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