Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010: Changing Direction?

"When the wind changes direction,
there are those who build walls
and those who build windmills."

Chinese Proverb

Happy New Year to each of you!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

You Say You Want a Resolution....well, you know...

...we all want to change the world!

It is new year and a new decade, seems like a great opportunity to make some change. Here are a few resolutions to get you started.

Repeat after me, "I resolve to..."

1. Set up a Green Team for my organization’s meetings and events. That's right--I don’t have to do it all alone.
2. Have recycling stations at every meeting and measure the amount of waste diverted from the landfill. I will let key stakeholders what has been accomplished.
3. Order seafood only from sustainable fisheries. No more farmed salmon for my guests.
4. Include green clauses in all of my contracts with venues, hotels, caterers and transportation companies.
5. Hold virtual meetings when I don’t really need to travel to accomplish the same task.
6. Look for ways to hold face-to-face meetings that will keep my participants healthier e.g. serve fresh and local food, networking time outdoors, or schedule time for exercise.
7. Not serve any food on disposable service ware.
8. Join an organization such as the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) or attend a conference to learn more about sustainable practices from colleagues.
9. Choose a venue close to hotels, restaurants and entertainment so participants can walk instead of take shuttles.
10. Ask caterers to serve beverages in bulk instead of individually packaged such water, juices and even soft drinks--like iced tea and lemonade in pitchers for a refreshing/inexpensive afternoon break.
11. Thank the housekeeper for not replacing my towels and sheets everyday when I travel.
12. Mentor someone just starting out in green meetings.
13. Donate all the leftover food to a food bank.
14. Ask all my vendors for their environmental policies.
15. Look for destinations that already have green vendors and venues in place to make my job easier.
16. Not print the date on my signage so it can be reused for the next event.
17. Always ask for fair-trade coffee.
18. Keep track of the financial savings for all of the green practices and become a hero in my boss’ eyes.

There you go. Pick just one or five or all of them for 2010! They are much easier to accomplish than your resolution to give up chocolate and start exercising!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Green Event Tip of the Week #8

Probably the hardest tip of all...

Remember it is a journey!

Our project team gathered this week to talk about the conferences we mangaged during 2009. What worked and what didn't. While client evaluations are high, we are probably much harder on ourselves during this process.

For instance, we have a new reporting system on our office wiki which worked but needs some refinement. We are learning a lot more about communicating with each other as our team is now virtual in five different locations and a variety of time zones. And even though our green meeting practices increased during the past year, there are still areas we need to focus on.

We have noticed a trend with green meeting practices for organizations pick off the "low hanging fruit" and get comfortable there. It is easy to do and we see it in our own work. One of our project managers said, "It is time to remind ourselves yet again that it is indeed a journey. We have accomplished so much, now it is time to move to the next level. What can we strive for in 2010?"

Remember IT IS a journey...what is your next step?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Take Your Green to the Bank

What's better than a holiday bonus for me? (well almost)...the findings from a recent survey of 131 meeting professionals by Meeting & Conventions Magazine (October 2009 issue). Even in these economic times, 51% said, "Green meetings have become more important."

Why have they become important? Perhaps another survey question answered that--22% said "On the whole, green initiatives have saved their organization money." Another 37% said they hadn't seen the savings yet, but projected that they would. Are we finally turning the corner on dispelling this myth that green meetings have to cost more?

Twenty-four percent "do not implement any green policies that add to our costs." I agree. But I also look at the budget as a whole. For example, if organic produce costs a little more but I can make that up by serving bulk beverages instead individually packaged, my F&B budget is still either cost neutral or a cost savings.

Hoteliers looking for clients? 56% of these professionals now inquire about green initiatives on RFPs and another 15% plan to in the next year. Be ready!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Green Event Tip of the Week #7

It really is the green tip of the week--and red too! The holiday season is upon us. When planning your holiday events, don't forget to incorporate the same sustainable practices you use when planning your corporate events.

  • Serve guests on china instead of disposable plates and use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins. Isn't it much more elegant anyway?

  • Buy local food for your meals. The winter season may make this more difficult depending on your location--especially for local produce--but check other items too. We recently had fabulous meal where most of the items came from within 100 miles, except the pasta. For some reason, it had traveled 6,200 miles. I am just saying...check the package.

  • Serve beverages from pitchers or large containers instead of individual bottles.

  • Get creative with wrapping paper by reusing other fun paper. Or be like my friends in Guadalajara and buy beautiful boxes that can be reused year after year. Everyone exchanges gifts this way in their community.

  • Give handmade gifts or those made by indigenous people. Recycled gifts have also become acceptable but make sure it is a gift worth regifting (no more hand lotion gift packs, please).

  • Use LED lights for lighting up your celebration. They will save money in the long run. While you are at it, put them on a timer too!

I bet you have a few tips of your own to add too!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Right Foot...Left Foot...Step Back...Step Forward

As I watch my fellow humans gather in Copenhagen this week to take on climate change as a global community, I am hopeful. As we struggle our way towards a more sustainable future, I am reminded of a line from a song,

"Even if you don't know all the steps, you must learn to join the dance."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Green Team Ahead by 10

Last week I talked about green teams in my blog post. No sooner had the ink dried (wait, that doesn't work anymore) than a helpful report produced by Green Impact came out about green teams. Outlining the 10 best practices for bringing all your employees on board with your company's sustainability projects it focuses on cost savings by integrating energy efficiency into the workplace and products and services; attracting and retaining the best and brightest talent who want to work for companies with an authentic green commitment; and increased market share and revenues resulting from a stronger brand and new, innovative green products and services.

Here is the link to the executive summary and download on

A Sign of the Times

I have talked a lot about the reuse of signage and how important it is. Traditionally this means donating the signs to schools or theatre for other projects. Here's one I hadn't thought of...

The Final Night Party during SuperComputing '09 at Portland's Performing Arts Center had several different areas for food and beverage. The planning committee came up with the idea of naming these areas after prestigious colleagues one of them being the "Ken Kennedy Pub" and the signs were made. This pub served microbrews and a variety of wonderful food. Folks had a great time with the name.

During the event, several people from Ken Kennedy's university, Rice, asked if they could have the signs after the event. They thought it would be cool if they could be hung somewhere at Rice - they knew Ken would have loved that. So off they went. We just learned that one sign is destined for the Rice grad student bar and the other will find a home somewhere in the Ken Kennedy Institute (, founded by Ken as the Computer and Information Technology Institute in the late '80s).

Now that is reuse at it's finest!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Green Meeting Tip of the Week #6

The season of giving is upon us. So this week's tip is a list of questions to ask when purchasing gifts for your clients, employeees and friends.

Is this product something worth keeping? (If not, it’s just contributing to the land fill.)

What is the ecological footprint?

Where is it assembled?

What inks are used?

Are these materials sustainable? Recycled, organic, etc.

