Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Recycled Resolutions

I looked back at my 2010 resolutions and realized I had been pretty successful at some and others continue to be iffy at best. So being a recycler at heart, I will use this great list once again and see if I can't tick off a few more. Join me, won't you?

1. Set up a Green Team for my 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.
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!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Set Your Compass for 2012

photo of a Rockaway, Oregon beach fence by Nancy Zavada
Nearly finished with 2011, I am pondering what 2012 will bring. My desire is to make wise decisions to propel myself, MeetGreen, and the meeting and event industry toward an increasingly sustainable future.

I have decided the following quote, by John Wesley, will serve as my compass:

"Do all the good you can
By all the means you can
In all the ways you can
In all the places you can
At all the times you can
To all the people you can
As long as ever you can."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How Can I Save Money On My Next Event?

Let's see, perhaps we can...

  • Serve beverages in pitchers like lemonade instead of individual soft drinks
  • Reduce the size of our program
  • Eliminate the conference bag
  • Meet in a location that doesn't require shuttle service
  • Offer a virtual option for speakers and participants
  • Provide one vegetarian meal per day
  • Ask exhibitors not to bring handouts to reduce our garbage hauling
  • Guarantee our food with close and accurate numbers
  • Take advantage of the discounts hotel chains are offering if we run a green meeting
  • and the list goes on!

What one thing can you easily accomplish in 2012 to save money on your events?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Give the Gift of Education, I Did

photo of hiking trail in Nehalem Oregon by Nancy Zavada
I believe the most important way to secure our future is to teach the next generation. When it comes to the future of the planet and the future of the meeting industry it is vital. I also believe in putting my money where my mouth is, so last year I personally funded the first full student scholarship to the GMIC 2011 Sustainable Meetings Conference.

Gianna L. Stone, San Diego State University, was the first recipient and in her Student's Perspective she says, "I learned more in three days than words can explain...GMIC, through this conference, opened my eyes to sustainability in a whole new light."

Today, I wrote the check to fund a scholarship for a student to attend the 2012 Sustainable Meetings Conference. If you are able to give back to our community and make the difference in the life of a student, I ask you to join me.

If you are a student, you are the future! Please watch the GMIC website for details on applying for the 2012 scholarships.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

You Do The Math

photo of strawberries by Nancy Zavada
According to the National Restaurant Association's list of Top 20 Menu Trends of 2012 (as reported by Successful Meetings) sustainable food takes the cake for the upcoming year.

Take a quick count of how many on this list are also green meeting initiatives. Hint: you will need both hands.

According to the NRA's survey, the top menu trends for next year will be:

1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
2. Locally grown produce
3. Healthful kids' meals
4. Hyper-local items
5. Sustainability as a culinary theme
6. Children's nutrition as a culinary theme
7. Gluten-free/food allergy-conscious items
8. Locally produced wine and beer
9. Sustainable seafood
10. Whole grain items in kids' meals
11. Newly fabricated cuts of meat
12. Farm/estate-branded items
13. Food trucks/street food
14. Artisan spirits
15. House-made/artisan ice cream
16. Health/nutrition as a culinary theme
17. Non-traditional fish
18. Fruit/vegetable kids' side items
19. Children's mini-meals (i.e. smaller versions of adult menu items)
20. Culinary cocktails

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ready to Tackle Food Waste?

Ready to save £ 724 million a year?

A report, entitled "The Composition of Waste Disposed by the UK Hospitality Industry" estimates that over 3.4 million tonnes of waste is generated by hotels, pubs and restaurants every year. The report, published by the Waste and Resources Action Programme, says detailed research shows nearly 80% of this could be recycled with food waste representing a "particular opportunity." The Hospitality Industry can play a leading role in the US as well, but it means change and we sometimes struggle with that.

Take for instance, Portland, where we recently began a home composting program to capture food waste. It is hauled away with our yard debris--weekly, I might add. While some of my neighbors have embraced and adapted to the change, others are fighting it as if garbage is one of our unalienable rights. Seriously, folks, it is food waste!

Here's hoping this change is easier to tolerate in the Hospitality Industry as it means substantial savings right off the bottom line.

Friday, December 9, 2011

How Serious Is Climate Change?

Need another reason to institute sustainability policies into your meetings? Do your events reflect an organization with the same concerns as its participants?

Take a look at the chart below and see what your event demographics believe. Too bad it isn't sorted by age group as well, that would be very telling. From other studies I have read, the younger the audience, the more concerned they are about climate change.

Thanks for Environmental Leader for this chart.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Which Way To SustainLand?

This weekend I had the pleasure of taking my niece for her first visit to the theme park of her dreams. As the organization is always touting their sustainability initiatives, I was looking forward to the trip on several levels. Imagine my surprise when I found the following:

  • Polystyrene cups for all beverages
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Individual condiment packets
  • Side dishes served in individual plastic clam shells
  • Minimal drinking fountains (I found one in three days) which meant I had to purchase bottled water instead of refilling my reusable bottle
  • Recycling available for bottles and cans only and not next to every trash can
  • Staff members with polystyrene food containers
  • All the trinkets in the many stores were labeled "Made in China"
  • Plastic bags used exclusively to put the trinkets in
  • Even the cotton candy was packaged in plastic bags or plastic buckets
Based on these daily practices serving tens of thousands of guests, they may want to consider some making changes to Tomorrowland!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Enough With The Black Friday Deals!

Having been blasted by "Black Friday" advertising from every possible source all weekend long, I arrived at my desk today with a renewed commitment to make sure our meetings support the environment and not destroy it. I found this list, which works equally well for the upcoming holidays and purchases we make on behalf of our organizations and events, and share it here...

