Wednesday, December 29, 2010

IMEX Weighs in on 2011

The latest IMEX Global Insights Report predicts increases in both number of meetings to be held as well as available budgets. All good news.

More good news in the report includes, "Fears that increased financial pressures over the last 12 months would have caused Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy to take a back-seat were also allayed in this report. Respondents demonstrated high levels of appreciation for the importance of sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices. 42 percent stated that they are fully committed to CSR and that it underpins all that they do while 26 percent said they are currently developing policies to fulfill this brief."

Like the song says, "Feeling Stronger Every Day!"

Here's the full report.

Extra Incentive: Charity

It's that time of year when the trends for 2011 (for all areas of meeting and event planning) are being published. I am drilling down into each survey and study to look for the sustainable practices to share with you. That usually requires a lot of wading through budgetary items as in the "2011 Incentive Trends Survey" recently published in Corporate Meetings & Incentives Magazine.

In the fine print, the survey reveals, "Though 76 percent of incentive trips in 2000 included some meeting or training component, including CSR-oriented activities was unheard of back then. In this year’s survey, 35 percent of respondents included a charitable activity during their trips."

A 35% increase. Hats off to the incentive industry!

Monday, December 20, 2010

For the Sake of Our Children

Want to get meeting participants to conserve water? This sign on a water station in Beijing goes straight for the heart strings. And they are absolutely right!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It Turns Out, Success CAN Be Measured!

Since Oracle OpenWorld turned its attention to event sustainability in 2007, the progress has been impressive. Here's an example of what they have accomplished:

Enabled re-investment of $1.3 million in event elements through waste-cutting actions
Diverted enough trash from landfill to fill 37 garbage trucks
Avoided emissions equivalent to taking 190 cars off the road for a year
Conserved enough water to fill 3 Olympic-sized swimming pools
Saved enough energy to power 62 American homes for a year
Prevented the cutting of 1363 trees

Paul Salinger, Oracle, notes, "This was a challenging year. We had a new conference added, which meant more attendees and more impact. We had new team members to integrate and educate. We had some waste diversion issues and needed to do more branding than last year.

And yet – we achieved our highest score on the MeetGreen calculator yet – getting to 80%. Just 4 years ago we were at 34%. We have made tremendous progress over the last 4 years – a phenomenal feat for the scale of an event like Oracle OpenWorld, and really unprecedented in the event industry!"

They are very proud and should be! To read the entire Sustainability Event Report with loads of data and individual success stories, download here

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

This Crabby Martyr is Joyous!

Great News! The Oregon Dungeness Crab Fishery has become the world's first major crab fishery to be certified "sustainable" under standards set by the international Marine Stewardship Council.

"The Oregon Dungeness crab fishery has demonstrated that they are a model fishery in terms of environmental sustainability and working hard to maintain and improve the overall health of the fishery," said Kerry Coughlin , regional director of the MSC Americas.

My family's traditional Christmas dinner is dungeness crab cooked and served whole so we can crack and enjoy every succulent morsel while we celebrate the season. Good to know our tradition is both local (within 100 miles of our table) and sustainable!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thank You

For all you have done over the past year to make this planet a better place in the face of tough economic times, relentless politics and uncomfortable change!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Great Way to Start the Day!

There is almost nothing better than talking to an engaged group of students about sustainable meeting practices! That is just how my morning started. Tyra Hilliard (early advocate of green meetings and the Green Meeting Industry Council) asked me to present to her class at the University of Alabama. Using skype and webcams from my office in Oregon, I could see the entire class and they could see me. The technology allowed us to interact without any of us getting on an airplane--no greenhouse gas emissions required.

The students were young, energetic and interested in learning. Change may not be as difficult for them as it can be for people twice their age--like me. As these students move into the world they will be bringing forward new ways of doing business. Their thoughtful questions lead me to believe it will be a more sustainable way. They are the future of meetings.

Go TIDE!!!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Get Off The Bottle

Multnomah County, where we are headquartered, has voted to ban bottled water from its meetings and functions. Hooray!

Extra bonus: it will save $20,000 - $30,000 per year which is desperately needed for other services in our area. Good thinking!

What could your local government save on this one simple green meeting policy?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Definition of Insanity

Roger Dow, President of the US Travel Association, recently talked about threats to the industry and was quoted as saying, "No concern could be greater than environmental policy that discourages people from traveling to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions."

He goes on to say, "They (environmentalists) aren't as concerned about how travel works for the economy than they are about reducing carbon emmissions."

Seriously? Where has this guy been? Perhaps he doesn't believe our hospitality industry is full of passionate, committed professionals who understand there is room in the world for both good business AND air to breath. We are, in fact, wildly creative people working very diligently on the future of meetings and travel. The world has shifted, our industry is changing and we are responding.

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." Albert Einstein

Cast Your Vote for Planet Earth

For those of you in the United States, when you vote today for either candidates or ballot measures make sure they support the entire triple bottom line...environment, economy AND social issues. Without all three of these, our future is not sustainable.

Thank you!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Art of Reuse

As our conference management team was preparing to leave for Eclipse Summit 2010 in Germany yesterday they told me this great story...

"When we left ESE 2009, we donated the sign easels to a local art school. The teachers and students were thrilled to have them and wanted us to use them when we came back to town. Sure enough, we called today (almost a year later) and they offered to bring the easels to the venue for our use. We had to purchase several lamps for this year's event and will donate them to the school afterwards."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Money Talks

Trimmed $1.4 million from our client's budgets through sustainable event practice recommendations.

That's what MeetGreen did in the last reporting period. Just the facts in our Corporate Report 2010. In addition, we...

  • Saved 1653 trees
  • Prevented 63 trucks of trash from entering landfills
  • Avoided emissions equivalent to taking 300 cars off the road for a year
  • Saved enough energy to power 560 American homes for a year
  • Eliminated 774,000 water bottles from the waste stream
  • Conserved enough water to fill 3 Olympic-sized pools
  • Helped 34 community groups

A huge THANK YOU to all of our stakeholders--clients, vendors, associates and teams who made this possible--because together we made a difference.

"Each of you knows at least one thing well. All of you together can make a village run." B.Ghosthorse

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mom Knew

It isn't financial incentives. It isn't more information. It's guilt that motivates us, according to The Wall Street Journal article, "The Secret to Turning Consumers Green".

As you know I am of the mind "whatever works" when it comes to engaging people to be more environmentally responsible, so I thought these two studies were very insightful.

One study involved those placards in hotel bathrooms that urge guests to reuse towels. Over a three-month period, researchers tested two different placards in a 190-room, midprice chain hotel.

One card was headlined "Help Save the Environment" and urged visitors to "show your respect for nature" by reusing towels. The second read, "Join Your Fellow Guests in Helping to Save the Environment" and noted that 75% of guests participated in the towel-reuse program. The guests who were exposed to the peer pressure—the fact that so many of their fellow travelers were doing it—were 25% more likely to reuse towels.

A follow-up study found that tweaking the wording on the placard so it was specific to the guest's room (as in: nearly 75% of guests who stayed here in Room 331 reused their towels) yielded even better compliance.
And in another study...

Psychologist Doug McKenzie-Mohr describes one such study in his book "Fostering Sustainable Behavior." A college gym's shower room displayed a prominent sign urging students to conserve water by turning off the shower while they soaped up. Only 6% did so initially. But when researchers planted an accomplice who shut off his water midshower, 49% of students followed suit. When there were two accomplices, compliance jumped to 67%, even though the accomplices didn't discuss their actions or make eye contact with other students.