What is the packaging involved in the product – is there a way for the packaging to be more environmentally responsible?

What are the environmental practices the vendors you work with are using in their businesses?

Is there a choice of production locations that would mean less transportation required? (For example do they have the option of ordering from a warehouse on the west coast versus the east coast.)

Is it possible for this item to be made in your country?

What are the labor conditions where it is made?

And don't forget it is also important to keep your audience in mind. For example, this Thanksgiving I received a gift from a vendor. It came by mail and there was postage due! If that wasn't bad enough, it was a Thanksgiving Turkey made out of foamcore--styrofoam. Needless to say, I didn't feel very thankful.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

TEAM--Together Everyone Achieves More

OK, I took this from one of those crazy “motivational posters” but in the case of green teams--it is true, together everyone does achieve more.

62% percent of companies with green goals have environmental teams, according to a recent survey in the Vault Guide to Green Programs report. When you get a group of people together who are passionate about the environment it is amazing what can happen.

So what can you do to really make a difference? One of the tricks is to start with projects which can yield early successes. And by early successes, I mean projects which show a return on investment to key stakeholders—money saved or earned. Because green team members come from all areas of a company, each will have their own green ideas e.g. duplexing all printed material, putting office lights on sensors, or selling used cafeteria grease for biofuel. A recent story in Environmental Leader focused on the success of one green team.

Don’t overlook conference and events. They can have their own green team as well. Oracle OpenWorld developed a green team this year which consisted of the meeting venues, caterers, decorators and other valued vendors. It was an honor to serve on the team. Each green team member choose several initiatives for the 2009 conference. They also worked on developing and measuring key performance indicators for the event. After the initial meeting held in San Francisco, the rest of the year long meetings were held virtually. The financial and environmental accomplishments of this team are really quite incredible (I will post them when available).

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

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Most Awful Word

The "most awful word" in the English language is said to be the word ALONE. And that is how many of you feel. We often hear, "I am just one person ,and although sustainability is important to me, my company doesn't really care."

Sound familiar? How can you make a difference?

First, remember individuals can change the world. You are probably in a decision-making role in your organization so start by making different decisions. Start with the "low hanging fruit" that doesn't cost anything. Recycle, print fewer handouts, don't order bottled water or reuse signage. Then compile the economic savings for these decisions and show senior management. Believe me, you will get their attention. One convention service manager at a large hotel recently told me he was the lone voice for green practices and he insitituted a recycling program. The cost savings is $5,000-$7,000 a month. They are listening now!

Secondly, recruit other passionate people in your company for an informal green team. They will bring ideas from their area of expertise to the table. Again, use ideas that will save money and increase your image to key stakeholders.

Third, take a look at your organization's mission statement to see if there is anything about corporate responsibility, being a good citizen, saving the environment, changing to meet the future, etc. Leverage this statement to get senior management on board and behind the green team.

Organizations today are under increased scrutiny from the public and showing you are sustainable is key. There is no more visable place than in the meetings and events you produce!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Green Meeting Tip of the Week #5

Call it a hunch, but I bet in a few day's time you will be interested in something besides poultry to eat. Tip: If you are choosing seafood for your holiday events make sure it is sustainable.

To make your job easier, Monterey Bay Aquarium just came out with a new list called the "Super Green List" which contains food that is good for humans AND for the oceans.

The Super Green list highlights products that are currently on the Seafood Watch "Best Choices" (green) list, are low in environmental contaminants AND are good sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Green Meeting Tip of the Week

Yesterday's post about the transportation for attendees at SuperComputing '09, reminded me of the fact that transportation is still a difficult area in producing sustainable meetings.

Here are a few more tips to help along the way:

Inform participants of environmentally responsible transportation options. Use your communications (such as the registration confirmation email) to tell them the best way to get from their airport to the hotel to the convention center.

If walking is the best way to get around, give them pedometers (sponsorship opportunity) and have a contest for the most miles walked. Make it fun!

If shuttles cannot be avoided, minimize the shuttle times and area covered to save time and the environment e.g. don't shuttle for distances less than 6 blocks, but do have transportation available for those with special needs.

When using a transportation company, request their environmental policies as part of the RFP process. Require the use of alternative fuels (bio-diesel, electric, ethanol, natural gas) or hybrid vehicles and avoid unnecessary idling. Put it in the contract!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Super Commuters

This week we are working with SuperComputing '09 on their conference of over 10,000 computer scientists. They have taken on sustainability this year and have a number of green meeting initiatives

Their keynote speaker, Al Gore, talked about the 90 million tons of carbon that goes into the atmosphere each day and how humans must make different choices. A series of decisions were made to help make a difference:

  • First choice--one of conference initiatives was to reduce the amount of transportation required.
  • Conference organizers chose hotels that were either within walking distance or accessible to the light rail system whenever possible.
  • Participants chose to walk or ride MAX (with the exception of a few hotels).
  • Off-site events did not include shuttles but were also located in the same transit area.
These choices made a significant impact on the livability of our community. Thanks, Super Commuters!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Code Word is Sustainability!

If you are looking for a green meeting venue...look no further. The International Association of Conference Centers recently developed a Code of Sustainability for its members and the adoption rate has been outstanding.

"IACC’s Code of Sustainability shines a bright spotlight on the path that already more than a third of its members have followed to affirm their compliance with more sustainable, environmentally responsible industry policies and practices. " reports Lois Berg, Chair, IACC's Code of Sustainability Committee.

I am listing them all here in recognition of such a important effort and as a resource for you!

Platinum TierThe Johnson Foundation at Wingspread Racine, Wisconsin, USA

Gold Tier Airlie Center Warrenton, Virginia, USA Aspen Meadows Resort, a Dolce Resort Aspen, Colorado, USA The Banff Centre Banff, Alberta, Canada Barnett Hill Conference Centre Guildford, Surrey, England Comwell Klarskovgaard a-s Korsør, Denmark Conferencehotel Kapellerput Heeze, Netherlands The Council House Racine, Wisconsin, USA Dunrovin Conference Center Baldwin, Michigan, USA Eaglewood Resort & Spa Itasca, Illinois, USA Edith Macy Conference Center Briarcliff Manor, New York, USA The Enterprise Center at BCC Mount Laurel, New Jersey, USA Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa La Jolla, California, USA Executive Conference Center at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club Durham, North Carolina, USA The Executive Meeting Center at the DoubleTree Palm Beach Gardens Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, USA Gl. Skovridergaard Conference Centre Silkeborg, Denmark Hamilton Park Hotel & Conference Center Florham Park, New Jersey, USA Highgate House Northampton, Northamptonshire, England The Inverness Hotel and Conference Center Englewood, Colorado, USA Mission Bay Conference Center at UCSF San Francisco, California, USA The Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada Paul J. Rizzo Conference Center Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA Q Center Saint Charles, Illinois, USA R. David Thomas Conference Center Durham, North Carolina, USA Skamania Lodge Stevenson, Washington, USA Stora Brännbo Konferens och Hotell Sigtuna, Sweden Tempe Mission Palms Hotel & Conference Center Tempe, Arizona, USA University Place Conference Center & Hotel - IUPUI Indianapolis, Indiana, USA White Oaks Conference Resort and Spa Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada Woodside Conference Centre Kenilworth, Warwickshire, England

