nice, But...

The Doubletree Hotel Portland has:

-Reduced overall waste disposal by 67% since 1996
-Diverted kitchen waste into compost at an average rate of 17 tons per month
-Reduced water usage by 15%
-Saved 9,500 gallons of gasoline per year with employee mass transit subsidies
-Purchased 900,000 kilowatt hours of its electricity from renewable power sources each year
-Purchased 65% of their food products from within a 500-mile region.

As a fellow hotelier, your response might be, “Well that’s nice, but do meeting planners really care? Do they book business because of those practices?

According to Jenny Baird, Director of Sales/Green Meeting Specialist for the hotel, “We have booked approximately $4 million worth of business due to green/sustainable practices.”

Enough said!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Results Are In!

Each year at IMEX, buyers are surveyed about green meetings and events. This information provides important and necessary measurements of meeting planner's attitudes and practices. It is also interesting to see the changes that have occurred over the years. So, with our thanks to Dale Hudson and Team IMEX, here are the results....


Friday, September 5, 2008

Now That's Local!

Just back from holiday on the Oregon Coast where I reconnected with nature and remembered why it is so important to consider the Earth in our planning practices, I am refreshed and ready to go.

My first mission is to participate in the Green Meeting Industry Council Board Retreat (more soon on the exciting developments coming from GMIC). Right now I wanted to tell you about a creative, green event held during the retreat...

After a long day of policy discussion, the GMIC Board arrived for dinner and were handed a grocery shopping bags (reusable of course) and shopping lists. We were sent across the street to the local farmers market to shop for our dinner. The group picked out fresh lettuce, tomatoes, zuchinni, berries, mushrooms and a variety of other yummy ingredients before returning to the outdoor dining area atop the EcoTrust Building (Gold LEED Certified, of course). Once there, the chefs and staff of the DoubleTree Hotel http://doubletree1.hilton.com/en_US/dt/hotel/RLLC-DT-Doubletree-Hotel-Executive-Meeting-Center-Portland-Lloyd-Center-Oregon/index.do made a fabulous dinner adding in local, natural lamb, chicken and dungeoness crab while we sipped local wines and microbrews. Minutes later, dinner was served! The flavor, texture and taste of each entree was incredible!

This creative idea and the entire retreat was sponsored by Travel Portland http://www.travelportland.com/ and the Portland, Oregon Hospitality Community. Now, I am not easily impressed anymore by industry events. I have been to so many fabulous ones, but I have to say, this was by far the best! WOW!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Do Not Disturb

We often hear complaints that even though you have requested NOT have towels and sheets changed, it happens anyway. You are not alone, I have the same experience when I travel. Hotels will tell you this is a continuous training issue for their housekeeping staff. So when I travel, the first time it happens I usually ask/remind the housekeeping staff and front desk to please comply with my wishes.

Nevertheless, a well-meaning housekeeper may decide they need to be changed anyway (really, I am not that dirty—especially because I keep getting fresh soap every time I leave the room). So, I go to Plan B and simply leave the “Do Not Disturb” sign on my door for the rest of my stay. This plan works pretty well. Although, sooner or later security will show up at my door to make sure I am OK. It is actually pretty comforting to know they are checking on me and gives me another chance to let the hotel know I am just trying to save the planet, one towel at a time!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Refreshing Ideas for Sponsors

One thing I know about green meetings, they can really make a sponsor look good! Here is an idea that keeps the conference paperless and receives great reviews from sponsors and participants every time…

If your conference is giving out a USB key with the conference presentations and handouts at registration, consider also having a “Refresh Station.” This sponsorship opportunity includes a central gathering area for participants to:

Refresh their USB keys (at plug in stations) and get the latest information posted.
Refresh their bodies with fresh, hot coffee and cookies
Refresh their laptops/cell phones with electrical outlets for recharging
Refresh their minds by meeting new people and exchanging ideas at the tables

It might even be a fun place to add a massage station!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Survey Says...

Green is here and growing! I want to share several new surveys/studies which have just been published…

Destination Marketing Association International will introduce the results of its Futures 2008 Study in August identifying the most important trends, events and developments as perceived by DMO experts. It identified eight globally focused “super trends” one of which is “Going Green.” The article in Smart Meetings, August 2008 issue quotes the DMAI Study as saying, “DMOs and the stakeholders they serve, will experience increasing pressure to be seen as green and will need to develop realistic strategies and plans for sustainable development and management of their travel products.”

Meetings MidAmerica asked this question in a recent survey, “Are Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) elements becoming a larger part of your meetings or organization?”
An overwhelming 62% said YES, 24% no, and 14% are considering it.

Just the facts!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Consider The Source!