1. Is this purchase something I need?

2. Do I already own something that will serve the same purpose?

3. Can I borrow one instead of buying new?

4. Can I make something that will serve the same purpose?

5. Can I buy a used one?

6. Would someone be willing to split the cost and share this with me?

7. Can I buy or commission one made locally?

8. Can I buy one that was made with environmentally responsible materials?

9. Can I buy one that serves more than one purpose?

10. Can I get something human powered instead of gas or electric?

11. Can I compost or recycle it when I’m done with it?

12. What is the impact on the environment of the full life cycle of it?

13. Does the manufacture or disposal of it damage the environment?

The full article, Get on board the non-consumption train, is available here for your reading enjoyment while standing in the checkout line.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Change Feels Good...Yes, It Does!

Join me as I enjoy the colorful beauty and bounty of this season and give thanks for the remarkable changes orchestrated in the world of sustainable meetings. You might even feel inspired to take note of changes this past year and share your gratitude--that is what I do here today.

I am so very thankful for...

  • The continued growth of GMIC with chapters throughout the world and a leadership propelling us to the next level in environmentally and socially conscious meetings
  • The MeetGreen team that partners with organizations on award-winning events using the Earth's resources wisely
  • Our clients who allow us to "play in their sandbox" and influence sustainability with their buying power
  • Fellow change makers, like yourself, who believe passionately in making the meetings industry more sustainable and our future opportunities
  • Those intrepid committee and panel members who are bringing forward standards for the rest of us
  • Students who have made green meetings a part of their research or thesis and will be the next true leaders of this movement
  • Hotels, conference centers, sports venues and meeting facilities who have embraced green in a big way seeing both the economic and environmental benefits
  • My blog followers who have doubled in size this year and help keep me motivated to learn and share more
  • And to Mother Nature herself, who reminds me how important this work is with a flutter of a bird's wings on the breeze, the damp musky smell of the forest, and the sun warming my upturned face.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

NOT Your New Year's Resolution

Why wait until next year to develop your organization's sustainability policy? You know you are going to need it when those pesky APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meetings Standards are launched. Eight of nine are poised to be published anytime now, so be ahead of the game.

Procrastinating is fun but not very rewarding, so I challenge you to mark this task off your to-do list by the end of the year. Then, with a clear conscience, you can stick to your normal yearly resolutions made with such sincerity on January 1st...lose weight, watch less TV, learn to play the bagpipes, spend more time with the family, and join the circus (or run for public office).

If you need a template to get you started, feel free to use this one http://www.meetgreen.com/files/articles/MeetGreen%20Sustainability%20Policy%20Template%20061411.pdf

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My Dog Ate It

Just when you thought you had heard it all, Shawna McKinley filed this report post EventCamp Vancouver...

A note we received from an attendee from Washington state:
"Just wanted to tell you where my lanyard ended up. Needed a new shoe lace as my dog seemed to have chewed it up. It did not matter that it was not the fashion statement only that it solved the problem and made it able for me to walk and work. I believe that this was what the meeting was all about solving problems so that we can all achieve our objectives and maybe evening doing them in a green fashion."

I have now officially "heard it all."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Musings of a Virtual Attendee

There I was in my bunny slippers lounging on the couch this weekend just back from the BSR 2011 Conference. My schedule didn't allow me to attend EventCamp Vancouver in person and I didn't want to miss it, so virtual I was. Laptop on my lap (I get that term now) I was streaming the content, engaging in the 1000 Acts of Green game, and tweeting away.

How was it?, you ask. Fantastic! I felt as if I were actually in the room contributing to the discussion, networking and learning! The only time I was left out was during the coffee break, but then I just I went to my kitchen, poured myself a cup and settled back into the couch.

Here are some of my musings you might find useful when developing your hybrid event:

  • Make the technology as simple as possible. Participants shouldn't have to fight the technology to get to the content.
  • Hire both an MC and a Virtual Concierge, the remote audience needs both to feel included.
  • Ask the virtual folks to ask questions or provide answers during the sessions.
  • Make sure the game (if applicable) is relevant to both audiences. The game app at EventCamp Vancouver worked famously.
  • Start on time, no matter what. Otherwise, we don't have anyway of knowing if our systems are working.
  • Consider including "pods" (small groups meeting together in a different city and attending virtually). This gives people even more of a community feeling. My husband and daughter refused to be part of my couch pod...just saying.
  • Do small breakout group work when the camera is off or determine a way (Skype) to include the virtual audience members in the groups.
  • Film and publish some of the silly stuff too that happens during a conference so remote guests are in on the joke the next day. Loved the late night singing captured on You Tube!
Now, I am usually an conference organizer and not a participant, so this was a new role for me. The weekend of learning was essential and provides me with a true comprehension of the virtual attendee experience.

Best of all, I didn't have to get dressed, go to the airport, go through "security theater," fly, check into a hotel or get to the venue. And to top it off my remote footprint avoided enough carbon dioxide emissions to fill 110,000 party balloons! That is a win both environmentally and economically as well as allowing me to spend time at home. Your participants will love it too!

photo courtesy of bunnyslippers.com

Friday, November 4, 2011

1000 Acts of Green

Those of you who are familiar with ‘green’ events know there is a lot of pressure on the planner and supplier to make more sustainable choices. Many of these decisions are invisible to attendees for the most part: recycled content in carpets, water conserving fixtures, kitchen composting, local purchasing, etc. EventCamp Vancouver’s goal is to shift the focus to empower attendees to notice these efforts by suppliers and planners and to make sustainable choices themselves. We believe that through individual acts of green by attendees, that the choices planners and suppliers make can be amplified to make an even bigger difference. Not only in terms of footprint, but maybe more importantly in terms of legacy, such as the charity challenge dropped today.

The “Get Your Green on Game” helps to reinforce the very important personal actions of our attendees. The game has also been designed to encourage attendees to “Stop, look and listen” and by doing so, they will be rewarded with additional points. Looking at our surroundings with fresh eyes, through a green lens, noticing all of the great sustainable actions (perhaps for the first time) that have been undertaken by our collaborators, is important.