Silver TierAT&T Executive Education and Conference Center at the University of Texas Austin, Texas, USA Cheyenne Mountain Resort Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA Dolce Bad Nauheim Bad Nauheim, Germany Dolce Chantilly Chantilly, France Dolce Frégate Provence Saint Cyr sur Mer, France Dolce La Hulpe La Hulpe, Belgium Dolce Sitges Barcelona, Spain Donald Gordon Conference Centre Kingston, Ontario, Canada Executive Conference Center at the Phoenix Convention Center Phoenix, Arizona, USA Executive Meeting Center at the Renaissance Denver Hotel Denver, Colorado, USA The Founders Inn and Spa Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA The Heldrich Hotel & Conference Center New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA imago at Burleigh Court Loughborough, Leicestershire, England Kellogg Conference Hotel at Gallaudet University Washington, DC, USA Lied Lodge & Conference Center Nebraska City, Nebraska, USA MIT Endicott House Dedham, Massachusetts, USA The National Conference Center Lansdowne, Virginia, USA Royal College of Physicians of London London, England Sinatur Hotel Haraldskær Vejle, Denmark The Stables Conference Centre Red Hill, Victoria, Australia Stonewall Resort Roanoke, West Virginia, USA Summit Executive Centre Chicago, Illinois, USA Tarrytown House Estate & Conference Center Tarrytown, New York, USA WorldatWork Conference Center Washington, DC, USA

Friday, November 13, 2009

Green Meeting Tip of the Week

Save money on your electrical costs by choosing a robust low-energy lighting package for your main stage or exhibit booth. Your electrical requirements will be reduced significantly: The more LED and HID units your AV provider is able to substitute into your lighting scheme, the less power you will need.

In venues where electricity is charged by the watt or service size, this can amount to thousands of dollars in savings. SAMPLE: For a 36 light system using conventional 575-1000 watt fixtures, your power needs (100amps 3phase 120/208volt) would average about $1000.00. For the same system in LED, your power needs ((3) 20amp 120volt outlets) would average about 225.00. Please note that these charges may vary wildly depending on the venue--but you get the idea.

If you want to learn more, there is a FREE webinar on Green AV you may want to take advantage of:

Green AV Guidelines: From Lobby to Practice Free Webinar
Tuesday, Nov. 17 2:00PM - 3:00PM EST

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cost Cutting Equals Green

It was interesting to read the recent column, "What Have You Done This Year to Cut Costs at Your Meetings?" in October's Association Meetings Magazine.

Planners talked about their cost cutting measures over the past year. The exciting part is that many of the actions they took this year were also green meeting practices. For example:

Bonnie Wallsh, Bonnie Wallsh Associates LLC, reports...

"Rather than hard copies, attendees were given zip drives containing conference handouts.
We met with the chef and asked him to recommend a menu using our budget and attendee information and to take advantage of local produce and what was in season."

Maryanne Bobrow, Bobrow & Associates talked about the 2009 International Textile and Apparel Association Conference where...

"Using recycled materials reduced costs but was presented as being socially responsible.
We used a social responsibility keynote speaker from the local area.
We did not print and mail a preliminary program, but instead posted everything on line."

The article was about cost cutting. Saving the environment was a nice benefit!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Green Meeting Tip of the Week

When planning a banquet, ask the caterer NOT to prefill water glasses. Instead, ask that the servers come to the table with a pitcher of water and fill glasses upon request. Track the amount of water saved and report on it.

Bonus Tip: Use mugs instead of cups and saucers. There is only one piece to be washed instead of two--saving water and energy.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Let's Predict The Future

The world of meetings has changed. Our job as meeting professionals to connect people has not changed. It is vitally important that people continue to communicate, share and learn from each other. The economy, technology, and social considerations will play a much larger role as we move forward as meeting professionals. We believe the more proactive meeting professionals are, the more likely the profession is to thrive in the future.

Could you take a few minutes to help us understand and shape the future? MeetGreen has developed a survey to get a clearer picture of the impact virtual meetings are having on organizations. Our goal is to use this information to further develop the skills to keep connecting people, whether that is in person or remotely. We would greatly appreciate your response to this quick, one-page online survey no later than November 11, 2009:
Take the Survey!

For each response received MeetGreen will be donating $1 to the Oregon Food Bank. All responses are anonymous and are being analyzed as part of a research partnership with Vancouver Island University. We would greatly appreciate your insight. Thank you!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Trash Talk Is Cheap...

Now it is time to weigh in! And the competition is heating up. The GMIC Trash Challenge is well underway with 54 organzations reporting. Over 1,176 tons of trash has been diverted thanks to their efforts!

The fall conference season has a few more weeks to go--so keep tracking your diversion and report your findings. Here is the link to get you started

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Late Breaking News on Green Meeting Standards

This just in from Amy Spatrisano who is chairing the APEX Green Meetings Panel upon her return from last week's meeting...

"The feedback from the APEX website, city discussion groups and the ASTM process is being reviewed (over 386 pages of comments!). CIC has hired a technical writer to edit and revise the documents, then final review of them will happen within the 9 committees (AV, Food/beverage, Communications, Exhibits, Meeting Venue, Destination Selection, Onsite Office, Transportation and Accommodations).

The resounding overall feedback was they were way too onerous. We listened and the standards are being KISSed (Keeping It Simple Silly) They are being cleaned up, simplified and modified to meet ASTM protocol. They will be re-balloted in late November with a goal of having them passed by the end of 2009."

You heard it here first!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sharing Our CSR Report Card

Just like in school, it isn't always fun to share your report card. But that is what transparency is all about--no greenwashing allowed here. As members of the UN Global Compact we are required to submit an Annual Sustainability Report. We have just published our first which encompasses 2007 through July 2009. We have measured and reported on our offices, our travel, and our client events.

Here is a highlight of some interesting indicators which have emerged regarding the events we manage:

76% maximum waste diversion during an event
49% average waste diversion all events
23% average increase in waste diversion at venue during all events
1.5 lbs. minimum waste produced per attendee
4.4 lbs. average waste produced per attendee
91% of the hotels used have been able to recycle during the event

Overall, the total cost avoided by sustainability measures is $2,545,480. The return on investment in sustainable measures is 19.5 times. Just the facts--green meetings are good business.

