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".