Want to play along? Get Your Green On is LIVE this weekend!

That’s right. The challenge is on to find the greenest camper at EventCamp Vancouver! Remote and onsite registrants can play by downloading the event application from the iTunes store (if you use an iPad or iPhone) or going to the mobile web site (for laptop and other mobile device users). Log in with your previously emailed username and password. Detailed instructions on how to play are found here, as well as in the Game tab in the app.

Game Legacy Challenge Announced!

EventCamp Vancouver game-players have been challenged to collectively perform 1000 Acts of Green over the course of the event. To provide extra motivation they also announced that for every individual Act of Green toward this goal MeetGreen will contribute $1 to the BC Cancer Foundation. MeetGreen® also challenges other meeting professionals in the #eventprofs community to match their donation! If you want to respond to the fundraising challenge let us know in the #ECV11 Twitter community.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

BSR Shares Event Sustainability Initiative

This week finds one of our teams at the Business for Social Responsibility Conference. It wonderful to hear the words "sustainability" and "environment" spoken in nearly every conversation in hallways, sessions and meals. There are so many passionate individuals gathered to work together to change our world, I am honored to be here.

Producing a sustainable meeting which nourishes and supports participants is vital to a successful outcome. In the spirit of transparency and storytelling, BSR publishes a partial list of sustainability initiatives for the 2011 Conference. This webpage may help you in developing your own http://www.bsr.org/en/bsr-conference/2011/sustainable-conference

Monday, October 31, 2011

Eight of Nine Standards Passed!

This just in from Amy Spatrisano, APEX/ASTM Sustainable Meetings Standards Panel Chair:

Today, October 31st, marks the 4th year anniversary of our first formal meeting to begin developing the standards. When the news came today that 8 out the 9 standards had passed, it took awhile before it sunk in that we were nearly finished. Note: Accommodations is still in the balloting process.

They have been molded by the feedback received over the four year process by industry, non-industry and government input. While we anticipate there will be some modifications and adjustments made to them once they’ve been tested in the market place ,they represent a milestone, more prescriptive pathway for deeper engagement by the industry to produce sustainable events. They are unprecedented because they are the first standard released in the industry to hold both the planner and supplier mutually accountable for their participation in delivering an event.

I encourage you to visit the Convention Industry Council’s website http://www.conventionindustry.org/StandardsPractices/APEXASTM/APEXASTMVols.aspx for updates about how to access them. While you’re there please take a moment to read the list of volunteers who’s passion, commitment and dedication forged these standards for us all. They are the unsung heroes.


Friday, October 28, 2011

The Net Impact of Net Impact

The Net Impact Conference we are managing in Portland, Oregon this week is convening over 2,600 individuals to "explore using their business skills to make environmental and social change through work," according to Jess Sand the article, "How to Bring a Sense of Place to the Convention Center."

The content is fascinating as real solutions for everyday challenges are discussed. Check out this GreenBiz.com article for a few amazing examples including how GO Box is working to eliminate the 60,000 disposable food containers tossed out by Portland lunch-goers each month. Yes, we love our food carts here in Portlandia!

MeetGreen is incredibly proud to work with Net Impact on this vital conference!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

No Child Left Behind

During my presentation at the Meetings Focus Live Event earlier this week, I asked participants to share their organization's CSR projects so we could all learn from each other.

A woman, representing a hotel chain in Mexico, stood up and described a variety of projects they are involved in which give back to their community including a local orphanage they support with food donations. We all applauded, but she wasn't done with her story. She continued by telling us when the children turn 18, they are no longer allowed to live at the orphanage and must make their own way in the world, without families. At that time, the hotel asks these young adults to join their training program and belong to their team.

We were all speechless, teary eyed and motivated to return to our own communities and dig a little deeper.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Green Drive Saves Hilton $74 M in Two Years

Today's headline from Environmental Leader says it all. If you read the article you find the data to back up this claim. Here's the story in financial and environmental savings:

LightStay, the sustainability measurement system used by Hilton Worldwide and its portfolio of 10 hotel brands, has saved the company more than $74 million since its launch in 2009.

To date, Hilton Worldwide’s efforts are equivalent to the removal of more than 50,000 cars from the road, water savings that could fill more than 1,000 swimming pools and energy conservation that could provide power to nearly 20,000 homes a year, the company says.

Saving Green By Going Green is a vital business strategy for meeting and event industry suppliers and planners alike. Thanks to Hilton for sharing these statistics and further dispelling the myth that green practices cost more!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Check All That Apply

Which charitable deed(s) are organizations incorporating during upcoming meetings?

We know that "giving back" has become more important during the past year. Now, a recent Meetings & Conventions Research Survey helps uncover the specific activities organizations are including:

48% Fund-raising/benefit event
48% Volunteer work
45% Food donation
40% Team-building activity to benefit others
40% Donation made from an event's proceeds
32% Silent auction to benefit a charity
25% Donation made by host property/vendors
18% None of the above
If you haven't done so already, is there one on this list you can add to your next meeting?

Source: June, 2011 Meetings & Conventions Magazine article, "Meetings Give Back."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Future Is Here. Are You Paying Attention?

Consider this. If everyone in the United States who could work from home (about 40 percent of the work force) did so half of the time, the annual results would be as follows:

  • $200 billion productivity gains by American companies
  • $190 billion savings from reduced real estate expenses, electricity bills, absenteeism, and employee turnover
  • 100 hours per person not spent commuting
  • 50 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions cut
  • 276 million barrels of oil saved, or roughly 32% of oil imports from the Middle East
  • 1,500 lives not lost in car accidents
  • $700 billion total estimated savings to American Businesses
Given this data, is it any wonder virtual and hybrid meetings are also gaining in popularity with hosting organizations? It is important meeting professionals make sure their skills include this sustainable option. Suppliers should update their company's services to make sure they take advantage as well.

This IS "business as usual" and our industry should worry less about researching our economic impact and worry more about being relevant in today's business climate.

