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!