Traditional conservation campaigns have been "based on the premise that if we simply provide people with information, they will make changes in their lives," Mr. McKenzie-Mohr says. "We know pretty conclusively that's not true."
So I guess I can throw away my slides loaded with information about doing the right thing and those that present the business case and develop a set using good, old fashioned guilt. I think I shall call it, "Guilt Trips!" Thanks, Mom.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

There's No Place Like Home

I read with interest a Strategic Meetings Management Article called "Local Flavor" by Elaine Pofeldt. It talks about the trend towards smaller regional meetings and some of the benefits. Benefits like...

  • Regional events fit the practical, budget-conscious mood of the times
  • Travel cost is lower in smaller cities
  • Airfare is less
  • The meeting can be less opulent
  • Regional meetings attract, engage and retain members living far from headquarters
  • Members like to stay close to home
  • People can have conversation with many people instead of listening to only a few on stage.

All great benefits and I would add a few...

  • Environmental savings from less travel
  • Social impact of staying in the local community
  • Participant satisfaction

If you are seeing this trend in your own organization, make sure to measure the savings in terms of money, environment and social aspects, Then tell the story! Your key stakeholders such as the management team, shareholders, sponsors and participants will sing your praises.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Good Advice From Trees

While in Monterey, we talked with the local community about sustainable destinations. How this region of businesses--already incorporating environmentally responsible practices--can put together a package of sustainable hotels, restaurants, attractions, stores and transit. By working together, their community can form an "eco-zone" for meetings and events.

Community is important. In fact, may be vital to survival. It was a lesson I had just seen in nature.

The day before and a few miles north, we visited a Coast Redwood grove. According to the guide, these giant trees have very shallow roots (less than 6 feet deep) but horizontally spread hundreds of feet in each direction to secure themselves by holding on to the other trees in the grove. Growing together makes the trees strong enough to survive coastal storms and grow up to 360 feet tall, living for more than 2,000 years.

Good advice from my elders. How does your community make you stronger?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

But Don't Pioneers Usually Get Shot?

California State University - Monterey Bay's Institute for Innovation and Economic Development honored myself and Amy with the Achievement for Innovation Award. This year's award went to innovators in the hospitality industry.

During the event, I listened to the spoken words about how we are pioneers and have changed an industry. I talked with students from around the state who look up to us asking our advice on how to facilitate change. I was interviewed by the press wanting to know what opportunities the local region can leverage to become leaders in sustainable hospitality. The attention was humbling as I sometimes struggle in the public eye.

But recognition for our work and the ability to share the knowledge are incredible gifts and I don't take them lightly. I am grateful and very optimistic about the future of our industry. My hope is our "pioneering" will provide a strong foundation for tomorrow's change agents.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Honeymoon is Over!

Yes, I am back to blogging once again now under the name Nancy J. Zavada. No need to worry though as I am still the same Meet Green Martyr. While getting acquainted with my new name is quite fun, a recent introduction really surprised me.

In front of a large group, the person introducing me had my new surname correct but announced our company name was, "GREEN MEAT." Well, you just can't win them all!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Confessions...Take My Advice

Here it is the week of the wedding. I have done my best to be as environmentally, economically, and socially responsible as possible. I have shared a few of the stories with you. But as we always say, no event is 100% sustainable and so it was for this green wedding. In my final confession, I share the rest of unsustainable decisions I made…

  • I chose a new wedding dress. I didn’t reuse or reclaim the fabric in anyway. My guilty pleasure is made of luxurious silk and Chantilly lace.

  • There will be saucers under the coffee cups. I know, I know…we always advocate against this to save water and energy. If it had been a business meeting, I would agree. But the look of this formal dinner setting with a cup (no saucer) just didn’t work.

  • I asked the pastry chef to kindly not tell me where the decadent chocolate came from (I am pretty sure it isn’t from within 100 miles of here).

  • I chose beef for dinner instead of an all vegetarian menu. Although we do have a wonderful vegetarian option, my friends and family seem to be mostly carnivores who enjoy a really good steak.

  • Guests will fly in from New Jersey, Washington DC, San Francisco, La Conner, Vancouver BC, and Los Angeles. That is a lot of carbon to be responsible for. (And we thought we were being so careful by honeymooning close to home).

Take my advice (spoken during these last few days of dealing with the final details, crazy relatives, ridiculous requests and way too many things left to do)…ELOPE!

It is the only way to be truly sustainable. Save money, save the Earth and save your sanity!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Confessions...the Gift of Giving Back

In Indonesia’s West Java province, a law requires newly married couples to plant and care for five trees. The seedlings are generally brought by the bridegroom as a dowry for the bride. This initiative is an effort to repopulate the devastated rain forests.

What better time to start a tradition of caring for the Earth and it’s people than during a ceremony celebrating love and life? Western weddings can carry a heavy carbon footprint even with the best of intentions. The couple registering to receive even more stuff, just seems crazy.

Even if you say “no gifts” it seems as though people feel compelled to give you something. I understand, it is part of the tradition. Some of the gifts we have received come in the form of a friend making delicious desserts for the wedding, or running errands before the event, or managing duties during the ceremony (don't forget I know a lot of event professionals), or arranging a brunch the day after for our out-of-town family--the list goes on. These are incredibly special for both of us.

Still committed to a gift in the form of a crock pot, towels or money, others were asked instead to donate to the Oregon Food Bank. Although there are many good causes to choose from, feeding the hungry in our local community is essential to us with children comprising 36% of people eating meals from emergency food boxes. In addition, our area continues to be ravaged by high unemployment rates and an extreme lack of food available for donation.

To date, our food bank wedding “gifts” will provide emergency meals for 3,256 hungry people. My thanks to all of you--we are grateful and honored!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Confessions...Catering to My Whims

Choosing vendors for our green wedding required the same due diligence as any other project with request for proposals, interviews, checking references, etc. But even here in “green” Portland, my questions about environmental policies were too often met with an awkward silence. They had no idea what I was asking. This, of course, offered a perfect opportunity to educate and then continue my search. Deciding on the caterer is one of the best examples of our vendor selection process.

Looking over the websites of Portland’s “sustainable caterers” gave me a great deal of information even before the initial contact. One showed delightful photos of appetizers on #6 black plastic dinner plates, another offered farmed salmon as a sustainable menu option and still another talked about eco-friendly service being available for an extra charge. It was easy to rule those caterers out.

Once I had my list, I sent an RFP to the top candidates asking questions about recycling/composting, food miles and food bank donations in addition to menu options and cost. I was looking for the full package.

The choice quickly became clear.

During the interviews I reviewed the menu options and asked specifically what “fresh, seasonal vegetables” would be served? “Well, I won’t know until the week of your wedding,” Chef Doug Lum of Crave Catering told me, “that is when I see what has just been harvested locally.” SOLD! Now don’t get me wrong, I never overlooked the critical factors of their ability to produce the event on time and on budget. But Chef’s response tells me I can have my cake and eat it too!

Friday, August 27, 2010

27,000 Trees

The number of trees toilet paper wipes out every single day.

(source: homenews, September.10)

27,000 trees every single day down the toilet. Sad. I hope you will join me in ensuring that each and every meeting venue and hotel we use is purchasing toilet paper with recycled content. The higher the number the better!