Data Source: The Virtual Company, Inc. Magazine, April 2010, research by Telework Research Network.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ever Have This Feeling?

Some days, embedding sustainability
into an organization (or industry)
feels a little like remodeling a 747 jet
during a cross country flight.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chicago, Las Vegas and Florida/Caribbean, Welcome Aboard!

Yes, it is official, the Green Meeting Industry Council is welcoming Chicago, Las Vegas and Florida/Caribbean Chapters today! There are now eight chapters with a host of others finishing up their final details to join us.

What does this mean to you? Well, if you are in one of those three locations, you now have a local community of fellow green meeting planners and vendors be involved with, share stories, and learn together.

What does this mean to me? It verifies environmentally responsible meetings are more important than ever, especially in today's crazy business climate. It also confirms that GMIC is the place to be for thought leaders and innovators in the meetings industry throughout the world.

My personal thanks to the new chapter leaders and members for leading change in your communities and the world. You have made this GMIC Founder very happy!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Behind the Scene at Oracle OpenWorld 2011

When I talked about top organization's green meetings earlier this week, I also shared how willing they are to be transparent and offer up their experiences so that we may all learn.

This week's GMIC tour of Oracle OpenWorld is an excellent example of industry leadership. Over 45 members listened and learned as Paul Salinger, Oracle, kicked off the tour of Oracle OpenWorld 2011 for the lucky participants.

Photo of GMIC Tour at Oracle Open World
A stop in the kitchen provides answers on procuring, producing and serving sustainable menus. How can Chef Jeff Hall look so relaxed during the tour when he as 43,000 hungry guests roaming his facility?

Photo of kitchen at Moscone Center during Oracle OpenWorld
And on the back docks, Hector Quiles, Recycling Manager at Moscone Center, talks about how they handle large debris and trade show floor materials for recycling.

Photo of recycling center at Moscone Center during Oracle OpenWorld

Front of house, back of house, no stone left unturned. Questions asked and answered!

Thanks to Shawna McKinley, MeetGreen, for the photos and her participation.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's Green At The Top

Congratulations to the "5 Top Organizations for Green Meetings" recently published in Meetings & Conventions Magazine. These organizations have both set, and raised, the bar for producing green meetings. Their unwavering commitment to sustainability as provided both challenges and opportunities (aka problems and solutions) along the way.

Their willingness to publicly share their stories so others may learn is heartwarming. They have been able to put competition aside for the greater good. Even as I write this, Oracle OpenWorld, in conjunction with GMIC, is hosting a "Back of the House Tour" during their enormous event with an overwhelming response by planners in the Bay Area. The hope is that seeing this green meeting in action will not only provide ideas, but also lessen the anxiety about how it is implemented during the event.

We couldn't be more proud that 3 of the 5 top organizations are our green consulting clients!

Friday, September 30, 2011

57% Want To Align With Standards

"I have heard there are standards being developed and want to learn how to align my green meeting practices."

That's the top answer in a poll during the Meetings Focus webinar on September 28th, "Sustainability: Basic Green Techniques" by 57% of the over 530 participants. The other two optional answers, "I have no idea about the standards and want to know more" or "I need to get started using basic green meeting techniques" were nearly evenly split.

Let's hope this is a vote of confidence for our industry to finally have standardized sustainable event practices and the willingness to adopt them!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Poll Results on Hybrid Meetings

Today's GMIC webinar on Hybrid Meetings and Sustainability presented a case study of the 2011 Conference and talked about both challenges and opportunities of hybrid meetings. My interest was peaked with the polling question, "Have you planned a hybrid meeting before?"

Participants responded with:

40% Yes
40% No
20% I am planning a hybrid meeting now

As a data geek, it would be interesting to know how much this has changed in the past 12 to 18 months. Imagine how much it will change in the next 12 months? Our roles as meeting professionals continually shift. It also makes all the discussion surrounding the "$16 muffin" scandal in this week's news seem insignificant in the big picture.

Webinar: Basic Green Meeting Practices

When Tyler Davidson of MeetingsFocus asked me to present a webinar, he was very clear, "Planners are looking for basic practices to produce more sustainable meetings and events." Tyler has his finger on the pulse of the meeting industry and has come to the same conclusions which motivated me to write the recent simplifying sustainable meetings blog posts. Keep it simple!

Tomorrow, September 28th, I will present a full webinar on that very topic. Register to join us

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hybrid Meetings Reduce Carbon Footprint, Here's Proof!

Hybrid meetings are a new configuration with an inherent ability to reduce your event’s carbon footprint. The ability for participants to connect virtually without the high environmental cost of travel including air travel, ground transportation, accommodations, handouts and giveaways will be a vital aspect in the future of meetings. Our team has been tracking measurable data in an effort to reinforce the importance of hybrid meetings in producing more environmentally responsible events.

One client’s conference earlier this year provided some of our first data points. Data analyzed for Cisco Live included a list of attendees both virtual and actual by departing location, the average time spent online by virtual attendees, an average of 2.5 hotel room night stays and meeting space usage. The report shows, the actual attendees produced 11,943 metric tons of carbon dioxide omissions by traveling to and attending the event. The virtual attendees potentially avoided 7,549 metric tons of carbon dioxide omissions by not physically attending (this figure factors in online computer electricity usage). A significant environmental savings is realized for just one of the thousands of meetings taking place daily. The economic savings was also significant as well as the “wear and tear” of travel on individuals choosing to attend virtually.

If you haven’t taken a look at hybrid meetings for your organization, the time has come. Sustainability and technology are once again hand-in-hand.

Here is a link to the full article on hybrid meetings.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How Event Sponsors Can Reduce Their Risk

If your organization is considering sponsoring an event, remember your image as a “good corporate citizen” is on the line. In today’s world, adding your name (and money) to an event, means you are endorsing both the content and the delivery. Participants embracing social media will quickly tell the story if they see unsustainable practices occurring. Several recent meeting industry events have been taken to task for their use of black plastic plates, excessive signage and stacks of handouts.