To download the full report click on the link on our home page

Monday, October 19, 2009

Seeing Is Believing

In the past week, I have been talking a lot about "back of the house" tours. As my long-time readers (or anyone who has listened to one of my presentations) knows--it is vitally important that you check to see if the green meeting practices being reported are actually occurring. I have gotten bitten by this in the past and have learned my lesson--so here are a few tips.

So, you have asked about recycling, composting, local and organic food and donation programs and the answer has been, "Yes." During the site inspection and while at the actual event, ask to see this happening. We always visit:

The Kitchen. Do you see recycling/composting bins being used? Are the garbage cans full of things that should be in these bins? Do the food labels show the product is local? Organic? Is the seafood from a sustainable source? Are the condiments in bulk containers or is there a walk-in cooler full of little packets? Where do they hold food for donation?

Housekeeping. What kind of cleaning products are they using? Where are the little, partially-used amenity bottles going? Is the in-room trash being sorted for recycling?

The Loading Dock. Usually this is the home of the recycling containers, garbage dumpster, composting bins, and cardboard compactors. Seeing the set up and operation will tell you a lot. It doesn't take long to see if it is actually being used. I was on one inspection where the tour guide was telling me all about the recycling efforts when a houseman pushed a huge gray bin up to the garbage dumpster and put bags of recyclable materials straight into the dumpster. You could tell it was "business as usual" while the recycling containers stood by empty.

You can always add to your tour if the venue touts things like an herb garden, solar panels or green roof to see for yourself.

Lately I have been finding sustainable practices pretty much as advertised. I also usually find the champions, the unsung heroes and those folks we very rarely see doing the real work. Making sure our complicated waste stream gets to the right place and anything that can be reused finds a home. Take time to thank them for the important role they play--none of this would be possible without them!

Back Of House Heroes

Another champion we met during our hotel back of house tours in San Francisco is actually a team of them! The Stewarding Team at The Palace Hotel.

The Palace Hotel composts, recycles (with an amazing 75% diversion rate) and is working hard to develop new strategies to be more sustainable. Meanwhile, this Stewarding Team has taken the initiative to pull out all plastic they find, put it aside and resell it. They save all the money and identify worthwhile local projects to donate to. Projects are usually brought forward by a fellow employee and are wide ranging in scope.

Steven Shapiro, Associate Director of Conference Services, calls them, "my heroes." Now, Steve is one of my heroes as a champion for green meetings at The Palace Hotel for many years. He never gives up and figures out how to have the right conversations (ie including using the savings to their pocketbook) to make it happen. So when Steve calls Robert "Romano" Romano, Stewarding Manager and team his heroes, you know they are extraordinary!

This is such a great example of how individuals are making a difference--one piece of plastic at a time.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Local IS Sustainable

As part of our work with Oracle OpenWorld, we survey the sustainable practices of all of the hotels. During the conference, we take a back of house tour to see those practices first hand.

It was during one of the tours we met Erica Holland-Toll, Executive Chef at the Westin San Francisco Market Street. Chef Erica has only been with the property for four months but is proud to report that her kitchen serves 90% local produce. 90%! No wonder she is proud! For her it is a pride in the quality of the food she serves and it comes with local food.

Chef Erica works with local growers and has developed an easy-to-use ordering schedule making it possible for her to pick up fresh produce at the farmers market during her three weekly visits. The walk-in cooler was filled with the bright colors of the fruits, vegetables and herbs--making my mouth water.

Erica Holland-Toll, one of the local San Francisco sustainability heroes, we applaud you!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bolstering the Community

What can you do with 4,500 bolster pillows? Bolsters--you know, those round pillows on hotel beds that usually end up thrown or kicked off the bed. Jo Licata at the San Francisco Hilton was faced with the challenge of donating 4,500 of those little devils recently when the property changed their bedding.

I have blogged about Jo before and I love hearing about her adventures. Through the San Francisco Hotel Collaborative she has found new homes for all sorts of crazy things.

So when Jo was faced with three whole rooms of bolsters, she knew she had her work cut out for her. She started with homeless shelters and AIDS projects, moved on to meditation centers and then theaters. A year later she finally found a place for the remaining pillows--the tents at the Burning Man event! Now that is creative!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Back of House at Oracle OpenWorld

The Northern California Chapter of the Geen Meeting Industry Council held an incredible back of the house event today thanks to Oracle. Chapter members were invited to Oracle OpenWorld (currently hosting over 35,000 participants at Moscone Center in San Francisco). Paul Salinger of Oracle led the tour and made it possible for over 20 interested professionals to see the back of house.

  • Chef Jeff talked about the compostable box lunches and working with local food suppliers while we watched some of the 5,000 box lunches being made.

  • The Oracle Communications team shared new signage on recycled material that will be reused and then recycled. It is also considerably less expensive than foam core. They expect nearly 90% of the signage to be reused at upcoming Oracle events.

  • The Moscone Center let us venture deep into the building to see how recycling and composting efforts happen behind the scenes.

  • The keynote hall and backstage set showed us sustainable practices such as LED lighting and cotton muslin screens.

Oracle has huge buying power and can influence positive change--and they do. They want to make it easier for planners who follow them (with less buying power) to implement green meeting practices. They are also open and transparent about the process. Here is Paul in a video about the sustainable practices

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What does BS8901 Mean To Me?

That's the question I kept asking along with many others such as...

How is BS8901 going to help MeetGreen?
How is BS8901 going to work with the new APEX Standards?
What will we--as an organization--need to do differently?
How difficult will the certification process be?

With only some of those questions answered in my mind, I was convinced to take the plunge--and we did. MeetGreen is now officially BS8901:2009 Certified.

So I can now officially share how the process was for our organization.

Working through the certification process was a fascinating experience. Confirming we have a sustainable management system in place, required (among other things) standardizing our stakeholder engagement process, formalizing our employee communication vehicles and providing measurement tools for social, environmental and economic goals.

With employees in Portland, Stockholm, New York, Boston, Vancouver BC, Washington DC and LA we knew the system had to be virtual and easy-access. The whole team was engaged in the process from the beginning and it was decided early on that the bulk of the information would reside on a company WIKI--a new technology we learned at the same time. Everyone pitched in, excited about how this could make our work easier and more sustainable. Conforming to the 24 areas of certification required hard work and due diligence--but wasn't too painful. It was a catalyst for innovation and change in a time when economic conditions require just that.

We have become a truly virtual company! We have standardized systems in place that can be accessed anytime from anywhere. We share project status reports, information, lessons learned, and issues. We engage and report back to stakeholders. And we are certifiable! I have gone from doubter to advocate.

What's next? We look forward to the integration with the APEX standards which will nicely compliment this certification.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Back To School

Something about this time of year makes it just feel right to get your school supplies in order and learn something new. As adults we know that you never stop learning new things, in fact, the need to learn accelerates.

The past several years, I have been a guest speaker at the University of Oregon Sustainable Events Workshop led by Leslie Scott, This year we are co-presenting, Community Event Design and Management: A Triple-Bottom Line Approach on October 30th in Portland, Oregon .

