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.