As a potential sponsor, reduce your risk with these questions for the event organizers:

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

By asking this series of quick questions about green practices before opening your wallet, you may save your company from an embarrassing situation.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thanks, But I'd Rather Have a Drink

Full disclosure--this blog post was from a year ago. I am running in again because it pertains to our series on simplicity in sustainability and how we can make a difference, one practice at a time!

In an attempt to go green (but mostly to save money) we drastically reduced the number of conference bags ordered for EclipseCon this spring. At registration, instead of just handing them a conference bag, we asked the participants if they wanted one. They were also told they would receive an extra drink ticket if they refused the bag. Surprisingly (or not) more than 50% wanted a drink more than a bag.

This also allowed the conference to eliminate sponsored items getting pre-stuffed in the bags. Take a look at the areas we saved money:on purchasing and shipping of the bags (50% fewer),
  • on the cost of drayage with the decorator (lower poundage)
  • less exhibitor promotional materials shipped
  • minimized bag stuffing, labor costs
  • less trash produced
These savings more than offset the cost of a beverage and provided creative and fun solutions to the existing challenges we planners face!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What You Should Know About Recycling Plastic

BUYER BEWARE: This symbol with a number in the middle on the bottom of a plastic container doesn't necessarily mean it is easily recycled. It is simply a way to identify what type of plastic it is. Both as a consumer and as a meeting planner it is important to know what your food is served on(in) and how readily it can be kept out of the local landfill. Here is a quick guide for you...

  • #1 PETE or PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate): Used for clear beverage bottles. Widely recyclable, check with your local recycler.
  • #2 HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) : Used for colored bottles and jugs, yogurt containers and other tubs. Widely recyclable, check with your local recycler.
  • #3 PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride): Used in some cling wrap and bottles as well as pipes and other construction materials. Not widely recyclable.
  • #4 LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene): used for garbage bags, food storage bags, some cling wraps and bottles. Not widely recyclable.
  • #5 PP (Polypropylene): Used in butter tubs, baby bottles and other rigid containers. Not widely recyclable.
  • #6 PS (Polystryene): Used in foam trays, takeout containers, coolers and egg cartons (also those little black plates you see at banquets). Not widely recyclable. Recommended to avoid.
  • #7 Other (includes polycarbonate and mixed materials). This is a tough one. While some things in this category are not widely recyclable, biodegradable and compostable containers are often lumped into this "other" category. When you see #7, ask more questions.
Source: Real Money

Check with the venue or local hauler to determine what types of plastic are readily recyclable. As an example in my area, #1 and #2 plastic can recycle curbside, all others except #6 can be taken to a local recycling center. What about #6? Well, good luck finding anyplace to accept it unless you happen to have a freight car full of it.

Keep these numbers in mind when purchasing or ordering.

Monday, August 29, 2011

How to Select a Green Hotel

Continuing on with our "simplifying sustainable meetings" theme over the past few posts, today let's cover some basics for selecting green sleeping accommodations. Here are the simple steps:

1. Start early in the selection process even before the RFP. If you are working with a convention and visitors bureau, ask them to send you a list of environmentally responsible hotels in their city. If you aren't working with a CVB, check to see if there is a state or regional green lodging program listing of the qualifying hotels. You can also check the Green Seal and Energy Star websites for their certified hotel properties.

2. Send out the request for dates and rates along with a few questions about their environmental practices. Do they have:
  • Recycling? In-room sorting for guests?
  • Towel/Sheet Linen Reuse Program?
  • Low flow toilets and showers?
  • Energy efficient lighting?
  • Staff training to minimize HVAC use?
  • Morning newspaper delivered only upon request?
Let them know the environmental factors will be taken into account during the decision-making process.

3. Select a property which meets your criteria for both economic and environmental factors. Ensure they are within walking distance of the meeting venue.

4. See for yourself if these practices are occurring during the site inspection.

5. Let your guests know what you have requested on their behalf and ask them to take advantage of these opportunities during their stay. They can also provide feedback to both your organization and the hotel.

By implementing these five steps, meeting participants will know you have taken great care to minimize their travel footprint.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How To Serve F&B Without Packaging

If you have decided to simplify sustainable meetings and have committed to requesting and serving food and beverages in bulk whenever possible, this blog's for you. Today I offer easy tips on how to accomplish your goal:

Ask the caterer to provide condiments in bulk. What exactly does this mean? Milk in creamers instead of little plastic "moo juice" cups, sugar in covered bowls instead of paper wrappers and and butter on a plate without a foil wrapper. Doesn't that sound more elegant anyway?

Request fruit be served whole on breaks. We have found a significant cost savings by switching to whole fruit as the labor costs are much lower than sliced fruit. Guests like the "comfort food" aspect of eating fruit this way.

Serve pitchers of lemonade and iced tea for afternoon breaks instead of individually bottled soft drinks. This is a huge cost savings for meeting organizers and also saves in cans and bottles.

Ask for yogurt to be served in large bowls so guests may spoon it into pretty glass bowls instead of the usual plastic container and foil lid.

Request snacks and cookies be made fresh and served on platters. Not only do they taste better, you will save money as guests are less likely to grab a handful for later.

Ask participants not to use room service, but to dine in the restaurant instead. If you are footing the bill, the reason may be financial. We are seeing a growing trend where companies will no longer pay for this guest service. Also think of all the tiny, individual containers which arrive on the tray.

Use large pitchers or "bubblers" instead of individual bottled water. I won't go into the lecture here (you are welcome), just a friendly reminder. Save oodles of money and your corporate image too!

These ideas should get you started and you can add your own each time you place a catering order. Don't forget to ask for and document your cost savings.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

5 Step Event Recycling

In my last post, I discussed simplifying sustainable meetings and events. I offered that by choosing just one green meeting practice you can always accomplish, you can make a difference without being overwhelmed.

