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!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Closed Loop Cow Poop

Several years ago--after a full year of flying about--our company offset the employee's carbon emissions by buying carbon offsets as usual. That year, the project our money went toward was capturing the methane gas from the MANY dairy cows in Tillamook, Oregon, for use in generating electricity (my simple description).

I recently received a notice that the green power option at my home would be using the electricity from this very same project our carbon offset money supported. How cool! My computer is now running on the cow poop gas I had a small hand in diverting from our environment. Another step (and silly story) on the journey to sustainability!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Transparent Hotel Chain

We talk about the journey to sustainability being just that--a journey. No one is 100% sustainable. It is important to be transparent along the way, sharing where you are on the journey and what practices you are currently working on implementing. I found a great example of that today.

Joie de Vivre Hotels is a large boutique hotel chain in California. I have blogged before about staying at one of their properties and the incredible practices they have in place. Sustainability is core to all of their business practices and you know that from the moment you walk into the lobby and are greeted. Now I find they have a website that rates their properties with a scorecard This scorecard lets me know some properties are further along the journey than others and I will know what to expect when planning a meeting or booking a room.

Wouldn't it be great if all hotel chains would provide this information for us!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"Never Let A Good Recession Go To Waste"

This quote was from a keynote panelist at the Society of Independent Show Organizers' CEO Summit. This Summit is where the key players in the industry make connections and talk about today's reality and the future possibilities. From discussions and presentations, it was obvious that business has changed and those that survive will be reinventing themselves.

The recession is opening up possibilities for strategic partnerships, corporate restructuring and innovate solutions to everyday challenges. More CEOs are willing to "look outside the box" and have conversations that would not have occurred under different economic conditions.

Great advice!

Friday, April 3, 2009


Earlier this week I was in San Diego to address the SISO (Society of Independent Show Organizers) Annual CEO Summit (more later on this important meeting). When I left the venue after talking non-stop about green trade show practices to head for the airport, I was picked up by a beautiful black Prius from a transportation company called Terramoto I thought they had ordered it especially for "the green lady"--as both Amy and I often get tagged. Better yet, this company is now serving everyone in San Diego (not just green ladies).

The next time you are in San Diego, call them. The service is as great as the car! Now if they would just branch out into other cities so I could use them everywhere I travel.