By requesting local foods, meeting planners can play a large role in providing healthy and sustainable food for participants. There are certainly environmental, community and health benefits to this practice. What about the economic advantage, you ask? The Sunday Oregonian published some interesting data yesterday regarding cost savings.

They investigated three examples associated with the delivery of a pound of fresh blueberries to points of sale.

1. Air freight from Chile. You pay about $18 per pound (berries typically come in 4.4 ounce containers and sell for $5.) This does not include customs clearance or ground handling on arrival in the US which could add 20 cents a pound to the cost.
2. Ground transportation. You pay about $3.50 per pound. This is based on a refrigerated trailer traveling within 100 miles following major multiple-retailer channels to the point of sale.
3. Local Farmers Market Direct Delivery. You pay about $2.50 per pound. This is based on a shipment originating 20 miles away traveling in a nonrefrigerated pick up truck.

Considering the source of the food we serve can add up to a cost savings everyone will enjoy!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Little Friendly Competition

In my last blog, I talked about things exhibitors can do to minimize their carbon footprint. We have found one of the best ways to enroll and engage them is with an award. Both IMEX and the US Green Building Council have used an exhibitor award to help promote greener booth designs at their trade shows.

IMEX’s approach is to encourage exhibitors to self-nominate, showing examples of how their booth promotes energy efficiency, waste reduction, water conservation and environmental purchasing. All nominated booths are assessed by an independent judging committee. The committee selects one winner for the award, which is announced during the Gala Dinner at the show. The Malta Tourism Authority won in 2008

USGBC’s approach is a little different. Exhibitors are encouraged to self-nominate and fill in a points-based scorecard for the green features of their booth. These booth features are verified by a judging committee during the show to confirm they are in place. All exhibitors that reach a minimum leadership level score are recognized in next years show program, receive priority points for their booth location selection the following year and the chance to win a free booth space. These incentives are very important as Greenbuild is a sold-out show. The incentives have been very successful, with 17 applications received in 2006 and 77 in 2007.

Both great models for recognizing exhibitors!

Monday, August 4, 2008

That's Our Show, Folks!

If you have ever been on a trade show floor one hour after the show closes you have seen the amazing amount of waste. There is paper, cardboard, all sorts of giveaways, lumber…you name it. Once, I even saw koi fish that had been on display in a booth. Trade shows and expositions are often the component of a conference or event that has the most significant impact on the environment. Exhibitions use large amounts of energy, require considerable transportation, and generate a tremendous amount of waste—all of which affect the health of the planet.

In fact, statistics show us one three-day conference-trade show with 500 booths is estimated to use:
- 617,000 KwH electricity
- 28,000 therms natural gas
- 376,000 gallons of fuel

And produces 8 million tons of carbon dioxide! Now that is one big carbon footprint!

There are really four parties who can work together to minimize this footprint: the facility, the general services contractor, the exhibitors and the planner. As the meeting planner, here are a few things I ask our exhibitors to do:

- Participate in the facility’s recycling program as well as donate locally. Remember to train your booth staff to assist with this process.
- Minimize packaging materials on all booth items and use environmentally responsible packing materials.
- Avoid large quantities of collateral. Provide information electronically whenever possible.
- If printed materials can’t be avoided, they should use vegetable-based ink and 30% minimum post-consumer, recycled paper.
- Provide environmentally responsible giveaways and ensure they are not made from endangered or threatened species (you wouldn’t think we would have to say that).
- Design displays to be made with environmentally responsible materials including energy efficient lighting.
- Make signage from recycled materials and reuse or donate it after the show.
- Minimize transportation to and from show site. Use bio-diesel fueled or alternative fuel trucks. - Offset transportation emissions with a carbon offset program.

Exhibitors are your partners in the greening of the exhibit hall--enroll and entice them. Watch for my next blog on how to do just that!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Carrot or The Stick?

How do you change behavior on a long-term basis? Are rewards for new behavior important? Should personal and business behavior be addressed simultaneously?

A recent study by the European Commission, Environment DG asked these questions and looked at fourteen policies and incentive schemes in the UK aimed at promoting environmental behavior. The study suggests that future policy-makers can learn lessons from past successes and failures by understanding barriers and ways of overcoming these.

It provides seven key recommendations for encouraging environmentally responsible behavior:

1. Target audiences are more likely to adapt in line with a policy when they have been involved in its development
2. Policies need to pull in the same direction and convey a consistent message to appear legitimate to their target audience
3. Organisations need to have the relevant skills, resources and capacities to take on additional duties resulting from new policy initiatives
4. Policies are more effective when responsibility for delivery is given to locally accountable bodies
5. Policies are most effective when they simultaneously tackle several aspects of behaviour at multiple levels (a whole systems approach)
6. Effective policies must be context specific, while recognising the bigger picture
7. It is important to lead by example

For further information:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lights...Camera...Go Green!