Monday, August 23, 2010

What The Heck?

I am not sure where to start…

Today I received a package from a company in Florida which is about as far from Portland as you can get in the continental United States--a distance of 3,088.5 miles.

I did not request this package.

The package contained 4 individual bottles of water and some glossy literature.

I do not drink bottled water nor do I allow it at any of my meetings or events.

The glossy (most likely not sustainable) literature and decals explain that this water was bottled in America and is better because it will not be shipped a long distance.

More than 3088.5 miles?

The glossy literature tells me the bottles are compostable.

Our office has a compost bin however it only takes table scraps and yard clippings. Our city does not have curbside composting so I have no way of composting these bottles even if I were to drink the water.

But, again, I don’t drink bottled water.

The copy tells me this is “the most environmentally friendly water ever.”

Shipped from Florida in a one-time use bottle is better than me taking my glass to the tap 20 feet away? I am confused.

Their sales pitch says, “Be an environmentalist without even thinking about it.”

Clearly they didn’t.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Confessions...First Class Flowers

Weddings require a lot of beautiful flowers. They just do. I know cut flowers have a variety of environmental issues associated with them such as how are they grown, how far away are they grown, and what happens to them after an event which usually doesn’t last more than a few hours. But I just love them in every shape, form and smell. I had stumbled upon another green wedding decision point.

Our 1940’s nightclub theme (think Casablanca) lends itself to potted plants-- uplit for drama-- with shadows playing on the walls. The potted palms can be rented locally and returned to see many more events reducing the need for cut flowers. Perfect answer.

That only left the centerpieces. I wanted to use live orchid plants but couldn’t find any low enough to fit under the silver table lamps. After much deliberation, our best design was to use a single orchid bud—minimal cut flowers while still having a dramatic effect.

Next stop, a local vendor where we found the ideal orchid that was popular in the 1940’s, would add color and mystery to the table and could be easily donated. As I was about to place my order she said, “Wonderful, we will fly these in from New Zealand for your wedding.” My heart sank. I had visions of these delicate blossoms flying first-class in a 747 drinking champagne and burning fossil fuels by the ton during their 9,218 mile trip to Portland. I just couldn’t bring myself to order them. We talked about other flower options, but none had the same effect and I left without a plan.

I had chosen the right vendor though, because several days later she called with the news she had found a grower right here on the Oregon Coast who could supply the exact same flowers. She had taken it upon herself to research possibilities and as a bonus found a local grower for her future orders as well!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Confessions From a Green Meeting Planner's Wedding

After decades of being a single mother raising two children, I accepted my sweetheart’s marriage proposal and we are going to tie the knot next month. We decided a festive celebration was in order to share our happiness with friends and family. Thus began the planning process for two people in the event business--with the groom's theatre background thrown in for good measure.

Our vision is to transform an old building into a swanky 1940’s nightclub complete with tiered dinner seating, silver lamps adorning intimate tables and a cabaret show. Zoot suits and padded shoulders optional.

While I usually maintain this blog for business-related green meetings and events discussion, over the next month I will digress to share a few personal stories about planning our event. The journey to creating a sustainable wedding is requiring me to make sometimes difficult choices—not unlike those we all make when planning any type of gathering. But this time it is personal.

The first problematic choice was whether or not to even send an invitation. While my eco-sense told me to develop a wedding website and evite guests, my sense of elegance said a beautiful printed invitation was in order. Ah, the guilt! I lecture people daily about using electronic resources for all their event communications and now here I was about to turn my back on that very advice for my wedding. How could I do it? After much internal discussion, I compromised. Invitations were printed and mailed but using the paper with the highest pedigree possible for sustainability. In addition, the invitations didn’t include any inserts or extra cards to be mailed back—RSVPs would be electronic.

One decision down. Next up, how am I going to justify and then calculate the carbon footprint of flowers grown in New Zealand and flown first class to Portland?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Data In...Results Out!

Green meeting practices are moving towards mainstream, new standards are appearing and measurement and reporting have become the name of the game. Our work required a more robust calculator to assess client’s meetings and events. It was time to revise the MeetGreen® Calculator and we did just that.

Today we launch the updated Calculator which integrates the proposed APEX/ASTM Green Meetings and Events Standards and the British Standard for Sustainable Events (BS8901) for your use.

We've expanded the tool to assess over 160 event management practices and measurable outcomes related to sustainability across the following the ten key categories, including aspects of BS 8901 for Sustainable Events and proposed APEX/ASTM Green Meetings and Events Standards:

Audio Visual
Destination Selection
Meeting Venue
Food & Beverage
Exhibition Production
Communications and Marketing
Onsite Office

Several of the reports included with the MeetGreen® Calculator show your conference data compared against other events. A new feature allows you to sort this information by the size of your event.

Long story short, if you are interested in measurement and need a tool to assist your reporting, take a look, try the demo and see if it works as well for you as it does for us.

Monday, August 9, 2010

BS 8901: One Year Later

Last summer at this time we were finalizing our reporting for BS8901 Certification. At that time, this was posted on our internal Wiki:

"BS 8901 provides guidance in the form of easy to understand practical information designed to assist the user to implement the requirements and those in event management to manage their environmental, financial and social risks and impacts spanning all aspects of event management."

It is one year later and as I have blogged, our commitment to BS8901 has had a phenomenal positive impact on our organization. But it hasn’t always been easy. In the spirit of transparency, here’s what I found on our internal Wiki just today:

“BS 8901 is a complicated, difficult to understand approach to managing events sustainably. Or at least that is what we all thought when we first got into considering if we wanted MeetGreen to become a BS 8901-certified company. Frankly, we still feel BS 8901 is challenging to understand and probably can think of other things that are a lot more interesting to do, such as reviewing 200 page Banquet Event Orders.

But! We have also come to realize there are business benefits to standardizing and systemizing what we do at MeetGreen. Standards of practice can help us do what we do in a more consistent way for clients. Standards also help us duplicate our approach to event management in our emerging virtual environment that has staff working remotely in different corners of the world. In addition standards help us show the return on investment we give our clients by requiring measurement and promoting service improvement. And in a pinch, it helps to know that if one of us won lotto and
took a permanent vacation to a small island in the South Pacific tomorrow that a team member could easily step into our place in a seamless way for our clients.

So this is what BS 8901 is all about: standardizing our event management practices. Making what we do systematic. "

Now about that lotto ticket...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Data to Track the Data, OMG!

Our conversations about measurement during the past few weeks lead us to believe our peers, clients, friends and vendors are all in different stages of the data game. Whether you are currently "not measuring" or "measuring and reporting on every little thing" or somewhere in between like most of us, there is currently no information available on where the meeting and event industry falls in this continuum.

We are very curious and decided to post a straw poll to see if we could gather more data about gathering data (clearly, we have gone over the edge). Please help us by clicking here and taking our survey. We can't give you an IPad for answering because we are not collecting your contact information. But I will post the results.

Feel free to have others in the industry take the survey as well. Thanks for taking a few minutes of your valuable time!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It Is Just That Simple

“Sustainable means doing the right thing every time no matter what.”

-John Furlong, MPI-WEC general session speaker and CEO of Vancouver’s Olympic organizing committee

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Yep, Data Confirms It!

“This data confirms something we’ve long suspected,” boasts Alison Presley, Manager of Travelocity's Travel for Good Program.