I am already learning an incredible amount as I prepare for the workshop. The hot topics include new ways to measure the social equity and critical issues concerning local food and food security.

The learning will continue as I gain valuable knowledge from the students (many of whom are active in the event industry). Their work in small groups to assess and benchmark their events bringing forward ideas to further the sustainability of their events is fascinating.

I invite you to join us as we grab our books and head back to school!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Health Care Reform

A company picnic with just one trash bin left over? For a health care organization with 3,000 staff over 24 hours? Impossible?

Not only possible, but thanks to the Providence St. Vincent Green Team in Portland, Oregon, it actually happened. It started four years ago when Providence Health & Services chose to adopt higher standards of sustainable practices as their mission for stewardship. Their Green Team of volunteer employees was formed at the same time.

The Green Team could have been content with working on health care practices, but they took it a step further. They showed staff members just how "painless" a sustainable meal could be by using bulk containers, corn-based cutlery, and recyclable, compostable and reusable products. They even used the green napkins left over from the Christmas event (saving money along the way).

This event received high accolades from the staff. They also received favorable media coverage--something the health care industry isn't seeing much of right now.

So what was in that one trash bin you ask....over 2,000 fudge bar wrappers!

Monday, September 21, 2009

How Is Corporate Sustainability Being Impacted?

According to the 2009 Greening of Corporate America Report, over half (58%) of the C-level executives surveyed believe corporate sustainability practices are either unaffected or aided by the economic crisis.

The Report states, "This result is consistent with a number of studies that suggest the downturn is a time to innovate. During such times of less activitiy, firms have an opportunity to align resources and create new strategy in order to reposition themselves to gain advantage when the economy recovers. Further, as sustainability becomes entrenched in common corporate practices, these efforts that lead to cost-savings will be of particular importance during downturns."

Read more interesting results in the report such as how they believe increased regulation is likely to occur. 2009 Greening of Corporate America Report.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Treat Yourself (And I Will Too)

If you are like the rest of us, the economy is forcing you decide between industry conferences to attend. If you can only pick one, treat yourself to the 2010 Sustainable Meetings Conference in February.

It is an experience like you will never have at another industry conference (in my humble opinion). First of all the sense of community forged by having a common goal of making a difference is unparalleled. It breaks down barriers immediately! The folks I have met at the conference over the years are open, willing to share information and are very supportive.

Just this week I had a call from a fellow planner I met years ago at a conference who had a question about how we worked with caterers on keeping organic food within budget. She knew we shared a vision and wasn't afraid to pick up the phone.

Seriously, you will leave with the tools you need and re-energized by your passionate peers to make it happen. Take my word for it and treat yourself to the conference, and I will treat you to a cup of coffee on the last day to hear all about it!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

As the song says, there will be plenty of peanuts and Cracker Jacks. Apparently there will also be lots and lots of fried food consumed too!

Turner Field in Atlanta is selling all its used cooking oil to BioFuel Atlanta, which will turn it into biodiesel fuel. They are estimating 9,500 gallons to be reclaimed--a win for the stadium and the environment.

It is great to see so many of the sporting venues adopting green practices. Something else to cheer about!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Time Well Spent

I spent the last two weeks sitting next to the ocean. I watched the ebb and flow of the tide...the nations of seabirds interact...the color of the water change with the sun and clouds...the waves crash. I smelled the salt air and listened to the wind.

I didn't read, email, google, text, twitter, talk, worry or otherwise look for ways to occupy my mind. I simply observed.

And it was during this quiet observation that I reconnected...I re-energized...and I remembered why the sustainable practices we incorporate into our work are so vitally important.

It is good to be back and ready to make a difference once again!

Thursday, August 27, 2009


That is how many total participants attended meetings where MeetGreen coordinated the sustainability efforts (among other things) from 2007 through today. This statistic was gathered for the annual CSR report we are working on. I was amazing and shocked!

187,804 people influenced by attending a meeting or event where green meeting practices were in place.

  • Where they learned why doing without individual water bottles and styrofoam was a good idea
  • Where they first experienced they could do without lots of handouts and huge proceedings
  • Where they walked instead of taking shuttles (earning prizes and trim waistlines)
  • Where they reused their towels and sheets and complained if they were changed
  • Where they stood in front of several bins and made the decision to recycle instead of send trash to a landfill--thanking us for the opportunity to make the choice.

We are just one organization planning meetings. Add to this all of the meeting participants you convene and those of your peers. Add to this all of the planners we know through professional industry organizations and all of their participants.

Never underestimate your sphere of influence!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Doing The Right Thing

If your organization is incorporating volunteer work, food donations or benefit events in your meetings, you are not alone! A recent survey by Meetings & Conventions Magazine of 156 planners shows 51% have done just that. In fact, 62% are planning to increase volunteer/charitable activities.

One other wonderful statistic is 50% of those surveyed work for organizations who now have corporate social responsibility policies. If you don't know if your organization has a CSR policy (as 10% weren't sure), it is time to do some research. Knowing the CSR policy can help you engage key stakeholders in the meetings arena. Where better to show how your company is "doing the right thing" than in the meeting/event forum?

Sponsorship Tip: Take a look at your potential sponsor's CSR policies. Use them in discussions as you invite them them to join you in showing good corporate citizenship through sustainable meetings!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Get In The Zone!

The Eco-Event Zone that is.

What is an "eco-event zone"? It is where multiple organizations are planning meetings in the same city and work together on greening initiatives. These zones started as a natural outcome of planners at the Green Meeting Industry Council conference discussing which cities they were going to next and what greening practices either were available or needed to be put into place. As they talked, they realized their incredible collective buying power and the influence they could have over local venues and vendors. They worked together to make change--all for one and one for all.

There is a case study reflecting a recent eco-event zone in Corporate Meetings & Incentives

Want to be in the "Zone"? Ask the CVB who else is coming to their fair city and talk to other planners at industry meetings. It is easy to get started working together!

Monday, August 17, 2009

An Offer I Wouldn't Refuse

Thanks to Glenn Hasek at Green Lodging News for this story....

The Sheraton Seattle and Sheraton Kauai Resort launched a pilot program called “You Tidy, We Treat.” Now known as “Make a Green Choice,” it gives guests the option of not only opting out of towel and linen replacement but also all housekeeping for a day.

Guests can choose to participate in the program for one night or up to three nights at a time during their stay. To participate, guests must hang a “Make a Green Choice” card outside their guestroom door before 2 a.m. Guests are not eligible for the program the night before checking out of the room. For each night they participate, guests are given a $5 gift card to use at any of the hotel’s restaurants. Guests also have the option of receiving 500 Starpoints as part of Starwood’s loyalty program.

I would happily take a $5 gift card for a service I don't really need while traveling. Another example of a green idea which also saves hotel labor and makes customers happy!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Speak now or...