Looking for environmental minimum guidelines for scenic and stage design providers; audio visual and video providers; and lighting and sound providers? If you are like us, finding comprehensive green AV and production guidelines has been difficult.

So we teamed up with Hollywood Lighting Services http://www.hollywoodlighting.biz/ on an AV Primer. The Primer was also vetted by industry peers (several folks from this group are set to serve on the APEX Panel to set standards for AV and Production.) Together we established both minimum and strongly recommended practices for ourselves, our clients and now you to use. This Primer will serve as a great resource for planning green meetings and the guidelines can be added to your requests for proposals for vendors. Use them as benchmarks for existing events as well!

For a FREE copy, contact Hollywood Lighting Services at production@hollywoodlighting.biz or download from the Meeting Strategies Worldwide MeetGreen Toolbox page at https://www.meetgreen.com/toolbox.php

Monday, July 21, 2008

Convention Centers Prove Green is the New Black

Finally, proof from convention centers that green meetings are also an economic advantage...

The Oregon Convention Center reports that its recycling and other eco-minded practices will pay a $62.3 million dividend to the local economy. The nearly 30 events planned through 2010 will pay more than $4 million to use the convention center. Thanks to the magic of economic multipliers, visitors will spend enough on shopping, dining and lodging to send a $63.2 million wave of activity through the economy. (source: Portland Business Journal)

The San Diego Convention Center impressed me during a recent site inspection. From the General Manager to the Operations team, they are “walking the talk” and continuously looking for ways to improve their environmental performance. The energy efficiency systems now in place save money and the planet—and they have the measurements to prove it! This website talks about their policies as well as providing a downloadable fact sheet. http://www.sdccc.org/meetingplanners/greenmeetings.cfm

The Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre, which has made environmental sustainability a priority for more than 20 years, is reconfirming their commitment and tripling its capacity to make it one of the greenest convention center’s in the world. Take a look http://www.vcec.ca/ I can personally attest to this. Way back in 1998 during a site inspection for a technology conference, they proudly offered me their environmental policies without being asked!

Sustainable for business…sustainable for the environment! Let’s hear from others...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Toot Your Own Horn

You’ve done the hard work--set up minimum guidelines for your meetings, put green meeting practices in place, measured the outcomes and took a huge step towards saving our planet. Now it’s time for a pat on the back and recognition for making a difference. If you are like most meeting planners, recognition doesn’t come along very often. So here’s your chance to share what you have accomplished!

PCMA has just announced an “Environmental Leadership” Award with the following criteria.

PCMA presents this award to an individual or organization who best implements their policies of environmental sustainability. An organization is defined as any company that serves the meetings and convention community, as well as any non-profit association or affiliated chapter. The award recipient will be involved in demonstrating environmental leadership by executing an "environmentally friendly" meeting/event or have implemented a "environmentally friendly" business practices into their workplace. This recipient has established and implemented detailed environmental policies and a strategy to execute them.

Here’s the link with all the details

See you on the red carpet!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Summertime...and The Livin' Is Easy

The long, hot days of summer are a perfect time to relax and enjoy live music in a beautiful outdoor setting! And that is exactly what I did this weekend. Even while relaxing I had one eye on the environmental practices taking place at the festival. I just can’t help myself, I truly am a MeetGreen Martyr.

The good news is, Pacific Northwest festivals and events are really going green this summer! Hopefully, you are seeing this as well in your area. If you are organizing an event here are the….

Top Ten Things You Can Do

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. Ask food vendors to serve local, sustainable food
6. Do not allow vendors or the venue to serve food in Styrofoam 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. 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.

Thanks to Stages Northwest for this list. They have additional resources available at

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Big Apple Says "Serve Apples"

The New York State Department of Health has developed a general set of guidelines for healthy meetings. Many of the healthy meeting guidelines are also green meeting guidelines (imagine that!) Here are some of the recommendations for planners:

- Serve local fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
- Serve fruit juice or unsweetened iced tea instead of soft drinks.
- Present a vegetarian option at all meals.
- Feature soups and sauces made from a base of vegetables.
- Provide space on the registration forms where attendees can indicate dietary restrictions.
- Place pitchers of water in meeting rooms.

Healthy on so many levels!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lucy and Ethel Got Nothin' On Us

Yes, here we are in our most beautiful hairnets repackaging food at a recent “Food Bank Friday.” Each time we donate our time at the Food Bank, we are reminded of the famous scene on the old Lucy Show where Lucy and Ethel are packing chocolates and the conveyor belt keeps speeding up. It is a laugh out loud scene and so are our Food Bank Fridays.

