Monday, March 10, 2008

Seeing is Believing

Sharing experiences through stories is important to our learning and sense of community. Enjoy this “virtual campfire story” where I learned that seeing is believing…

Early on in learning how to implement green meeting practices, we were bringing a large conference to a convention center where we had requested (and been promised) recycling for the show.

During the precon, we asked about the recycling and the facility said the bins were being marked and would be out soon. We then asked about the diversion rates and a series of other questions. The director of operations turned red and stared sputtering. He finally blurted out, “We don’t actually recycle.” I was shocked! Their plan was to put out the bins to make the clients happy and then throw the bags in the landfill.

Had I looked back-of-house during the site inspection I would have seen there was no area for recycling storage or pick up from the back dock, or an area for sorting. Nothing but a huge dumpster with everything in it. Lesson learned: ask to be shown the areas for recycling EARLY in the planning process.

1 comment:

Shawna McKinley said...

It is indeed a 'buyer beware' market out there when it comes to green - great post. As more and more meeting planners and suppliers promote themselves as 'green' we should all be mindful of avoiding what TerraChoice calls the Six Sins of Greenwashing:

1. The Sin of the Hidden Trade-off. That is fabulous you can provide organic produce but I would really prefer something local that does not need to be shipped 3000 km from farm to plate, thank you very much.

2. The Sin of No-Proof. So....exactly what environmentally responsible cleaners do you use anyways? Can I see them?

3. The Sin of Vagueness. I appreciate that you provide a zero-waste conference, but what does that really mean?

4. The Sin of Irrelevance. Huh. That is a new one - I've never heard of a water conserving light bulb before.

5. The Sin of Fibbing. But I thought you said you were a Green Seal certified hotel?

6. The Sin of the Lesser of Two Evils. That is great you planned a carbon neutral conference, but did you actually reduce any emissions?

TerraChoice's report highlights examples of the treacherous ethical ground often navigated when marketing a green product or service. I think it's important for us to always keep in mind the following questions when we make the claim to 'be green':

* Are we being truthful in what we are promoting to our market?

* Is complete and accurate information available to the meeting planner?

* Is the green attribute we are promoting relevant environmentally, and to the buyer?

* When highlighting one environmental asset are we mindful of our environmental shortcomings?

What is key is transparency and verification at all times to ensure the client is purchasing what is promised, and does not encounter any unexpected surprises once contracts have been signed. This was unfortunately not the case in your situation :(

TerraChoice's complete report on Greenwashing is available on their web site.