The industry green meeting standards are ready for your input! All nine sectors of the green meeting standards drafts will be launched both on the APEX website and through ASTM process on August 12. This comment period is open for 30 days and you are encouraged to visit to add your comments to the standards.

You're also encouraged to become an ASTM member ($75 a year) if you want to be able to cast your vote (Steve Mawn at The standards are currently on track to be launched as in their finished form by the end of 2009.

Monday, August 10, 2009

There's Nothing Like It

A bit off the topic today, but not really. I am enjoying all of the fresh fruits and vegetables the season has to offer (thanks to my garden and the local farmers market).

This musing started because I was indulging in a tomato straight from the vine. Indulging is the right word as the taste, smell and entire experience was amazing. The plump, red morsel displayed very little resemblance to the hard, tasteless vegetable we find on salads at many banquets and restaurants.

We could talk here about supporting the local farmer, or food miles, or cost of organics but what it really comes down to for me is the experience--and I want my guests to have the same one.

It is a good reminder that something we make so complicated with all of our sustainability talk is really so simple.

Don't even get me started on the strawberries...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Celebrating Success!

The Oregon Chapter of the Green Meeting Industry Council held it's inaugural meeting on July 15th. It was an amazing event with over 100 green meeting planners and suppliers in attendance. What a way to kick off the Oregon Chapter!

Megan Rooksby, Oregon Chapter President, has incredible passion and enthusiasm for sustainable meetings. She was integral in rallying the local meeting community and forming the first chapter.

Congratulations, Megan, your success is showing!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

If Not Now, When?

I was upset to read that Benchmark Hospitality International (in a recent One+ article) stated the, "#2 Top Meeting Trend. It is not easy being green. Or at least it's not easy being green in a challenging economy."

Really? Has there ever been a better time? Doesn't this economy call for innovation? We are all looking for ways to save money--planners and suppliers alike.

Luckily, the Intercontinental Hotels Group agrees. IHG, the world's largest hotel company by number of rooms, is trialling a new on-line system called ‘Green Engage*', which will help hotel general managers manage energy consumption more effectively. Early trials have shown potential energy savings of up to 25%. If fully adopted by all hotels across the 4,000 strong IHG portfolio, it is estimated that the savings for hotel owners could be as much as $200 million.

The IHG ‘Green Engage' software works by hotels directly inputting data on site. The system automatically compares hotels of a similar nature across the world and lists a series of actions that each hotel can take to reduce waste and the consumption of energy and water.

Huge savings for both the environment and their bottom line! I repeat, has there ever been a better time?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

You Do The Math

Count how many of the top food and beverage trends are also sustainable and environmentally responsible:

From the 2009 Chef Survey, National Restaurant Association

1. Locally grown produce

2. Bite size/mini desserts

3. Organic produce

4. New cuts of meat

5. Superfruits (ie acai, goji berry)

6. Small plates/tapas

7. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor

8. Sustainable seafood

9. Nutrition/health (ie antioxidants, high-fiber)

10. Nontraditional fish

11. Organic wine

12. Micro-vegetables

13. Dessert flights/combos

14. Free-range poultry/pork

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sustainable Summer Reading

Industry publications are covering green meeting practices this summer in a big way. Three great examples just passing across my desk this week were:

Meeting & Conventions West with an "Update on Green Meetings" (May 2009) (OK, I am a little behind in my reading).

Corporate Meetings & Incentives (July 2009) devoted this edition to Lean & Green

Convene (July 2009) "Wind at their Backs" a case study about the WINDPOWER conference

A little light reading while you sit by the pool--working virtually!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

News You Can Use

The Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) created a Green Meetings Directory, which allows planners to locate organizations that have made commitments to becoming more eco-friendly.

The directory is located at or a quick link from the GMIC's home page Meeting professionals will find video and text listings, total product and service offerings, and contact information for GMIC members that join the directory. The new directory is open to all current members of GMIC who wish to list their offerings, including destinations, hotels, vendor products and other service providers.

Start using this great resource today--I am!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Are Pigs Going To Fly?

I just read an article in Environmental Leader, "AAA TourBooks Tag Green Hotels with “Eco” Icon", about how AAA will now list green hotels in both their books and on their website. years, AAA has not been interested in promoting the environmental practices of hotels and resort properties and according to my sources not open to the conversation. My guess is that it took a very large number of members requesting this information to push this change. Well done!

Now if AAA would just include environmental criteria in their Diamond rating system, the pigs could get off the runway and take flight.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Greenwashing Running Rampant

In the past, we have talked about greenwashing (you know, the practice of "advertising positive environmental practices while acting in the opposite way"). Today, As corporations are trying harder than ever to "look good" and we are seeing more suds than ever. 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!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Red, White and Green

As we here in the US head out for a long holiday weekend (with a nod to Canada who already celebrated this week), I wanted to post a quick reminder. If you are involved in green meetings in ANY way, you should be subscribed to the Green Meetings Portal I know I have talked about it before, but it bears repeating as it has quickly become an incredible resource.

I am getting information several times a week on what's new in the green meeting industry, content from recent conferences I can't attend, certfication updates, etc.

This kind of information will make your job so much easier and keep you connected to others in the community working together to make a difference!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Serving It Up Hot, Green and Local!

Sustainability is still a key initiative for the food service industry based on an article in the Environmental Leader.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Restaurant Associates (RA), a New York City-based foodservice, restaurant and catering company, have released their free Green Dining Best Practices, packed with recommendations for environmentally friendly foodservice. Covering sustainable food purchasing and dining facility operation, early results at two test RA clients, Random House and Hearst Corporation, show these two sites will save more than $85,000 each year, cut 275 tons of carbon pollution and reduce landfill waste by 60 tons annually.

In a National Restaurant Association survey of trends for 2009, environmentally friendly equipment and sustainable practices topped chefs’ lists of hot trends and top cost-savers. In 2008, the No. 1 trend among chefs was local produce, according to the “What’s Hot” survey.

The best practices recommendations focus on areas of the foodservice and restaurant industry with the biggest environmental impacts, including food purchasing (addressing specific products like meat, produce and seafood), facility operation (improvements in the use of energy, waste, and water), packaging, transportation of food, and the use of toxic cleaning chemicals.

As meeting professionals it is important that we also make menu selections for our participants according to these same practices. Here is the link to the full article.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Trashing the Competition

Not that we are a competitive group or anything, but the meeting/event industry folks are vying for "Top of the Heap" when it comes to diverting trash. GMIC reports since the Trash Action Challenge was announced:

33 Organizations/Companies have pledged to join

13 Events/Companies have already reported their measurements and

100 tons of trash has been diverted from the landfills--the same weight as a Boeing 757-200!