Throughout the year, we work at the Oregon Food Bank packing food on a Friday afternoon. We invite all of our friends and colleagues in the local area to join us and usually have quite a few hospitality industry folks take advantage of the opportunity.
Whether packing carrots, beans, apples or onions we have silly, playful fun while giving back to our community. I am never quite sure if our crew or those we are helping enjoy it more. Especially the time we packed “Cheezy Noodles” and came away with LOTS of bright orange powder all over us.

After our shift, we take everyone out for refreshments at a local pub to thank the guests who joined us and continue the camaraderie. So, if you are in Portland, Oregon, on the afternoon of July 25th and look good in a hairnet, you are invited to join us!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What's for Dinner?

Normally during a conference there is an evening where participants can enjoy the local fare. Whether guests are on their own or sponsors are hosting a meal, they will be searching for a restaurant. Help them along with suggestions for an environmentally sustainable restaurant which is as easy as checking this website www.dinegreen.com

The Green Restaurant Association certifies restaurants using the following standards:
-Does the restaurant use a comprehensive recycling system for all products that are accepted by local recycling companies?
-Are they free of polystyrene foam ("Styrofoam") products?
-Will they commit to completing four Environmental Steps per year of membership?
-Will they complete at least one Environmental Step after joining the GRA?

The website also has a great calculator for use by restaurants to check their environmental footprint. I would suggest planners use it as their minimum guideline checklist for determining restaurants to recommend!

Also, check with the CVB in the host city to see if there is a local green restaurant association or list of sustainable restaurants.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Money Talks

The benefits of adopting sustainable practices in your organization continue to flow in. It is the “right thing to do” on so many levels, including financially! According to a recent report from GMA and PricewaterhouseCoopers, “Companies that report sustainability data generally experience higher gross margins and return on sales, higher return on assets, and stronger cash flow and rising shareholder return.”

Take a look at the full report:


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Important Update: Green Meeting Standards

I just received this email from Pat A. Picariello, Director, Developmental Operations, ASTM International on the standards development and wanted to pass it along…

“I wanted to give you all a brief update on the current state of the standards development activity organized last February for green meetings and events. On June 10, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was formally signed between ASTM International (ASTM) and the Convention Industry Council’s APEX activity. The MOU details the collaboration between our two organizations from a standards development process perspective; in summary, core standards for green meetings and events will be initially developed by the APEX initiative, and then submitted to ASTM’s sustainability activity for refinement and approval. Note that more detailed press releases on this topic will be distributed from ASTM and the CIC in the near future – as you represent those stakeholders who have expressed direct interest in participating in this process, I wanted you to receive advance notice.”

Amy Spatrisano, APEX Green Meeting Task Force Chair, adds that subcommittees are now being formed and if you’d like to be part of this industry setting initiative you should contact Tori Frazier at TFrazier@conceptsworldwide.com. Let Tori know which of the following subcommittee you want to participate in: destination, accommodation, meeting venue, food/beverage, exhibits, transportation, communication, onsite office, AV/production.

Monday, June 16, 2008

To Teach Is To Learn

Having recently co-presented our "Simple Steps to Green Meetings" Seminar in Washington DC, I am reminded how much I too learn from each seminar. From San Francisco to Washington DC, the professionals who gather to learn more about green meetings bring a wealth of knowledge and creative ideas with them. I wanted to share some tips, tricks, and information that I have learned from students.

-Ask the hotel if they use biodiesel in their airport shuttles.
-Adjust your coffee orders if guests are bringing their own coffee mugs as personal mugs are usually bigger than the china cups found at the event.
-One planner’s organization did a carbon footprint study and found the US Postal Service has the lowest carbon footprint of all shipping services for their needs.
-Use a logo lapel pin to put a paper badge on instead of a plastic badge holder. The paper badge will last the duration of the conference and guests can reuse or collect the pins.
-If guests must rent cars, supply them with rental companies that have hybrids in their fleets. Note: Advantage Rent A Car just reported it will become the first major American rental company to have a 100 percent "green" fleet of cars within the next 24 months.
Thanks to all for your great ideas!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I Want More!

More discussions with other green meeting planners…
More help finding resources…
More best practices…
More information on current trends in one place…
More ideas!

We are all like sponges, soaking up the information and looking for more! So we launched the MeetGreen Forum and invited our colleagues and folks who have attended our seminars/webinars to join. And they did! We are having lively discussions, sharing information, and asking questions.

We also want to invite the blog readers to join the fun. The link below will give you easy directions.