Let's take a look at the steps to take if recycling at your events was your choice for the consistent green practice.

1. Every RFP for meeting venues and accommodations will ask potential vendors:
  • Do you have a recycling program in place?
  • Which of the following items do you recycle: cardboard, paper, metal, plastic (which numbers), glass or others?
  • Can you measure the recycling diversion rates for my meeting and report back?
2. Select the vendor with a recycling program in place or is able to implement one for your meeting. Of course, in addition to the other considerations.

3. During the site inspection, require a back-of-house tour including the loading docks to confirm the recycling program is in place. Observe the waste and recycling containers available in the guest areas.

4. Confirm that recycling is happening during the event and collect measurements from the venue.

5. Use this data to develop a baseline of waste reduction and share your story with others!

Five simple steps! That's it. Sure, we can go on to make it more complicated, but it isn't required until you are ready.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Let's Simplify Sustainable Meetings

Standards, policies, reporting, diversion rates, indicators...could we make it any more complex or overwhelming to learn how to produce sustainable meetings?

Let's start here and now to simplify sustainable meetings. Just pick one thing right now, nothing more. Ask yourself, what one green meeting practice can your organization implement in EVERY meeting. You know best what you can ALWAYS do at every meeting or event. For MeetGreen, it was no styrofoam--no matter what, no matter where, no matter who, no matter when. Bottom line, we would not allow styrofoam to be served at any event we managed. Once we were successful at that practice, we required recycling at every event. And so on over the years.

Don't think about future endeavors though, just concentrate on today's commitment. Here are a few ideas to choose from:

  • Eliminate bottled water service
  • Choose a meeting venue with public transit access in a walkable community
  • Choose a meeting venue with a recycling program
  • Provide sustainable food options including local, seasonal or organic
  • Produce signs without dates or branding so they may be reused
  • Choose a hotel with a towel/sheet reuse program and low-flow fixtures
  • Eliminate handouts
Which one would be the easiest for your organization to accomplish? Could it also save you money? In the case of the second option, savings in cab fare and rental car fees could be substantial. Pick one and run with it! In the next few blog posts, I will address these green meeting practices individually to help you jump start your sustainability promise.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Humble Pie

We set such great intentions. Our project teams were going to ask for and implement over 100 green meeting practices per client, track the progress, measure the outcomes and report to the world. Then it happened, the reality became far more difficult than we imagined and on several projects we fell short of achieving our goals.

Now, we are rethinking these aggressive goals, working together to figure out the best strategy moving forward, determined to set ourselves up for success not failure. We are taking our own advice about how this is a "journey" and "no one is 100%." While it hurts to admit our struggles (talk about transparency), it feels good to know this group of professionals is committed even if it means eating a little humble pie along the way.

This post is to let you know, WE GET IT. Some days it really "isn't easy being green," no matter how badly we want it to be otherwise. We are inspired by those of you who just keep on trying, everyday, no matter what and make a difference. We intend to do the same.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Lunch, Listen and Learn

Still confused about developing a sustainability policy? Help is on its way!

Several weeks ago, many of you took us up on our offer for a free sustainability policy template (and by the way, that offer still stands). Here's an opportunity to walk through the policy template in real time with Shawna McKinley tomorrow, August 16, 2011, on a GMIC webinar entitled "Policy for the People: Create your own Event Sustainability Policy, Painlessly!" http://www.greenmeetings.info/GMIC_Global_Events?eventId=351775&EventViewMode=EventDetails

Shawna has the rare ability to make even the most complex subjects both easy to understand and relevant to our daily business activities. So if you are on the East Coast, grab your brown bag lunch and those on the West Coast can sip our beloved coffee drinks and tune in!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Our Hero, Ray Anderson

Today we morn the loss of Ray Anderson, Sustainability Leader and Interface Chairman. Ray Anderson changed our world when Amy and I first read Mid-Course Correction in 1998. With his gracious permission, we used his case study and learning in our early teachings in the meeting industry. He openly shared any information that would bring about change. We were lucky enough to hear him speak on several occasions and to finally meet him. He was the real deal.

If Life is about "leaving the place better than you found it," Ray Anderson definitely accomplished this goal. Perhaps the best way to honor him, in our own humble way, is to continue working to bring about a mid-course correction in the meeting and event industry we love.

“There is only one institution on earth that is large enough, powerful enough, pervasive enough, wealthy enough, and influential enough to really lead human kind in a different direction, out of the mess that we have created for ourselves… that is the institution of business and industry.” Ray Anderson

Hiring Data Proves True

Potential employees ARE excited to work for a company with sustainability initiatives. It's true. I post a lot of positive statistics about employee recruitment and retention in organizations who have adopted sustainability initiatives. Over the past several weeks, I have been able to see it for myself during our own hiring process.

Applicants, while certainly interested in the position, also asked a variety of questions about MeetGreen's initiatives. They were interested in how we got started on this path, what challenges we face, about the meeting industry's initiatives and how sustainability plays out in our everyday work. Each person we interviewed expressed an interest in being involved with a company striving to make a difference in the world, no matter how green they were personally. All were interested in learning more about environmental and social responsibility and there were a few who could teach us a few things too! Our newest employee will certainly add to our “bandwidth” in sustainable events and we will learn from each other along the way.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bet You Can't Name Just One

Here's a challenge for you...name one sustainable thing your company, hotel, association or meeting venue is doing this year that you weren't doing last year. Things like started recycling, installed CFL bulbs, added green language to RFPs, planted a roof-top garden, gave up bottled water, or donated leftover food. And just like the famous chip commercial, I bet you can't stop at just one.

I am willing to bet there are green meeting practices in your organization that weren't there at this time last year. Often, we get busy and don't really stop to take notice or celebrate all of our steps along the way. MeetGreen struggles with this too.

