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

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 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

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 and Climate Trust’s

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

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