Pop on the forum, ask a question, answer a question, share a resource.

Because as Margaret Mead said, “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

Monday, June 9, 2008

Choosing a Carbon Offset Provider

The third post in the carbon series deals with choosing a carbon offset provider. In today’s climate of unregulated providers, this can be a “buyer beware” situation.

Which offset provider do I pick?

There are many organizations that are able to provide carbon offsets, and many more that are emerging daily as the ‘carbon market’ grows. Because each program is different it is critically important that meeting and event planners make informed decisions when selecting their offset provider.

Key questions to ask your prospective offset provider include:

1. Do they provide offsets for meetings and events? Choose a provider that has experience with events. Ask them for references of planners you can contact.

2. How do they calculate event emissions? Do the calculations include transportation, buildings and/or manufactured products? Some offsetters will only calculate emissions for air, however others can also account for emissions from ground transportation, food production, waste hauling and building operations. Also, ask providers about any assumptions they make when calculating emissions. Some calculations are based on national or state averages, others on actual emissions by your vendors. Try to be as accurate as possible.

3. Do they only calculate emissions associated with climate change? Or do they include emissions that affect public health? Most offset providers will only calculate greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide. Others may also calculate sulfur dioxide or particulates which are believed to impact human health locally.

4. What type of event reports are they able to produce? Negotiate what kind of data you want your offsetter to provide. Common measurables we ask for include a breakdown of emissions volume by type, estimated fuel use, and total miles traveled.

5. What percentage of offset funds are retained for administration? This question is critical. Our research shows fees my vary from 3% to 50% of the offset cost, with the average lying close to 20%.

6. Is the offset provider a broker? Some offsetters manage their own projects, others broker or sell the projects of others. Using a broker has the benefit of accessing a diversity offset projects that meet your needs, however can mean you pay higher fees than dealing with the project provider directly.

7. Is the organization a registered charity and able to provide audited financial statements? For some of your attendees and sponsors the ability to provide a taxable benefit may be important. If not, you might also consider private offset providers.

8. Are you certified? Certification for offset providers is only just emerging. The two most common are the Gold Standard and the Voluntary Carbon Standard. Not many offsetters are certified at present, but ask if your provider is working toward certification or has undertaken any verification of their projects.

Our organization has struggled with making the right decision for both ourselves and our clients. We have recently undertaken a vetting process of over 25 offset providers and developed a spreadsheet to help. It is now available in Meeting Strategies Worldwide’s MeetGreen® Toolbox along with a Primer on Carbon Offset Certification. The Toolbox is available on www.meetgreen.com.

My thanks to Shawna McKinley for the Carbon Offset Primer which served as the basis for this series.

Friday, June 6, 2008

What is a Carbon Offset?

This is the second post in the carbon series. I hope you are finding it helpful. As a meeting planner, I never thought I would need this type of information. Of course, I never thought I would be called a "dumpster diver" either!

What is a carbon offset?

“A carbon offset is a project implemented specifically to reduce the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Offsets are so named because they counteract or offset the purchaser's GHG emissions.” (Source: Climate Trust) The important thing to realize about a carbon offset is that it does not reduce your actual event emissions. It allows you to be responsible for those emissions you can’t avoid.

Carbon offsets projects can take a variety of forms including:
• Investment in renewable energy, such as solar or wind power.
• Energy efficiency projects, such as retrofitting buildings with energy efficient systems
• Tree planting which will absorb emissions from the atmosphere.

How do I start?

Steps to providing a carbon offset program for a meeting generally involve:
1. Finding an offset partner organization
2. Working with the partner to estimate conference emissions (travel and venue energy?
3. Ascribing a dollar value to the emissions footprint
4. Engaging a sponsor, delegates or your organization to ‘buy’ the offset

It is important to consider the fit with your organization. A few questions to ask are:
- Will members be accepting of the option?
- Should the program be voluntary or mandatory?
- Is selecting one offset program too restrictive?
- Does the offset project need to be local? Is location important?

How can we fund a carbon offset program?

There are a few scenarios for funding carbon-offset programs that meeting managers currently employ.
- One option is to use the program as a sponsorship opportunity and publicize that the sponsoring company has offset the entire event’s greenhouse gas emissions. This strategy gains powerful recognition for both the sponsor and for the event.
-A second scenario is to ask attendees to offset their own travel by contributing a specific amount as part of their registration fee. Make their contribution optional. Then, those who participate will be taking an active role in contributing to improving the environment.
- A third option is to include the offset as part of the conference budget and let attendees know that the organization is doing this on their behalf.

Up next…picking a carbon offset provider in this wild, unregulated industry.

Monday, June 2, 2008

What Size Are My Shoes?