Travelocity allows consumers to rate its hotels on a scale of 1-5 smiley faces. When the company studied the reviews for green hotels, a fascinating trend emerged. Consumers gave 83 percent of non-green hotels three smiley faces or more--but they gave a whopping 94 percent of green hotels three smiley faces or more. “Our eco-friendly hotels care deeply about the entire experience they provide and that attention to detail translates into an awesome stay overall,” states Presley. Here's the full story

While I will admit I have been on a "data binge" lately to make a point about the importance of measuring and reporting, the reality is our industry is now embracing measurement as the next step in this journey so the data is free-flowing and readily available. Just like in the Travelocity article--the data confirms it!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

First Things First

Reduce first and then recycle. That’s what we are taught. If you don’t need it to start with, the chances of it not ending up in the landfill are much better. Point taken. But when you get praise for the amount you reuse or recycle, it is often difficult to tell the less obvious story of reduction. For example, if you donate 325 leftover conference bags to a local charity after an event, that is great. But what could you have saved both economically and environmentally if you never ordered those extra 325 bags?

Now thanks to the UUA General Assembly (and MeetGreen’s Data Poet Shawna McKinley) there is data to show how impressive reduction really can be.

According to Shawna, “Dramatic reduction in materials brought to and disposed of onsite at the General Assembly is a testament to source reduction by the UUA and the benefits of working with more green-minded suppliers that purchase things with less packaging and reuse more of their materials:

• 53% reduction in total materials disposed of between 2008 and 2009.
• 46% reduction in total materials disposed of between 2009 and 2010.
• 20% reduction in materials shipped to show site by UUA between 2009 and 2010.”

Less materials purchased, less freight costs, less production costs, less handling by staff during the General Assembly and less to be disposed of. The environmental savings are usually matched by the economic savings—in this case alone, $1,200 in shipping costs in 2010.

If you need help with your reduction plan, start by asking yourself these questions…

• Is it necessary to do this?
• Is there a better way to achieve the same objective?
• Have we reviewed our options in the last six months?
• How can we get better information to decrease our order and prevent leftover items?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

APEX Standards: FAQs

We realize there are more questions than answers out there today about the APEX Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards. So we have asked our own Amy Spatrisano, Chair of the APEX Panel, to start us off by answering the top four of the most frequently asked...

What are the sectors of the standards?
Sectors are the 9 areas of meeting management: accommodations, audio/visual , communications, destination selection, exhibits, food/beverage, meeting venue, onsite office and transportation.

How do I “meet the standards”?
There are two parts to this answer. The first starts by choosing any single sector of your meeting or event--say accommodations. You can "meet the Accommodations Standard" in this single sector by having both the planner and supplier score at least at a Level 1.

The second would be for the entire meeting. If you want to claim your meeting "met the Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standard," then you would have to score at least a Level 1 in all the relevant sectors.

Is there a certification available?
Certification is under development in partnership between the Green Meeting Industry Council and the Convention Industry Council (the same body that oversees the Certified Meeting Professional program). The standards must be tested in the market place first to ensure any necessary changes take place before the certification is complete. Tentative launch time for certification is early 2012.

And now the big question we all want to know...How much extra time will this take?
As with any process in the beginning, there will be a learning curve. You will have to integrate the standards within your current practices. Once the integration occurs, the process is intended to be minimal. Again, this will depend on a variety of factors. For example: As a planner if you’re only selecting suppliers that meet the standard, then your time commitment should be minimal. If you don't, you’ll need to negotiate and educate them--taking extra time and energy. Suppliers: integrate the standards as part of how you do business and there won’t be extra time (and increased business I would suspect).

Now, take a deep breath and remember we are on this journey together and this blog is a resource for you. I will post information to minimize the learning curve whenever possible and will be on the lookout for case studies to help us learn from each other. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Measuring Up: APEX Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards

We've been talking a lot about measurement lately and finally the APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards are close to being launched. The question, "How do I know if my meeting is green?" can finally be answered with recognized standards. To get you started, The Green Meeting Industry Council will present a day long training session at the MPI WEC Conference next week in Vancouver, BC.

Amy Spatrisano, MeetGreen, chaired the APEX Panel to develop the standards and answers questions to give us a sneak peak...

What is the purpose of the standards?
The voluntary standards can be implemented to create a more sustainable meeting or event. They are measurable, available in a tiered system to allow for different levels of engagement, address policies and hold both the supplier and planner accountable for implementing them. They are intended to be complimentary to other meeting industry recognized standards.

How do I use the standards?

You can use them:
1. To acceptably assert the meeting is environmentally sustainable.
Currently there are no accepted criteria for meeting professionals to lay claims to planning or delivering green or sustainable meetings. The standards are intended to provide consistent criteria that all meetings should follow if they are going to be considered or marketed green or environmentally sustainable.

2. As a tool to help you implement environmentally sustainable meetings.
The standards are structured to work as a resource, a guide if you will. They provide a framework of specific measurable criteria for you to follow and the standards include resources.

3. As a competitive advantage for –
Planners: By integrating the standards in your meeting practices will illustrate your ability to execute at an industry recognized level of performance. In doing so, you will be elevating your expertise and marketability as a meeting professional.
Suppliers: By providing green/sustainable meeting offering you’ll be able to respond to growing client demand, remain competitive and elevate public perception of your product or services.

We'll ask her about the "how-to's" of implementing the standards in the next post.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Our Data Poet Laureate

Yesterday I talked about putting data to work for you. In my early years as a meeting professional, I never--in my wildest dreams--would have considered environmental impact data vitally important to the future of my meetings. But times have changed and so has the role of today's meeting professional.

My thanks to our Data Poet Laureate, Shawna McKinley, for patiently teaching me the significance of measuring and reporting on the conferences we manage. She is the driving force here at MeetGreen and has made believers of even the most skeptical on the team.

For example: we measure both client events and our internal practices to determine if there is continuous improvement. The first year we chose our key performance indicators (KPIs) to be consistently tracked. We then gathered the information (sometimes Shawna used a carrot and sometimes a stick to motivate us) and established baseline metrics.

Now each year, we are able to assess and report on our progress. As a result, we found an interesting statistic--by helping our clients avoid an estimated $2.5 million in costs by greening their events--the return on investment is 20 times the cost of hiring us! If we had not measured, we would have no proof of our economic value to clients.

Shawna, your value to the planet is the one thing you will never be able to measure!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Data Poetry

You have recycled, conserved, reused, diverted, minimized and monitored. Now it is time to reap the benefits--the data. Because if you are going to invest the time and energy to implement sustainable practices; why not track those initiatives?

Here is an example of what collecting the data can do for you.

Let's say you are producing a conference program using the equivalent of 30,000 sheets of paper and have switched from virgin paper to 100% post-consumer recycled paper this year. You know you have had a positive effect upon the environment--but how large? Now use the handy the Neenah Environmental Calculator to do your work for you.

With a push of a button you will learn making this one change saves 1,313 pounds of wood, but it also tells you it saves a total of 4 trees that supply enough oxygen for 2 people annually. You also saved 1,917 gallons of water enought to take 111 eight minute showers.

The raw data is now a compelling mental picture--that's data poetry. This poetry enables you to enroll your key stakeholders--senior management, clients, shareholders, media, attendees--and share your story. One that can only be told if you measure your sustainable practices.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Team of Champions

Recently, I have shared another series of stories about different champions around the country who are making a difference in their organizations. Passionate individuals who make sustainability a part of their daily activities and enroll others to join them. Leadership in it's truest form. You may well be one of those champions.