Visit the website to learn how to join in the fun Note: The website is currently being revamped to show you who the challengers are and total diversion numbers. Perhaps a "Crap-O-Meter" is in order?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Frequent Flyer Food

I have talked in my blog before about the fact that most of the food in the US travels 1,500 miles before it gets to our table. Greg Christian writing in an article entitled, Farm to Fork, from the June PCMA Convene drills down even further:

Food miles for items bought in a grocery store are about 27 times greater than food miles for goods bought from local sources. About 40 percent of our fruit is produced overseas. Nine percent of our red meat comes from locations as far away as Australia and New Zealand. The broccoli we buy at the supermarket travels an average of 1,800 miles to get there even though broccoli is likely grown within 20 miles of the average American's house.

Wow, another great reminder to ask your caterer to source food locally!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The New Green Lantern?

Here's a great case study about how sustainable lighting is not only efficient but also does cool tricks from Dwayne Thomas over at Hollywood Lighting Services!

“Bing,” Microsoft’s new “Decision Engine,” had just been launched and its marketing agency wanted to make a big splash. Bing has a distinctive logo that was presented in lights in a very large format for filming from a helicopter for future advertising use.
“It needed to be extremely bright and draw as little power as possible. As a bonus, we set out to create a logo display that could be animated.” Traditional projectors or video would not have done the trick and would have been prohibitively expensive, so we decided to take an approach that employed 100% LED technology.”

Ultimately, the Bing logo was created using (330) LED RGB fixtures, which were individually pixel-mapped to video (via media server) for amazing real-time effects. The fixtures were laid out to within a 1/4 inch tolerance on a lawn at Seattle Center using survey equipment, following a CAD layout that was created from a simple graphic image of the logo.

The LED logo array was over 90’ wide when finished, and the entire job was installed and ready to show in just over a day. “I credit great equipment and diligent pre-production processes,” said Tony Bove, HLS Seattle’s Creative Director and the project manager. “When we told the survey equipment provider that we intended to locate 330 points in about 6 hours, they laughed! But we got it done in plenty of time, and only had to relocate one fixture after the initial camera test.”

As seen in the event photograph, the beam of light from the logo compared very favorably in brightness to the nearby pod of (20) 7,000w searchlights (seen in the top right-hand side of the photo). However, the logo consumed on average about 20% of the energy of the searchlight beam, changed color and played back video signal, and of course, had the added bonus of actually spelling something!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Water, Water Everywhere...

"and not a drop to drink"--as the saying goes. More information is coming out every day about the "water footprint" of things we consume. Sustainable companies (and individuals) are now taking a look at this metric. It is something green meeting planners may want to take into consideration.

Here is a great resource for information, case studies, and even calculators to help you learn more about why your water footprint is important

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Leaving A Legacy

I read some exciting news this week about how the New Meadowlands Stadium is setting the bar for green sports venues

This is particulary exciting for me because in 2007 we introduced green event practices to the old Giants Stadium for the Live Earth Concert. Through the commitment of the venue and its vendors, we were able to achieve a 76% diversion rate the day of the event. The Operations Team at the stadium hoped they would be able to incorporate many of the practices they learned on Live Earth when the new stadium was built.

Live Earth organizers also hoped to be able to leave just such a legacy at the concert venue sites

It is that type of news that makes my heart sing--what an impact each of us can have!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Lone Star Green

Over the weekend, I attended the Green Task Force meeting held just before PCMA's Leadership Conference. PCMA is committed to furthering the green initiatives of the hospitality industry and looks at ways to partner with other industry associations to do just that. Deborah Sexton, Executive Director, reports that even in this economy, sustainability is on the top 10 list for member meeting planners and vendors. Let me know if you have ideas or suggestions for the Green Task Force.

On a side note: the meeting is being held in Austin, Texas--a venue I would recommend you take a look at for future meetings. For being "deep in the heart of Texas" they are working towards green initiatives and certainly are ahead of the game in social consciousness.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Green Meetings: Getting Older and Better

One last stat from the GMIC survey (if you will allow me) tells us that planners and suppliers have been incorporating green practices for many years now. Those who said it was just a trend, no longer have a case. When asked how long they had been planning or supplying green meeting services, GMIC members responded:

27% less than one year
41% 1-3 years
13% 3-5 years years
18% more than 5 years

These same professionals report that 68% of their organizations now have environmental or CSR policies.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

New Resource for Finding Green Meeting Venues

The International Association of Conference Centers has a new Code of Sustainability for its members which assesses the following areas:

Education, Awareness and Public Declaration
Waste Management
Water Conservation
Energy Management
Air Quality
Food & Beverage

By signing the Code of Sustainability, IACC members certify that their organization: (1) has agreed to sustain and support IACC's Environmental Policy; (2) has adopted and currently adheres to at least 75% of the code; and (3) willingly joins other member organizations that have signed the code in an assocaition-wide effort to continually strive for greater sustainability.

Members that have signed the Code of Sustainability are recognized in three tiers: To qualify for the Platinum tier, they have 100% of the code's practices in place; for Gold tier, 85% of the practices are in place; and for the Silver tier, 75% of the practices are in place.

To make it easy for planners to find venues with environmental practices, they have provided a list along with their ranking. Here is a link to those sustainable Conference Centers:

Monday, June 1, 2009

Catch of the Day

Here is a great slide show featuring fish you should avoid when planning sustainable menus for your meetings and events. In fact, from the photos, you probably want to avoid them anyway.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Meeting planners responding to the Green Meeting Industry Council survey answered the question:

"What percentage of the time do you include "green" clauses in your RFPs?

42% include green clauses

Now that is a lot of buying power as survey participants reported that 33% of their meetings were over 1,000 participants and another 30% were over 250 participants.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The ROI of Sustainable Meetings

"Where have you seen the greatest ROI in being involved with sustainability initiatives for you or your organization?"

That was the question posed to Green Meeting Industry Council members in a survey released this week. Their answers...

44.3% Increased Brand Marketing Exposure for the Organization
39.6% New Business Opportunities
33% Professional Development
25.4% Promotional Opportunities
13.2% Other

Monday, May 18, 2009

Survival Checklist

Thanks to Regina Baraban, Editor of Financial Incentives & Meetings for this 2009 Top Ten list for financial and insurance planners:

10. Sustainability. Our future depends of sustainable solutions. Keep moving forward with your green meetings and travel initiatives.
9. Creativity. When times get tough, the best planners get creative.
8. Community. We’re all in this together, reach out to colleagues.
7. Technology. Learn it and use it.
6. Education. Business content, not boondoggles, is the mantra for meetings in 2009.
5. Big Picture. Think strategically, not just logistically.
4. Return on Investment. Crunch the numbers to prove value.
3. Regulatory Reform. A new era of regulatory reform is about to begin and your meetings will not be immune.
2. Perception. In 2009, image is everything.
1. Humor.