Welcome to the first in a series about carbon emissions as they relate to conferences and events. Let’s start with the basics...

What is carbon?
Carbon is a basic building block for life. It is present in all living things. In its elemental form we know it best as coal, oil and natural gas which is a source of energy for many of our activities on the planet.

What we tend to be most concerned with when it comes to meetings and events is our ‘carbon footprint’, which we often use to describe the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases emitted over the full life cycle of a product or service. In addition to emissions output our carbon footprint may also include raw materials, or inputs.

What is your carbon footprint?
Just for fun you might enjoy seeing what your personal carbon footprint is. Follow the links to the Earth Day Network calculator www.myfootprint.org and Climate Trust’s www.carboncounter.org.

What is the ‘carbon footprint’ of a conference?
The “carbon connection” with meetings and events tends to be three-fold, associated with:
• Transportation: the gasoline and kerosene that fuels buses, taxis, shuttles, freight haulers and aircraft.
• Buildings: fuel that lights, heats and cools the hotels and venues we occupy.
• Manufactured products (purchasing): oil and other fossil fuels that may power factories that produce goods we need as well as the materials that go into the production of food, paper, plastics, fabrics and other products that we give away at meetings.

Climate Trust has a basic carbon calculator for events as well http://www.carboncounter.org/business/offsets-for-events.aspx

Next post I will talk about how to address your conference’s carbon footprint.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Today’s campfire story is about a huge international company. It seems the president of the firm announced one day the company would be carbon neutral in the near future. Walking the talk, they quickly implemented green meeting practices into their upcoming annual meeting—reducing and recycling wherever possible.

One important component for the organization was to offset carbon produced by both the participant travel and the energy required to hold the meeting. The participant travel was to be offset by individuals either by signing up on the website when registering or by signing up onsite at several kiosks. In the weeks before the event we had a minimal amount of interest.

During the Opening Session, the President presented his plan for the carbon neutral program. He said that immediately after the session he was going to a kiosk to sign up to offset his travel and get a little green sticker for his name badge. He challenged others to join him. As the session ended, the offset kiosks were hit hard with participants signing up and getting their sticker. It seems the little green sticker became a “badge of honor” in this very competitive group. Some folks were even asking if they could offset twice and get two or pay more and get a different color like gold or platinum. This was by far the highest percentage of travel offset we have ever seen. I guess looking good for the boss is still a motivator.

Note: I will be posting about carbon, determining your footprint, and offsetting options in the next few blogs, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


One of the newest green meeting practices is asking participants to bring their own conference bag instead of the host organization supplying one. It makes sense, we all have so many. Before you say your participants would find this “tacky” or “cheap”, hear me out.

Because, what is actually happening is participants are showing up with:

-Bags from earlier conferences,
-Bags from organizations they belong to in their personal lives,
-Bags they have imprinted with personal messages such as “Ask me about…”,
-Bags from their favorite vacation spot,

And it has become a whole social networking game that really has participants enrolled. I have heard reports the coolest bags are those from the very first conferences held by the organization and those who carry them are very highly regarded. Also prestigious are bags from unique destinations and/or made by indigenous people.

What began as a way to save the environment and money has the unanticipated consequence of a new conversation starter! Who would have guessed?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Upgraded to First Class

We all know how nice it is to sip tea out of a china cup in first class. Doesn’t it just taste better than slurping it from a Styrofoam cup in coach? That is exactly what guests experience during a green event--the food is fresh, healthy and served on china. Don't forget the silver spoon for your sugar!

It is true..."Green is the New First Class” and apparently the word is spreading. In a recent article focusing on upscale New York restaurants going green, it talks about how sustainable practices are being driven by customer demand for the best.


Monday, May 19, 2008

What's Hot? Not Bottled Water

As you know, not serving individual bottled water at conferences and events has the potential for huge environmental and economic savings. Some planners have been concerned about how to sell this to stakeholders and participants. From what I have been reading lately, that job may be getting easier!

From Grist…

“Forget SUVs and Styrofoam: hip-to-the-times green folk are directing their ire at plastic water bottles. In the last few months, the energy-intensiveness of bottled water -- 1.5 million barrels of oil go into making the bottles for the U.S. market each year, and oodles more to transporting the H2O -- has seeped into the public consciousness. Big-city mayors have urged residents to stop hitting the bottle, and highfalutin restaurants are serving filtered tap water. Advocates point out that water flows freely in nearly every U.S. home, while 38 billion recyclable plastic vessels are trashed every year.”

From the New York Times, August 12, 2007

“In the last few months, bottled water — generally considered a benign, even beneficial, product — has been increasingly portrayed as an environmental villain by city leaders, activist groups and the media.”