If you haven't already started a green team in your organization, look for other champions in all areas and at all levels and get started. One of the intangible benefits of this work is the ability to work outside of your traditional role with other thought leaders and as a result, be recognized as a valuable asset by a new set of colleagues. just launched the Green Team Resource Center to help you along the way. They will post the latest reports, case studies, and other resources on the topic of employee engagment.

For well-established Green Teams, you may be wondering, "What's next?" The Resource Center has great ideas to help with that as well.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Simple Thing

“Moving on is a simple thing, what it leaves behind is hard.”

Today is my last day on the Green Meeting Industry Council's Executive Board. The organization moves on without me serving in an advisory role. At the helm are incredible leaders with vision, passion, and integrity well equipped to take the organization into the future.

Starting GMIC was reminiscent of raising children. They begin with a mere thought and manifest into young and energetic beings in need of guidance, boundaries, and nurturing. As they continue to grow and mature their needs change but still look for the support you provide. And then before you know it, they have their own friends, ideas, and zest for life. So for me, today is like the day my daughter left for college. I am extremely proud, excited about all the opportunities and a little sad.

Moving on—so simple and, oh yes, so hard.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sad Day for Salmon

Sustainable seafood is one thing we Oregonians count on. It is also a "Northwest Favorite" for all of the convention banquets held in our area. But the Monterey Bay Aquarium just listed the salmon as "to be avoided" because it is too depeted to eat. This change will greatly impact local restaurants and caterers.

The news is even more disheartening because the salmon has been an integral part of the Pacific Northwest Native American culture. Totems, stories and legends all embrace the salmon and have been passed down through the generations. Even though my family didn't settle in Oregon until the 1800's, the salmon has always been important to us as well. When I was little, my grandfather told me, "the salmon run up the rivers when the dogwoods bloom." And each year when the blossoms opened on our tree, we would go down to the river to watch them. Just like clockwork, there they were making their way home to spawn. To think that I may not be able to share this with my grandchildren breaks my heart.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I've Got A Bad Reputation

My daughter recently started working at a new restaurant in town. They are based in the Midwest and have started a franchise here. During the training she asked where to put the recycling and was informed they don't recycle. Her response was, "My Mom is not going to like that. She wrote a book about this." Amazingly, she remained employed and helped them start a recycling program at the restaurant (strange the city didn't play a role here). The managers weren't against environmental initiatives, they just haven't been trained.

Several weeks later, I appeared at their front counter getting food to go. While my daughter was getting my order, they offered me individual condiment packets. "Oh no, you didn't just do that", she exclaimed to the manager! Who then offered me another alternative and still kept my daughter on the payroll.

In my defense, I haven't actually said anything negative to the restaurant workers and I am a pretty gentle person--apparently, it's my reputation as a Meet Green Martyr preceding me.

Now when I walk in for lunch you can hear the warning, "Here comes Kate's Mom, hide the disposables!"

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Paper or Plastic? Why Not China?

If I have a few minutes between flights at airports to eat, I like to sit down and be served instead of grabbing a styrofoam box of food and eating at the gate. Just a little thing to give myself a false sense that travel really is nice.

So why is it that all the airport restaurants (dine in) are now serving me on a plastic plate with a piece of paper on it, my utensils are disposable and even the condiments are in individual servings? At the end of the meal, the waitress simply dumps the remains into a garbage can and restacks the plastic plate. Really, is this necessary?

I am in a restaurant and willing to pay a little more for service which to me includes an actual crockery plate, stainless cutlery, and a glass made out of real glass. They appear to have water to wash dishes and the ability to leave a ketchup bottle on the table so I am not sure of the reasoning. I am not going to suddently bolt out of my chair and down the concourse with my plate. Sure this is an environmental issue, but it isn't it about a level of service as well? When did this become an acceptable way to treat a guest?

In this industry we travel a lot and life on the road can be bumpy. Hotels are listening and implementing programs to make us feel more at home. Let's hope airports get onboard too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Gentle Art of Change

Trying to make sustainable changes in your organization? The harder you push, the more they push back? Wondering what to do? Sometimes the best advice comes in the form of an Aesop's Fable.
The North Wind and the Sun

A dispute arose between the North Wind and the Sun, each claiming that he was stronger than the other. At last they agreed to try their powers upon a traveler to see which could soonest strip him of his cloak. The North Wind had the first try.

Gathering up all his force for the attack, he came whirling furiously down upon the man and caught up his cloak as though he would wrest it from him by one single effort: but the harder he blew, the more closely the man wrapped it around himself.

Then came the turn of the Sun. At first he beamed gently upon the traveler, who soon unclasped his cloak and walked on with it hanging loosely about his shoulders. Then he shone forth in his full strength, and the man, before he had gone many steps, was glad to throw his cloak right off and complete his journey more lightly clad.

Moral: Persuasion is better than force.

Source: 4literature website

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Up on the Roof

Another stop during my visit to Dallas was the Fairmont Dallas Hotel. Ken Flores, Director of Operations, showed me through the property highlighting their sustainable practices--and there are quite a few.

Towards the end of the tour he took me out on the hotel roof to the most fantastic herb and vegetable garden I have seen downtown. The Chef takes great care with the garden which supplies all of the hotel's herbs and may of its vegetables. It also supplies beautiful greenery and wonderful scents next to the pool for the guests to enjoy. Right in the middle of Dallas--fantastic!

On the flight home I opened my March 2010 PCMA Convene (OK, I am a little behind) to read a story on "Giving Back". The story was about the hotels that are starting urban beekeeping properties in their rooftop gardens. From the Chicago Marriott Downtown to the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, the bees are flourishing. "The Fairmont harvested more than 400 pounts of honey from six hives last year to use in their dishes."

Local, sustainable, and FUN!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Deep in the Heart of Texas

When I talked about how leadership is a role not a positon yesterday, one recent example came to mind. I met with Tony Thomas, Assistant Director of Property Operations, and Kim Hubbard Spurlock, Quality Assurance Manager, Hilton Anatole Dallas to find out what initiatives they have in place.

The first thing they did was hand me a sheet of their "Green Practices" which described for me, as a planner, what I could expect from their facility. Great way to start. Then Tony began describing all the strategies and what they were saving. It wasn't the statistics that impressed me as much as his glowing face, genuine excitement and personal pride as he went through the list. He talked about how much had been accomplished and plans for the future. He talked about it being a journey weighing the economic and environmental costs with each decision. He talked about how these positively impacted the guest experience.

Passionate leaders--who are they in your organization?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

You Are Wrong

Scary words that impart an uncomfortable feeling. According to Bob Willard, "Executives will resist culture change for the same reason you would resist having your worldview changed: it has worked for you until now, and change implies that you were wrong. Most of us are not prepared to admit our mistakes, especially if we are executives. We should not be surprised if skeptical executives do not welcome our offer to help them see the sustainability light."

Are you the sustainability champion in your organization? Are you getting resistance to change? Their reaction to change may be as basic as colleagues feeling they were wrong. Fascinating! In his book, "The Sustainability Champions Guidebook", Bob Willard talks about how sustainability champions often "hold junior or middle management positions in their organizations and lack the authority to effect the necessary changes." What these champions do understand, however, is that leadership is a role, not a position.

