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 (
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.