From the Harris Interactive Poll…

“Americans claim that they are doing things that will reduce their carbon footprint. A startling 21% have stopped drinking bottled water.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Give Man a Fish and He Will Sell You a Chilean Sea Bass

It’s time for another “campfire” story to share a funny experience in the world of green meetings.

I was meeting with the Chef in a New York City hotel to plan menus for a conference of 400 investment professionals. Reading through the options, I saw that Chilean Seabass was featured on the menu. From my trusty Seafood Watch guide, I know that Chilean Seabass is one to avoid (They are a slowgrowing fish that is prone to overfishing and have become so rare that 50% are caught illegally).

Concerned about this, I say to the Chef, “I see from your banquet menu that you offer Chilean Seabass—one species that should be avoided especially when serving large numbers.”

He smiled slyly, looked around to make sure no one was there, and whispered to me, “Don’t worry, miss, it isn’t actually Chilean Seabass,”

Taken completely by surprise, I didn’t know what to say next. Should I be happy that he was lying to clients and not really serving the endangered Seabass? Or upset that he publicizes and charges for it while using a different fish? Was this “our little secret”?

Anyway you slice it, too slippery for me. Guess I’ll order the chicken. Wait, is it really chicken?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Planning For the New Generations

Our goal as meeting planners is to make our conferences exceptional events for participants. From the type of learning, to the networking activities, to the accommodations—the total experience is taken into account. We have heard a lot about the generational differences of the groups who participate and no where is it more apparent than in the environmental realm.

The younger the participant, the more environmentally savvy they are. Their expectations of environmental considerations throughout the meeting will be much higher. To them, it is a personal commitment. In his Earth Day 2008 Report, Joel Makower shares some important statistics:

“One in ten Americans say that they have looked up their personal or household's carbon footprint, according to Harris Interactive. Younger Americans are more likely to have done so. Almost one in five (18%) Echo Boomers (aged 18-31) say they have looked up their carbon footprint, compared to 11% of Gen Xers (aged 32-43), 9% of Baby Boomers (aged 44-62), and 6% of Matures (63 and older). “

As new generations move into the role of conference participants, they will be expecting green meeting practices to be incorporated into how we do meetings. Yet another reason to embrace green meetings!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

News about Green Meeting Standards

A quick update about the development of green meeting standards straight from Amy Spatrisano, CMP, APEX Green Meeting Panel Chair:

“Good news: The meeting industry standard setting body – APEX (https://www.conventionindustry.org/apex/about.htm)
is collaborating with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s standard setting organization ASTM to develop the standards.

This collaboration between government and our industry is a fairly new concept --at least in my limited experience. So, we’ve been working out all the logistics of how the process will work and who will take the lead. ASTM didn’t even know we were an industry until last year. I think they’re still trying to figure out who we are and exactly what we do. They are a great organization and have been developing standards for decades. It’s just--you know--we’re not your average industry. We interface with so many other industries to produce meetings and events. It can be confusing to those outside the industry.

The response from industry professionals wanting to participate in this process has been phenomenal which a good thing for developing standards the majority will embrace. The standards will be created by a volunteer, consensus-based process. This means you, your friends and your colleagues can weigh in on them. You’ll be given lots of opportunities to do this online, in select city venues and as a part of industry meetings. Look for news in mid-June about the next steps and how you can

I think this is an amazing opportunity for all of us to be a part of a legacy for our industry and hope you might too."

Here, here!

Monday, May 5, 2008

What She Said...

Lisa English, CMP, CMM exemplifies many meeting planners as they begin to embrace green meeting practices. In a recent article, she articulately conveyed her experience and I wanted to share it with you.


Lisa, welcome to the journey!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Because Sometimes You Just Can’t Help It

We try hard to be “paperless” in our planning practices, but there are some times in meetings when you still need to use paper. So the goal becomes, to minimize its use, choose the right product and then reuse/recycle it properly.

When choosing a paper, there are some terms to look for and be familiar with:

Post Consumer: Post-consumer paper is produced using paper that has already been a product (and probably put out at your curb). It is different from pre-consumer waste, which is the re-introduction of manufacturing scrap into the production process.

Recycled: A new product that has been made from re-processed materials. Recycled products can be made from post-consumer or pre-consumer waste.

Recyclable: A product that can be re-processed where facilities exist.

FSC or SFI-certified: Forest Stewardship Council or Sustainable Forestry Initiative-certified. These schemes identify and verify environmentally responsible papers.

Tree Free: Refers to paper that does not use tree fiber, but other kinds of fiber (i.e. hemp, sugar cane).