Amazing how many of these can and do relate back to green meeting practices!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Green Travel On The Rise

According to a recent Business Travel News survey of 197 corporate travel buyers, 39 percent said they consider environmental issues in their buying processes. That is up from 29 percent in 2008. In a January CWT Travel Management Institute Report, 18 percent of 178 travel managers said managing an environmentally friendly program is a higher priority in 2009.

"People are concerned with making the economical right choices, but they are also being pressured to make environmentally good choices too," said Advito general manager Mary Ellen George.

Source: Green Profile Rises Despite Economy, by Seth Harris, Business Travel News, 04/06/09

Friday, May 8, 2009

Dangle The Right Carrot

In an attempt to Go Green...but mostly to save money, we drastically reduced the number of conference bags ordered for EclipseCon this spring. At registration, instead of just handing them a conference bag, we asked the participants if they wanted one. They were also told they would receive an extra drink ticket if they refused the bag. Surprising(or not) more than 50% wanted a drink more than a bag.

This also allowed the conference to eliminate sponsored items getting pre-stuffed in the bags. Take a look at the savings:

o on purchasing and shipping of the bags (50% fewer),
o on the cost of drayage with the decorator (lower poundage)
o less exhibitor promotional materials shipped
o no bag stuffing labor costs
o less trash produced

More than offsetting the cost of a beverage. Creative and fun solutions to the exiting challenges we face!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

It's What We Do

Produce all our meetings sustainably,

Teach green meeting practices,

Provide tools to calculate how green your meetings are,

Help organizations develop green guidelines,

Share ideas with peers inside and outside our industry to learn more,

Write books about it,

Connect people on the journey,

And, green!

Guess it's time to finally admit we...MeetGreen!

The Sky Is Falling!!!!!

This is a longish post written by Amy Spatrisano for another forum, but it is well worth the read.

"It feels a bit like Chicken Little is on the loose in the meetings industry at the moment. It started with the legislation you may have heard about that passed on February 17th as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which put limits on luxury expenditures, including meeting and events. The Act’s language says that companies that receive funds under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) must have a "…policy regarding the excessive expenditures on:
entertainment or events…aviation or other transportation services; or other activities or events that are not reasonable expenditures for the staff development, reasonable performance incentives, or other similar measures conducted in the normal course of the business operations". A rather reasonable set of policies actually.

Unfortunately, like most well intended rulings this one too went a bit awry. It created an impression that all meetings are excessive, wild boondoggles dismissing any value of meetings.

Well, you can imagine the effect this news had on a multi-billion dollar industry that has been challenged over the years to be seen as an industry at all. Finally, the meetings/events industry gets recognized! Not obviously the impression we wanted the world to have about meetings. The good news is the industry mobilized. A petition was spawned called asking people to send a message to their legislators to publicly support the meetings and events industry. The petition states: Corporate meetings enhance employee and partner performance, fuel company growth and profitability, support the needs of local communities and aid the American economy as a whole. In addition, a coalition of industry leaders published their own policy statement calling it a "Model board policy for approval of meetings, events and incentive/recognition travel". The model has ten points: starting with a general policy statement similar in messaging to the Act’s language. In general terms the points go on to cover specific measurable criteria: the return on investment to be considered, when it’s appropriate, dollar amounts to consider, percentages of spending, written justification, who should attend and participation. Number 7 is a favorite:
"Performance incentives shall not promote excessive or unnecessary risk-taking or manipulation of financial results." (for the details:

The irony about much of this is all of these processes, the Act, the petition and model all came out of MEETINGS people attended to decide all this. But the most troubling part is that no where in any of these initiatives does anyone tie the correlation of meetings to the creation, preservation, implementation or journey of sustainability.

Consider how many conferences, summits, meetings have been and are being held worldwide that play a significant role in the path towards sustainability: the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 which spurred international conversations around sustainability issues, the 5th World Water Forum coming up in Istanbul, Turkey which will address the concerns and viability of the earth’s most precious resource, water and the upcoming COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December. Those are a meager sample of the hundreds, actually thousands, of meetings globally that illustrate the power of meetings.

What a HUGE missed opportunity - especially given today’s administrative focus and openness - that not once did any of these groups underscore that meetings are an essential component of creating sustainable communities. Even the events themselves can be seen as opportunities to educate attendees on the impacts of meetings. The US Green Building Council’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo is a great example. The conference has won the IMEX Green Meetings award twice and most recently went through the certification process of BS 8901 for Sustainable Events. Attendees are asked to minimize their impact before coming to event with before-you-leave-home tips reminding them to bring a reusable beverage container and use public transportation. The organizers work in advance with all of the vendors, hotels, venues, food and beverage providers and transportation companies to minimize their negative environmental footprint through initiatives that also often save money. The conference’s environmental impacts are measured and use as benchmarks to ensure continued improvement. This is only one example; there are many other meetings building similar awareness.

At the end of the day our connection to each other, the planet and our impacts are realized when we meet. It is in those gatherings/meetings that innovation breaths life, relationships create connections and amazing things happen."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Redefining Ourselves

"It's not about the whales anymore. It's about us." This true statement is an excerpt from Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas Friedman. He goes on to say..."We need to redefine green and rediscover America and in so doing ourselves and what it means to be Americans." I would add, not just Americans but the bigger community--citizens of Planet Earth.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

One Million Tons of Trash

We've joined the GMIC Trash Challenge and are working together with other industry professionals to divert one million tons of trash this year. Rough estimates tell us that is about 10% of what our industry tosses into the landfill. Certainly an achievable goal.

My question is...what does one million tons of trash look like? It is certainly bigger than a bread box. Would it fill the Super Dome? Would it create a mountain high enough to ski down? Fill a 100 railroad car train? I have no idea. But I do know a visual description would really help me get my mind around this.

I also know there are engineering types out there (Bjorn among them) who might be able to assist us and further tell the story of what we are going to accomplish.

Can you help?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I Challenge You to Talk Trash

Happy Earth Day! Because celebrating Earth Day just once a year is for rookies, the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) launched the Trash Challenge today.
The challenge to the event and hospitality industry is to take action by diverting, recycling and composting one million tons of waste in all of 2009. GMIC developed the measurement tool and associated website where participants of the trash challenge can load data and where the progress of the challenge will be tracked throughout calendar year 2009.

Why is this issue so important? The average meeting or event produces 20 pounds/9.1 kilograms of waste per person per day. This compares to the on average production of 5 pounds/2.27 Kg of waste produced by individuals daily when at home. With an estimated 700 million event attendees annually in the US and Canada alone, that is an estimated 10.5 ton(nes) of waste annually.

Organizations with the best recycling and waste diversion rates will be recognized and the results of the challenge will serve as a best practices guide for the entire industry. We see the trash challenge as a way to build awareness, educate and engage the industry in reducing our environmental footprint. The industry loves friendly competition. This is a great way to challenge your colleagues and competitors to participate in something we all benefit from!