Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sleep Green

It is exciting to see the hotel industry jumping on the green bandwagon! Green meetings clearly have gone from a "trend" to a "market" for the hotel industry. Here are some valuable resources and information:

Green Lodging News is a great resource for planners and hoteliers

Article about London hotels signing up to be green

The American Hotel & Lodging Association has some new information on green practices

Green Seal’s Lodging Certification Program website

Energy Star’s Hospitality Program information:

On a personal note: I had the pleasure of staying at the Hotel Carlton in San Francisco several weeks ago. It is very green, global and wonderfully nourishing. From check-in where they ask if you would like $1 from your room rate donated to a battered women’s shelter …to my room where a beautiful glass pitcher with filtered water replaced those expensive plastic water bottles!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

EPA Checklist: Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Everybody’s wondering what 14 questions the US Environmental Protection Agency’s meeting planners are now required to ask when sourcing a meeting. Me too! Tracking them down was time-consuming, so as a benefit to my faithful blog readers—here are the EPA questions:

1. Do you have a recycling program? Please describe.
2. Do you have a linen/towel reuse option that is communicated to guests?
3. Do guests have easy access to public transportation or a shuttle service?
4. Are the lights and AC turned off when rooms are not in use? How do you ensure this?
5. Do you use bulk dispensers for beverages, condiments and food?
6. Do you provide reusable utensils, napkins and tablecloths when serving food and beverages?
7. Do you have an energy-efficiency program? Please describe.
8. Do you have a water conservation program? Please describe.
9. Do you have paperless check-in and checkout?
10. Do you use recycled and recyclable products?
11. Do you source food from local growers?
12. Do you use biobased and biodegradable products?
13. Do you train your employees on these green initiatives?
14. What other environmental initiatives are in place?

My guess is you have developed some questions to add to this list! Let us know what they are.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Technology is Your Friend, Part Two

This week I am here at EclipseCon 2008 producing a conference for 1,400 open source technology programmers. Last post I talked about Bjorn, EclipseCon and how technology and green meetings go hand in hand. Today, I want to share the additional green practices EclipseCon embraces.

EclipseCon’s commitment to their conference community is to:
Choose greener cities and venues
Give you a greener place to rest your head
Feed you a healthy, tasty, sustainable menu
Reduce, reuse and recycle while we re-think how we meet

For a full listing and really cool chart of their annual benchmarks, see

Participants are appreciative! One of last year’s evaluations read, “Thanks for making recycling available during the conference. I recycle at home and want to recycle on the road too.”

It is also the right thing to do economically. We printed EclipseCon 22x28 session signs (without the year) four years ago at a total cost of $10,345. We have reused them each year only replacing a few damaged ones. Total savings over the past three years $36,907.

By serving water in large water stations instead of individual bottled water, the cost savings was $10,800 off the bottom line. Now that’s a great way to make a Conference Chair happy!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Technology is Your Friend, Part One

We have a great client (actually we have lots of them) but this one in particular inspires us to develop technology to enhance the participant experience, his experience, our experience, and to save the Earth all at the same time. His name is Bjorn Freeman-Benson, Conference Chair of EclipseCon.

I should start from the beginning... I first met Bjorn in 1994. He required me to use email for the conference planning process instead of phone, fax, or face-to-face meetings. In 1994, this was unheard of. I soon realized that planning a conference “virtually” with an international committee was not only quite possible, but also fun. No travel, no paper, no long distance charges and from the comfort of my office.

Next up…realizing all academic paper submissions and review processes were managed using paper and by hand, Bjorn knew there must be a better way. I agreed. I wanted to save lots of time, LOTS of paper, and lots of postage. Thanks to the development team, an online submission and review system was designed for EclipseCon. Now those tasks are things of the past. It is all done via the web. And boy are we thankful…in 2007 alone, 760 papers were submitted. There were 4022 reviews. 325 were accepted. Not one tree was cut for this effort.

But it gets even better. Once a paper is accepted, the sessions are automatically populated into the online conference program schedule on the website. Presenters upload their own photos, bios, and presentations. Attendees can go on the website and design their own tracks and share them with others. Before the conference, the presentations are downloaded onto USB keys instead of the paper handouts. Saving an average of 24,000 pieces of paper or 3 trees each year!

Not willing to stop there...several years ago, Bjorn and his friend, Ward Cunningham (the inventor of the WIKI) saw the applications of the WIKI as a conference planning tool. All of our timelines, budgets, committee items, etc. have been on the conference WIKIs for years. It is a convenient, time-saving and paper saving way to keep this information in a central location. It can be accessed by anyone on the committee day or night, in Europe or Japan.

Do cutting-edge technology and green meeting practices go hand-in-hand? You bet! Did one creative, intuitive, individual who cares about the Earth make a difference? Absolutely! Thanks, Bjorn!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New! Free! Green Meeting Resources!

New and free--two of my favorite words! Here are three resources I recently found during my research:

Check out the MPI Canadian Chapter’s “Vertigo, Plan to Meet Green E-Handbook” It has several sections: The Top Ten (Plus 1!) Things You Can Do to Green Your Event, Planning a Green Meeting checklists, resources, policy statements, and case studies

Don’t stop there…

PCMA also has an online Green Meetings resource

Take a look at this online Green Meeting Section on

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.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Back to the Future

“These aren’t new practices, they are old,” was one woman’s response at the Green Meeting Industry Council’s Conference. She had been in the industry for over 40 years and when she started…

-all service was on china, disposables were unheard of,
-water wasn’t available in plastic water bottles,
-sheets were changed only once during a week-long stay,
-table scraps were fed to the pigs or composted to use in the garden, and
-fruits, vegetables and herbs for guest meals came from the hotel garden.

Currently, she is struggling to bring her property back to where she began.
An interesting perspective from someone with a long history in the meetings industry.

Speaking of the GMIC Conference, the first presentation slides have been uploaded to As additional presentations are received from speakers, they will be placed here as well.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Isn't That Illegal?

No, actually donating leftover food to a local food back isn’t illegal or a liability for meeting planners and their organizations. Although this is often what we hear from venues and caterers. But don’t take my word for it. Enter…The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.

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

Where can I find a place to donate?
Find a local food bank using the locator on America’s Second Harvest website

Wait, what abut Canada?
Canadian provinces have their own laws that protect donors of food from liability. Each province is different so check with the city’s food bank to ensure provincial legislation exists.