PCF: Process Chlorine Free: This most commonly means that the paper was produced without chlorine.

Changing from virgin paper to 100% post-consumer paper makes a huge difference. But don’t believe me…use this fun calculator to see the amount of trees and energy you can save by switching.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Don't Leave Home Without It

Your water bottle and coffee mug that is! During the registration process, we now ask conference participants bring their own. In recent months, I have heard about a new practice called, BYOB, or bring your own (conference) bag. It is being instituted with great success as well. Anything we can do to minimize our impact while traveling is critically important. To that point, EPA statistics show:

The average conference participant (at a three day conference):
Produces 61 lbs of solid waste
Uses 846 gallons of water

The same person at home (for three days):
Produces 13.5 lbs of solid waste
Uses 258 gallons of water

Road Warrior, Doug Kennedy, shares some great tips about how hotel guests can minimize their environmental impact.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Meeting Industry Embraces Earth Day

WOW, what a week! The meeting and events industry really went wild with information and resources about environmentally responsible meetings. Industry publications (both in print and online) had loads of coverage. And the news media followed suit with articles and interviews specifically on green meetings and events. Here it is the end of the week, and I am still digesting all of the reports.

In the upcoming week, I will be synthesizing this wealth of information (so you don’t have to) and posting it on my blog. Stay tuned!

First up--I want to congratulate ARAMARK for this week’s announcement…

Partnership to Promote Shift to Sustainable Seafood Announced. Industry leader commits to completing transition within 10 years.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium and ARAMARK have entered into a partnership under which ARAMARK commits to new practices that will guide its purchases of sustainable seafood for all operations across the US. ARAMARK is beginning immediately to shift its seafood purchases toward sustainable sources. The company will complete the transition by 2018.

ARAMARK’s US operations alone employ 180,000 people and serve tens of millions of consumers at businesses, universities, schools, sports and entertainment facilities, parks and other locations. “Being good environmental stewards is important to our employees, our customers and the communities in which we live and work,” said Robert Dennill, ARAMARK’s associate vice president for corporate social responsibility. “The expertise and knowledge we are able to gain from the Monterey Bay Aquarium will guide business practices and influence consumer behaviors, helping strengthen our commitment to the environment.”

As you know, ARAMARK is the exclusive caterer for many of the facilities used for meetings and events. Speaking for meeting planners around the country, “We applaud you!”

Monday, April 21, 2008

Every Day is Earth Day

"A hundred years after we are gone and forgotten, those who have never heard of us will be living with what we have done."

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What is in a Name?

It is less than one week until Earth Day and everyone is talking about the environment, especially the meeting industry. It is hard to keep up! We have always had our own special language and feel comfortable talking about hollow squares, rack rates, attrition, banquet event orders and the alphabet soup of PCMA, CIC, ASAE, IACC, SGMP, etc.

Now words like “corporate responsibility”, "sustainable foods” and “carbon offsets” are being added to our meeting planning vocabulary at a fairly rapid rate. Yikes!

In response, we have just added a glossary to our website as a free resource.
We will continuously update the glossary as new words appear in the world of green meetings. Let us know if you have one to add as well.

What Do Women Want?

The answer to that age-old question is really not that tough. Let’s do the math…

1) Women were early adopters of the environmental movement – just ask Rachel Carson, environmental pioneer. “Women traditionally have been responsible for the care and welfare of families, which makes them especially sensitive to the importance of clean air and safe water,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency, itself a legacy of Ms. Carson’s work.


2) Women take the environment AND business very seriously. The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council recently surveyed 1,200 members and found that 71 percent are working to make their businesses greener. The survey also found that 60 percent are working to make their products greener.

Multiply this by the fact…

3) The majority of meeting planners are women. In 2007, MPI reported that two out of three members were women. This represents significant buying power in the meeting industry.

Equals…one huge opportunity to drive support for more environmentally responsible hotels, convention centers, transportation companies, caterers and exhibit contractors. The opportunity to increase business and to give us what we want--a way for our profession to make a difference in the health and lives of our loved ones—is tremendous.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wash It or Toss It?

"Wouldn’t it save energy and water to use disposable cutlery instead of washing metal silverware?" A question we are frequently asked especially in regions of the United States where water is in short supply.

The Environmental Defense Fund provides the answer:

Using 1,000 disposable plastic teaspoons consumes over 10 times more energy and natural resources than manufacturing one stainless steel teaspoon and washing it 1,000 times.”

Speaking of water efficiency, “virtual water” is now being measured. For instance, a cup of coffee uses 37 gallons of virtual water when you consider the amount of water used to grow, produce, package and ship the beans according to Joel Makower’s blog.

The next big question is how will this impact the meeting industry?