If you are leading the sustainability initiatives in your organization I heartily recommend reading "The Sustainability Champions Guidebook".

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Values in Practice

Jan Sneegas and her team at the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations deserve recognition. Recognition for planning their General Assembly in complete alignment with the core values of the organization. Their planning takes into account the diversity of their participants whether that is race, culture, belief systems or accessibility issues. For example, no other organization we have worked with takes accessibility so seriously. They rigorously inspect all hotels and meetings venues to assure participants will have easy access. A statement that the facility is “ADA compliant” is not enough. They take social responsibility to an advocacy role, refusing to contract with hotels that don’t treat workers fairly.

Now they wrangle with the issue created by Arizona law SB1070. One of the General Assembly Resolutions states, “all attendees are asked to be mindful of the ways racism and oppression impact our community and the larger community that is hosting our gathering.” Yes, they have resolutions to demonstrate their commitment and they walk the talk.

This is in addition to their commitment of environmental responsibility which is rigorous as well. Are they “perfect” in all aspects, no one is. Are they transparent about the process and what they can accomplish? Absolutely. This web page is an excellent example of their resources

It is not always easy. Sometimes there are decisions we just don’t want to have to make. It is unsung heroes like Jan that are creating real change in our world. I am honored to know her.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ready, Set, Slash!

The American Hotel & Lodging Association has announced the "Energy Slasher Challenge" competition. The winners will be the small, medium, and large property with the greatest overall savings April 1, 2010 – April 1, 2011 compared to the previous year. And they are even giving away prizes.

Applause to AH&LA not only for issuing this challenge but also for making available a wonderful Green Resource page, a glossary and even a link to a green guru who can help to answer questions!

It is exciting to see associations like AH&LA (for hotels), IACC (for conference centers), GMIC (for meeting planners) creating friendly competition to initiate real change. Sustainability continues to move into the mainstream--not just because it is the "right thing to do" but because it makes good business sense. Everyone wins!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

It's a Numbers Game

5700 homes powered, 650 Olympic-size pools filled and 34,865 cars off the road. Not to mention $29 million in utility costs saved in 2009.

Impressive numbers from Hilton Worldwide announcing its LightStay, a proprietary system developed to calculate and analyze environmental impact. In the first full year of findings, the 2009 LightStay results show that the 1,300 Hilton Worldwide properties using the system conserved to achieve those results. Here is the full story in Green Lodging News,

A reminder to us all to measure our environmental and economic savings...then to report it out in terms of pools, cars, trees, $$$ and even elephants. What is measured does matter--tell your story!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Buddy, Take a Hike!

I challenge you to spend one half hour outside in nature today (in honor of Earth Day) to remember the sights, sounds and smells. I promise you a stress-free experience!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Green Incentive and a Good Buzz

No more excuses...tomorrow is your day to give up that paper cup for your morning coffee.

On April 15th, if you bring in your own reusable coffee mug to any Starbucks--you will receive a free cup of coffee. Check out their website for more information on their green project

Thanks to Ken for bringing this to my attention! He will be standing in line early tomorrow morning in Guadalajara for his sustainable caffiene fix.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Are You Kidding Me Right Now?

OK, I borrowed this line from my daughter, but it sums up how I feel when I read articles that remind me being environmentally responsible gets even more complex every day like this one about knowing the product's water footprint.

Now don't get me wrong, I actually believe that water probably the most important issue that is not being addressed. I am concerned about the human impact, security issues, and the ability to provide potable drinking water to a large percentage of the population in the not-to-distant future. But I worry that the complexity of the issues may have people throwing up their hands in a state of overwhelm. That they will not even start with the small steps because of the enormity.

So I guess what I am really trying to say today is...don't give up...keep doing whatever you can take on right is good enough! Just acquaint yourself with the issues so you know which to address when you ready.

Let's remember every step is movement in the right direction!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Third Degree

When you hear, "it's time for the third degree" you may think it is time for intense interrogation. But the Third Degree is also known as the highest level of achievement and that is the case with the brave new world of social responsibility in meetings--advocacy. It involves taking a stand to change practice. Here are some examples of how to do just that:

Regulation Advocacy
The area of accessibility for people with disabilities continues to require diligence to ensure accommodation providers are in compliance. For example, The Unitarian Universalist Association takes accessability so seriously they inspect every venue and hotel to make sure their participants have services available. Not only do they make sure minimum legal requirements are met, but also educate hotels and venues about principles of universal design that make their properties more inclusive of all users, without discrimination.

Destinations & Human Rights
Have you ever thought about how human rights factors into destination selection? What does your destination say about you and your organization? What could it say if you used destination selection to better the living conditions in the places you meet? Responsible meetings create better places for people to live in and meet in. If you are interested in uncovering what human rights issues exist in your next meeting location visit Amnesty International's website: Search for country specific issues under the "Learn About Human Rights" tab.

Vendor Selection & Social Action
Do your suppliers act on social responsibility? Are they advocating for change within their own supply chain? Have they been targeted with workplace action? When ordering bags, T-shirts, and water bottles remember to ask if products meet Fair Labor Association and Ethical Trading Initiative Guidelines.

To read the entire report, "Having a Human Impact: What is social responsibility for meetings?"click here
Acknowledgement: Our sincere thanks to Mark Mawson, Amanda De Kruiff and Robert Pfister of Vancouver Island University for their work on this project and the meeting professionals who provided their insight into our research.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Second Degree: Responsible Action

The Second Degree of Social Responsibility for meetings and events includes actions that integrate social responsibility into fundamental planning practices like procurement and hiring. Here are a few great examples:

Fair Trade
Sometimes goods are produced in ways that don't allow everyone to share in the benefits. Farmers may not be able to own the land they grow a crop on, they might not be paid a living wage, or even given a fair fee for their crop. When you buy fair trade, you send a message that we all need to ask questions about how products are made and how producers benefit. Fortunately there are tools out there that help planners source fairly traded products such as Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International:

Buying local can be associated with both social and environmental responsibility. It reduces energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by requiring less transportation and benefits the community where you meet. Local food is fresher and tastes better, local talent allows you to experience the culture and local products support the community.

Health and Safety
Meeting planners are starting to require suppliers source products that are safe for human and environmental health. Request hotels use environmentally-certified cleaners, giveaways are BPA free and buses don't idle while waiting to shuttle attendees.

You create experiences that are successful and memorable because they are absent of issues that make your participants dissatisfied. Consider sensitivity to diet and allergens, ability, culture and other human characteristics that will enable participation and enjoyment of your events. Air quality issue are emerging worldwide in response to guest concerns. Learn how green certification programs are addressing the smoking issue:

To read the entire report, "Having a Human Impact: What is social responsibility for meetings?"click here

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

First Degree: Feel Good, Look Good

We are exploring the three degrees of social responsibility in meetings starting with the most popular form of social responsibility which includes donation and volunteer projects. These kinds of projects contribute to a sustainable cause, but are also directed at providing promotional benefits to the donor agency. These kinds of socially responsible acts can be measured in terms of number of media opportunities and the financial value of exposure.

Donation programs
Many meeting planners have started to take the time to integrate important donation programs into their events. These programs might be a call to action for participants, challenging them to raise funds or provide items for certain causes as part of the event. They may also include the donation of leftover conference materials or food. Donation projects are moving beyond merely giving leftovers and organizing fundraisers, however. Some organizations are budgeting funds or securing sponsorships to support experiences that are driving more socially beneficial outcomes.