I am also willing to let you use this blog to shout out those sustainable practices or policies and shamelessly brag about your organization to the 3,000 or so meeting professionals who follow this blog. So sit down (preferably under a nice, shady tree with a cool drink), reflect on the changes over the past year, and post a comment here.

If you want to be shy, you may email me at greenmartyr@meetgreen.com and I will share them anonymously with the readers.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Not a Pretty Picture

Want to tell your sustainability story? Put it in a photo, picture, image or anything to help we humans visualize. This is an excellent example by Katie Sweetman found in the article on EcoCentric.com about the production of beef and its water footprint.

It is also fun to get creative and bring a little levity into the subject. This is the photo we use when we talk about the weight of waste sent to the landfill measured "in elephants."

Memorable to say the least!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Want Happier Employees?

Photo of happy employee taken by Nancy Zavada of MeetGreen
According a new research report by the Society for Human Resource Management, firms with sustainability programs reported the following results:

• Improved employee morale—55 percent
• More-efficient business processes—43 percent
• Stronger public image—43 percent
• Increased employee loyalty—38 percent

This study took a deeper look at organizations that support sustainability programs, versus those that do not from an employee relations point of view. Source: Inc., May 10, 2011

It probably wouldn't hurt to give them the afternoon off too!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dollars and $ense

"For a small 300-person event name badges are not a huge cost. Perhaps $100 at most. But what if you could eliminate this cost and create a cool sponsorship idea? This is exactly what Canada Media Marketplace did.

Canadian destinations participating in the event are always looking for interesting and unique ways to enhance their profile with travel writers invited to attend this event in hopes it might generate positive press for them. In 2009, Ontario Tourism had a brilliant idea: sponsor handmade name badges by Toronto-based designer James Fowler. What better reminder of their destination than a beautiful piece of art hanging on the neck of every attendee?

To make the story even greener, badges were made from reclaimed container plastics and textile trimmings that would have otherwise been discarded. The name badges were a hit, and are still in use three years later, multiplying that $100 savings forward a year at a time!"

Excerpt from Saving Green by Going Green

Monday, July 25, 2011

Action Speaks Louder Than Words: Count On It!

American Airlines just announced they have ordered aircraft which will make them the nation's most fuel efficient airline. In this GreenBiz.com article, the company spokesman Ed Martelle is quoted as saying, "The environmental footprint improvement really comes from those fuel efficiency gains. If we're using less fuel, we're dumping less carbon into the atmosphere." Once again, saving money (on fuel) saves the environment (carbon footprint).

I learned this good news from an environmental news service and that the airlines has a "goal of improving its greenhouse gas intensity." I was very surprised. When I flew on American Airlines several weeks ago, I was overwhelmed by the amount of styrofoam and plastic distributed during the inflight service. I also noticed the empty cans and newspapers were going into the same bag as the trash with no effort to sort them for recycling. As a passenger, I was convinced this airline didn't care a bit about the environment.

How does the average passenger know American Airlines has sustainability goals? Does the passenger's experience make them feel good about selecting an environmental conscious airline?

This is exactly what happens to companies who don't understand their sustainability initiatives must be embedded in all of their actions and no where is it more noticeable than in meetings and events. If your meeting audience does not experience what the CEO is standing on stage touting, you are at risk. As I warned several posts ago, "radical transparency" will now hold you accountable.

What do your organization's meetings demonstrate to the average participant? Are they in alignment with the message you are presenting?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Funny: Portlandia's Plastic Petticoats

Only in Portland would you find audience members such as these festively dressed citizens at a City Council Meeting. During this important meeting, "the Portland City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that prohibits plastic shopping bags at checkstands of major grocers and certain big-box stores. The new rules, designed to curb pollution, take effect Oct. 15." source: The Oregonian

We are all excited about this decision, apparently not as much as these folks though. For the full story, http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2011/07/portland_adopts_ban_on_plastic.html

Thursday, July 21, 2011

UUA General Assembly: What Worked And What Didn't

Conferences engaging in green meeting practices have different levels of success depending on a variety of factors: city, meeting venue, hotels, caterer, participants, etc. Our long-time clients such as The Unitarian Universalist Association, give us an opportunity to work in a variety of destinations and try our hardest to make the attendee experience as environmentally responsible as possible. Some years we have greater success than others.

This link leads you to an article by a member talking about what worked and what didn't during the 2011 General Assembly http://www.uuworld.org/news/articles/185511.shtml?utm_source=f

The morale of the story here is...do your best, don't be discouraged if you can't achieve 100% success, and openly share your experience so we may all learn from each other!

The UU Volunteers are our shining example. Thank you for the continued inspiration!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How To Impress a Green Planner

Want to make a green meeting manager swoon during their visit to your hotel? Interested in a new version of the VIP treatment? Want to avoid potential "landmines?" We offer up these tips for hotels based on our actual site inspections over the past six months...

DO prepare your sustainability policies and present them without being prompted
DON'T copy those multi-page policies single-sided on glossy, virgin paper
DO show them the back-of-house recycling system
DON'T turn on the huge TV (to the relaxing channel) and leave on the lights as a welcome
DO have a sheet and towel reuse program that works when they use it
DON'T leave unrequested ice in the bucket twice a day in an city with Level 2 drought water restrictions
DO ask if they want a morning paper instead of automatically hanging one on the doorknob in a plastic bag
DON'T forget to tell the rest of your staff you have environmental policies
DO check the room to make sure the light bulbs are energy efficient, they will
DON'T hesitate to take them to the employee cafeteria to see that management and housekeeping are treated equally
DO have some way to recycle in the sleeping room
DON'T have styrofoam cups with the in-room coffee maker
DO consider gifts aren't required, but if given should be useable and sustainable. Favorite example: a notebook made from post-consumer water bottles/food containers with hotel marketing materials made especially to fit into the front flap.