Case in point...since 2002 USGBC's Greenbuild International Conference and Expo has donated 60,000 lbs of food and tradeshow materials benefitting over 31 different agencies. In addition, USGBC contributes $10,000 towards a legacy project. Greenbuild 2009 also supported 32 needs-based scholorships to engage populations under-represented in the green building movement.

Volunteer Projects
These projects are differentiated from donations as they typically include a direct action to engage in a project. It does not necessarily involve raising money or resources. The projects serve to forge connection among donors, helping them to build relationships and network through events in a very unique way.

As an example, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts launched Eco-Innovations in 2005. The Fairmont Orchid has developed the Room to Reef project, an integrated approach to sustainability that extends from rooms cleaned with non-toxic biodegradable products to organic landscaping, marine health and guest learning. Partnering with a local university, hotel colleagues support regular monitoring of the nearby coral reef.

To read the entire report, "Having a Human Impact: What is social responsibility for meetings?"
click here

Monday, March 29, 2010

Three Degrees of Social Responsibility

"When forging connections between people is a fundamental part of what you do, it is impossible to separate social responsibility from meetings and events." Shawna McKinley

Agreed. But what is "corporate social responsibility"? How are different organizations interpreting it? How is it impacting our meetings? Many of us are struggling to get our arms and minds around CSR and our role as meeting planners. Shawna has authored a fascinating issues brief, "Having a Human Impact: What is social responsibility for meetings?" where--with the help of meeting professionals focus groups--she has outlined voluntary action for social responsibility in three degrees:

First Degree: Feel good, look good
Second Degree: Responsible action in planning
Third Degree: Advocacy for responsibility

In the next few blog posts, I will explore each of these degrees in more detail. Please feel free to post comments about how your organization is acting on social responsibility so we can learn together.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Another Reason to Love that Old Mug

There is nothing like sipping your morning coffee from a favorite old mug. And if you need another reason to skip that disposable cup...just "AskPablo"

"I chose styrofoam, ceramic, and stainless steel for my original comparison and looked at the material intensity and the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of each, taking into account the fact that one was disposable and the others were reusable. My conclusion was that the production of styrofoam cups has a much lower environmental impact than the other two in terms of resource extraction and GHG emissions. But, since the styrofoam cups are disposable you need a new one every time you have a cup of coffee. The environmental impact then adds up until, at 46 uses, the ceramic mug becomes the environmentally responsible choice. And after 369 uses, the stainless steel mug also become a better choice than styrofoam. Ultimately the ceramic mug is the best choice since it is infinitely reusable and has a lower impact than the stainless steel mug (Although you could factor in the convenience and portability of a stainless steel mug with a lid).

Now, to look at paper cups… Let’s assume that a paper cup is used only once, weighs 20 g, and is made from bleached virgin wood pulp domestically. The material intensity factor for this material is 11.73 g per g of paper so the material intensity of our paper cup is 234.6 g. Using this new number along with the previous results I created a chart that shows the fixed impact of the reusable cups and the variable impact of the reusable cups (the x-axis represents the number of uses and the y-axis represents the material intensity in grams). This shows that styrofoam has a lower material intensity than ceramic until 46 cups and that 24 paper cups are equivalent in material intensity to a stainless steel mug.

If you want the full study and graphs, click this link

Then think of the impact when you are choosing china vs. disposable for your next meal function!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Art of Embracing--Four Easy Steps

Businesses should embrace sustainability as an integral part of their corporate strategy. Or, as Peter Graf, reports, "put your business at risk." In his March 19th blog, he talks about the four steps in detail, but here is the condensed version...

"Four steps to sustainability success in your business.

1. Assess your organization and plan how you can incorporate sustainability in a strategic, holistic way.

2. Measure your business activities.

3. Take action.

4. Constantly monitor and adjust your plan."

These four steps also work well for sustainable meetings and events. Here is the link to the blog post for more to think about

Friday, March 19, 2010

This Is Your Mission Should You Choose To Accept It

When choosing a vendor or hotel property one of the first questions to ask is about their environmental policies or mission statement. It is a quick way to tell how inherent environmental responsibility is to an organization. It will also give you a quick read into the depth of their commitment. There is an excellent post on Environmental Leader by Matt Courtland of The Natural Strategy highlighting some of the major hotel chain's mission statements

The comments are also worth taking a look at and you might want to join me and add your own two cents as well.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

...and the dish ran away with the spork?

My little neighborhood paper, The Hollywood Star News" ran an article this month asking local residents to donate gently-used flatware to the schools. It seems, "Schools went to the seemily more efficient mode of handing out plastic "sporks" (wrapped in plastic) with a devastating effect on the environment--56,100 plastic spork packages are thrown away each school year at Alameda Elementary School alone!"

The school wants to change this system back to the olden days when reusable metal flatware and trays graced the cafeteria. The community is pitching in. I had no idea plastic sporks had become common place in elementary school--my kids are in their 20's--but in our throwaway society we train them young.

Perhaps this would be a great project your community too for local hotels, caterers, and meeting venues ridding themselves of flatware no longer living up to the "brand image."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Testing Our Intelligence

Ecologicial Intelligence. A fascinating study captured in Daniel Coleman's book of the same name. Goleman talks about how our "society has lost touch with what may be the singular sensibility crucial to our survival as a species." He goes on to say, "Ecological intellgence melds cognitive skills with empathy for all life. We display such empathy whenever we feel distress at the sign of "pain" of the planet or resolve to make things better." We need to tap into this intelligence in order to survive.

Goleman boils down our possible ecological goals to three simple rules:

1. Know your impacts
2. Favor improvements
3. Share what you learn

Simple and elegant rules to live by.

Monday, March 8, 2010

They Never Have To Take Their Shoes Off

Shipping is a terrible thing to do to vegetables. They probably get jet-lagged, just like people.
~Elizabeth Berry

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tweet Deal

Want to see how your viral networks are functioning AND boost registration numbers for your next event at the same time? Here's an idea from one of our registration gurus, Cija...

"Use Twitter to send out a tweet from your organization offering a registration discount to the conference valid or the next 36 hours only. The offer is available from that exact moment but won't last. Tell them to register right now and send it on to their colleagues as time is ticking away. If you have the option of using coupon codes in your registration system, you might also give a prize for the person referring the most registrants during that time frame."

Give it a try. What do you have to lose?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Personal Best

It feels good to stand on the podium and enjoy a moment of recognition. Even if it is about waste. The GMIC' Sustainable Meetings Conference, Colorado Convention Center, MeetGreen, and conference participants deserve a round of applause for a 97% diversion rate during this month's conference. A personal best for all involved I believe.

The judges scores are in with 12% of the waste generated going to recycling and 85% to the compost bin. A mere 3% went to the landfill.


Enough Already!

Alright, I know you are tired of hearing about water bottle savings. Bear with me...during GMIC we were able to track the cost of using sponsored water bottles and water stations instead of individual bottled water so I wanted to show you the actual results.

GMIC participants used eleven 5-gallon jugs, which is the equivalent of 7,040 ounces at a cost of $634.38.

For the same water consumption in 16 ounce bottles it would have been 440 bottles x $4.58 inclusive or $2,015.20. Resulting in a savings of $1380.82 for a conference of 225 people or just over $6 a person.