As you know, being a good host is learning about your guest and making them comfortable on the road.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Listen To Your Brain

The Top Brain Meeting Snacks, according to Tipster in the July 2011 issue Of PCMA's Convene are:
  • Water
  • Granola
  • Nuts
  • Blueberries
  • Mangos
  • Bananas
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Whole-grain breads
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Dark chocolate
Hmmmm, fresh food for the brain, good for the environment, and possibly local. Everyone wins...especially when you include the dark chocolate!

Study from "The Science of Food for Thought: Enhancing Meetings Through Food" white paper.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Are You At Risk?

If your organization still believes it can choose whether or not to be transparent about social and environmental issues, you probably are at risk.

Enter, "radical transparency" as defined by Chris Laslo and Nadya Zhexembayeva in their book Embedded Sustainability, The Next Big Competitive Advantage,

Radical transparency is the ability to fully, accurately, and instantly obtain information about a company or a product at any stage of its life cycle, from raw material extraction to product end-of-life. There is a technological component based on virtual communication tools that make it possible for anyone anywhere to "see" into a company or product. There is also a behavioral component coming from rising awareness of ecological and social issues. Greater awareness is leading to the desire by consumers, investors, and employees to know how companies and their products are impacting the world around them.

No longer can we control the message sent out to our key stakeholders. In today's world of instant communication, your organization's practices are just one tweet, video on YouTube or blog away. The meeting and event industry is readily adopting the use of social media as a way of involving virtual participants or increasing the visibility of the conference.

For example, several weeks ago I saw participants tweet, "this conference is handing out too much paper" and "stop using disposable plates and cups" along with the conference hashtag while at a meeting industry event. That put me on notice. Like it or not, welcome to radical transparency. We can't change this trend, but we can change our policies and practices.

So, are you at risk?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Garden ROI

Yes, I enjoy eating fresh, local food. In the summertime, this means right from my own garden. I grow lettuce, spinach, onions, beans, peppers and tomatoes. The trick here in Oregon's cool and sometimes rainy summers, is the salad ingredients aren't ready to harvest at the same time.

For instance, when the spring onions, spinach and lettuce are ready, the tomato plants are still sporting their spiked yellow blooms. When the tomatoes are ripe and juicy, the lettuce and spinach have long been harvested. My dream salad with ALL my ingredients in one bowl just isn't possible in my area, but I have some incredible meals with the daily crop which lasts long into October. It is healthy, organic, and pesticide free food, but it is also CHEAP!

You know me, I just can't resist telling you about the "business case" too, even one for my garden. I spent less than $10 this year on the starts and seeds needed for the entire summer. In lettuce alone, to date I have harvested 36 heads of butter lettuce and 12 heads of red leaf lettuce. Not a bad ROI and there's more to come! Last year, my cost was less than one penny per heirloom tomato.

No wonder some of the best chefs in our industry have started to grow their own gardens!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Beef or Chicken?

Your answer may be one of pure taste or a variety of other personal factors that compel each of us to make decisions about our food. It is now becoming clear, there are also the environmental factors of food production to take into consideration. The following information may help when making sustainable choices about both your own next meal and menus you choose for your meetings and events.

Note: I would also venture an educated guess that the higher the footprint, the higher cost of the meal. We have been successful in saving money by working directly with the chef on delicious, satisfying vegetarian lunches for all our guests.

Thanks to Environmental Leader for these statistics.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Notes From the Road

During a recent site inspection trip, Mary Cameron, Project Manager at MeetGreen, reported back on the sustainability initiatives she had witnessed. During her visits to hotels in Boston, Atlanta and Washington, DC, she noted a marked increase in green practices and the properties were at ease sharing their environmentally responsible policies. One hotel in Boston even had soap dispensers in the shower! I was relieved to hear the update as my recent trips to the Midwest have been rather depressing (in a sustainable meetings way).

While not on the topic of sustainability, her favorite "thinking outside of the box" story was:

During the site inspection trip, Mary was meeting with our client in the Concierge Lounge when the Manager saw Mary's IPhone background had a photo of her new kitty. The woman commented on how cute the kitten was and asked if Mary would forward the photo for her collection. Mary proudly sent her the photo.

When Mary returned to her room later that evening, greeting her on the nightstand was a sweet, framed photo of her kitten. Mary was impressed and touched by such a kind gesture.

Mary has shared the story about Catherine Bolling at the InterContinental Atlanta with our staff, other meeting planners and the world in general. You just can't buy that type of PR!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Prove It, You Say?

Saving Green By Going Green, our newest book, was written to help you learn how to incorporate sustainable meeting practices to save your organization money. We promised you will save money and now it is time to prove it! Here is just one of the examples covered in the book:

Eat well. Watch the food-and-beverage industry trends and you will see quickly that what people want is fresh, healthy food. They are asking for local, organic fare and enjoy knowing where it is coming from. In addition to being good for your body, it is also good for the environment and the local community. Get back to basics. In Portland, Oregon, the local newspaper investigated three examples associated with delivering a pound of fresh blueberries to points of sale.

1. Air freight from Chile. You pay about $18 per pound (berries typically come in 4.4 ounce containers and sell for $5.) This does not include customs clearance or ground handling on arrival in the U.S., which could add 20 cents a pound to the cost.

2. Ground transportation. You pay about $3.50 per pound. This is based on a refrigerated trailer traveling within 100 miles following major multiple retailer channels to the point of sale.

3. Local farmers market direct delivery. You pay about $2.50 per pound. This is based on a shipment originating 20 miles away traveling in a non-refrigerated pickup truck. (The Oregonian, Sunday, August 10, 2009)

Saving money can come from simple ideas like by serving whole fruit instead of paying additional money for the labor to produce sliced fruit platters or having an iced tea and lemonade break served out of colorful pitchers instead of individual cans of soda and bottled water.
There are more great ideas where that came from...here's a link to more information http://tools.meetgreen.com/book