HOWEVER – this means that by filling up their own water bottles we provided, the average water consumption was the equivalent of only two bottled waters per person over three days. If individual bottles had been available, our experience has been that attendees would have taken more than one bottle each day. So if each attendee had taken just one bottle each day the total could have been as high as 675 bottles or $3,091.50.

A sponsorship opportunity and a cost savings. Case closed...I promise!

Monday, February 15, 2010

You Should Have Been There

For those of you who weren't able to attend the Sustainable Meetings Conference last week, here is a great recap by Glenn Hasek of Green Lodging News!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Green Event Tip of the Week #9

When the shoe is on the other foot and your organization is considering sponsoring a meeting or event, remember your good reputation is on the line. You will probably want to ask a few questions of the event organizers.

Our resident sponsorship expert, Mary Peters, has put together a quick list of questions you should be asking about green practices before opening your wallet

1) Do the organizers have sustainable policies? What are they?
2) Is the event being planned using green meeting guidelines?
3) Are the results of these efforts being measured?
4) Is the event being audited by a third-party?
5) Have the organizers calculated the carbon footprint?
6) What have they done to minimize the footprint?
7) How do they plan to measure and report on the environmental savings?
8) Will the media be alerted?

Spend your sponsorship dollars wisely!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pushing the Envelope

Paul Salinger, Oracle, talks about sustainability and events on the large scale of Oracle OpenWorld in the February 2010 issue of Smart Meetings.

"Some of the event’s notable accomplishments include:
-Diverting an estimated 140 tons of material from landfill.
-Sourcing 60% of food items from within a 100 mile radius of San Francisco.
-Reducing ground shuttles by 30% of peak usage, reducing emissions by 18,000 lbs of carbon dioxide and fuel use by 800 gallons.
-Total energy use and emissions avoided through purchasing decisions amounted to 1,146,130 mega joules and 120,073 lbs of CO2.
-This is enough energy to power 12 American homes per year, and the emissions
equivalent of removing 11 cars from the road for a full year.
-5% of signs were reused from 2008 and 37% of signs used in 2009 will be reusable for future events.
-A net cost savings of $800,000 through reduction and reuse."

Now that doesn't happen without the commitment of many vendors, suppliers and hard working Oracle staff. And in the article, Paul gives credit to all who rightfully deserve it. But, having worked on this project, I know without the passion, values and commitment of Paul Salinger it wouldn't have been possible. His leadership and enthusiasm not only enroll you, but make you want to join him on the journey where he is always asking the team, "How can we take this to a higher level? What's next? How can this improve our organization globally?"

Thanks, Paul, you inspire us!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Gift of Giving

Barbara Scofidio, Editor of Corporate Meetings & Incentives, is passionate about giving back to the community. She has started a microsite that's a resource for planners who want to incorporate giving back into their meetings and incentives. To say it has lots of useful ideas, tips, how to’s, case studies, is a vast understatement. This is the "go to", one-stop shop with loads of links to the resources and experts to help you along the way.

The power of an individual--fueled by passion--strikes again. Thanks, Barbara!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Meet Me in Denver!

Looking forward to seeing many of you in Denver next week at the Sustainable Meetings Conference

If you haven't registered yet, it isn't too late. Registration numbers are up and we are looking forward to a thought-provoking, enlightening and fun conference. Lots of learning too (the Leader's Track has given us homework so we can jump right in).

Make sure you say hello and let me know your thoughts on my pretentious musings--I am always interested in learning what I should cover!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Taxing Trash

Another glamorous day in the life of a green meeting planning team! When the UUA General Assembly planning team went to Minneapolis on a site, they didn't stop at the typical "wine and dining front of the house" experience. Oh no, they were thorough and even went on a tour of the Waste Management "Recycle America" plant. I am always harping about how important it is to make sure the recycling effort is actually happening and this group really did their homework.

While on the tour they learned in Minnesota there's an incentive to recycle. It seems Minnesota has state and county taxation of trash which heavilyy incentivizes recycling. In fact in some counties, commercial customers pay up to 53% tax on non-recyclables!! The base residential rate is 9.75%.

Now there is a business case for green meeting practices!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

To See What Condition Our Condition Is In

As we begin 2010 it is time to assess what is happening in business and in meetings. How are businesses connecting people? Are sustainability and green meeting practices still relevant? What have we learned and what are we learning? All questions we ask ourselves.

We share with you our thoughts in the 2010 State of the Industry Report

We welcome all comments and discussion!

Monday, January 18, 2010

How Much is That in Elephants?

It is always easier for we humans to understand how big, small, heavy, etc. things are if given a visual. So we were trying to do just that to help Oracle OpenWorld better express the impact of avoiding the use of one million plastic bottles in 2008 and 2009.

Our own Shawna Mckinley, Data Poet of MeetGreen, determined that one million empty plastic water bottles weigh approximately 15 metric tonnes. And 15 tonnes can be compared to the weight of:
· 9 VW beetles
· 15 dairy cows
· 210 humans
· 2 elephants

While I am having great fun with this blog post, it is a good reminder that converting our efforts to visuals to tell the story does really help. Other examples is to talk about paper savings in trees instead of pounds of paper or saving greenhouse gases by the amount of cars it would take off the road. You get the picture!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Reason to Believe

or at least attend. The Green Meeting Industry Council's Sustainable Meetings Conference will take place in Denver, CO February 9-11, 2010. Here are the top 10 reasons why this is a must-attend event...

10. Green Strategies Save Money: Green meeting specialists know how to save money onsite - by cutting waste, working with local suppliers, and proving that the "eco" in eco-efficiency is about economy as well as ecology.

9. Earning Customer Loyalty: A sustainable meeting builds customer loyalty, showing participants that their organization cares about the bigger picture-even in hard times.

8. Improving the Onsite Experience: The skills and knowledge behind a sustainable meeting can help you create a smarter, more interactive learning experience for participants.

7. Competitive Advantage for Vendors: Hoteliers and other vendors who demonstrate green knowledge and performance gain competitive advantage in an economy where any advantage is crucial to the bottom line.

6. Measuring the Bottom Line: Green performance metrics can only succeed environmentally if they pay off financially. So green measurement is a great way to assess the return your organization receives from its meetings investment.

5. Managing and Mitigating Risk: Leading organizations like Oracle, The Gap, the American Institute of Architects, and the U.S. Green Building Council know that greening is the "right" thing to do. But it also mitigates risk. For top associations and Fortune 500 businesses, sustainable meetings are a great way to demonstrate good citizenship and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

4. Striking the Balance: Meeting professionals have been struggling to find a balance between live and virtual meetings and to cope with the mounting challenges surrounding air travel. The 2010 Sustainable Meetings Conference is a place to explore solutions that keep the participant experience front and center.

3. Learning the Standard: The program for the 2010 Sustainable Meetings Conference is built around the green meetings standard that will soon be released by the U.S. Accepted Practices Commission (APEX). Learning the practicalities of this detailed new standard will be an advantage for every organization that participates in the conference.

2. Building a Network: The annual Sustainable Meetings Conference draws a network of senior, experienced meeting professionals who've built their green checklists into strategic action plans that support their companies' core values and objectives. Attending the conference is the first step in making these thought leaders and decision-makers a part of your network.

1. Building Momentum: This conference is about getting green done! On the first day, the Future Leaders' Forum and the Leaders' Track will both deliver action goals for the year ahead. At the closing roundtable, GMIC will invite leading meeting experts and association leaders to discuss next steps for building a sustainable industry.For more information, visit