Monday, January 24, 2011

APEX Standards...Stop Waiting and Start Preparing!

In 2011, both meeting organizers and industry suppliers will be able to verify their meeting or product’s level of sustainability using the same set of guidelines. Finally, we will all play by the same rules. Yes, it appears the Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX), an initiative of the Convention Industry Council (CIC), is now finalizing the standards for best practices for green events. Really, just a little longer.

"Hurry up and wait" has never been my strong suit. So in preparation for the GMIC webinar last week, I reviewed the draft guidelines from each of the nine sectors to get an idea of what they will most likely include. There are common practices across the sectors you can start incorporating today to be ahead of the game when the standards are released. Here are a few:

  • Make sure your meeting or event has a sustainability policy. Ask vendors for their sustainability policy during the request for proposal process. It is an easy way to ensure they are already practicing green meeting initiatives.

  • Always ask for recycling at any venue. Confirm the property has it available and can give you measureable data after the event on the amount of waste kept out of the landfill.

  • Look for energy and water efficiencies from your venue, caterer, transportation and hotel.

  • Before purchasing, ask yourself if you or your attendees really need it. If you do need it, can you buy it in bulk or find it locally? Check to see if it is compostable, recyclable or can be donated. Your caterer should also be asking these questions.

  • Measure and document your progress. Choose several guidelines you know your organization can always commit to accomplishing and measure the results for your next event. This will give you a baseline to work from. For example, if you are able to reduce the amount of handouts by half from past events, determine what the savings are in money (cold hard cash), paper (trees, energy and water) and labor. Then build on this initiative during subsequent events. This also makes good business sense and helps present the event’s ROI.

Then once the APEX Standards are launched, get a copy and determine where your initiatives already meet the standards for a sustainable meeting. You WILL be ahead of the game!

If you want more details, check out last week's GMIC webinar

Thursday, January 20, 2011

San Francisco Is After My Heart

Imagine for a moment a sustainable travel option in your convention's destination city to link participants from the airport to their hotels.

Imagine this travel option includes a revenue sharing structure for your organization.

Imagine your staff rides free.

Imagine marketing support is included.

Imagine each rider will keep 22 lbs. of emission out of the local air.

Seems like a dream, doesn't it? Well, give yourself a little shake because it is reality in San Francisco, California, thanks to the BART Sustainable Convention Travel Program. Here's the scoop from BART:

BART’s Sustainable Convention Travel Program provides meeting planners with a unique opportunity to provide sustainable travel options for San Francisco conventions and meetings. This program provides a platform that facilitates the use of BART’s eco-friendly, sustainable SFO transfers by convention staffs and attendees. The program allows your members/attendees to purchase a BART transfer/voucher in advance from our website. The voucher is printed and exchanged for a BART ticket upon arrival at SFO. Once the ticket is in hand, your attendee boards the train and arrives downtown in 30 minutes.

The Details

BART provides you with a “unique” URL/link for your convention. This URL/link connects to our SFO Voucher Transfer product purchase page. We then provide you with customized “Sustainable Transfer” information that includes the URL/link, to be prominently placed in the appropriate section of your convention website. Your attendees connect to BART from this page to purchase their BART SFO transfer. In addition, your URL/link allows us to track the purchases made for your conference. The program is easy, fast and convenient for you and your members.

Shawna McKinley in our office just heard about this yesterday from the San Francisco Travel Association. Those of you holding conferences in San Francisco, congratulations! Now, let's see if other destinations will follow suit.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sustainable Heads In Beds

Sixty-five percent of corporate travel executives are implementing sustainable travel guidelines for their companies, according to a recent study conducted by MindClick SGM. That's great news! The executives polled are responsible for over $10 million in annual travel budgets.

The curious part of the study is only 2% of those surveyed would include LEED certification in their definition of hotel sustainability. Really? This third-party certification along with others such as Green Seal, Green Globe or Green Key are very helpful in determining if a hotel is sustainable. By choosing a property which has been third-party verified it saves meeting and travel manager's time by not having to drill down as far into the hotel's operating efficiencies.

The study also found that no single hotel brand has emerged as a leader in sustainability. I would agree with that statement. However, there are several brands making significant progress and implementing incredible sustainability initiatives and I look for a leader to emerge shortly.

Here is the full story by Enviornmental Leader

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Your Hotel's Green ROI

Looking for the business case benefits for a standardized and measurable sustainability program for your hotel? Here are five top benefits with links to recent articles and web sites which may help you make the case:

  1. Cost savings. A 10 percent reduction in energy consumption alone would have the same financial effect as increasing the average daily room rate (ADR) by $2.45 in full-service hotels.

  2. It provides a competitive advantage. Travelocity Endorses Hilton's LightStay Program, adding properties participating in the program to their green directory:

  3. Government agencies and corporations are mandating selection of sustainable suppliers. GSA Bulletin requires 'greening' of government travel/meetings, showing preference to those properties that have validated measurement initiatives:

  4. Individual consumers have 'green' travel preferences. SFO Community Marketing Second Annual Green Traveller Survey:

  5. Innovation. The Harvard Business Review also has a good article on why sustainability is
    now the key driver of innovation: Learn why top companies are paying attention to the issue.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

All the World's a Stage!

At least in the sustainability world. In his article, Five Stages on the Sustainability Journey, Vijay Kanal describes how companies progress through these stages to adopt sustainability:

  1. Grassroots - the first stage starting with a few employees taking the initiative.
  2. Functional - divisions or units such as operations get involved.
  3. Strategic - as more functional units get involved, a tipping point is reached.
  4. Ecosystem - external stakeholders are engaged and the system gets larger. DNA - sustainability is embedded in the company's mission, strategy and business.

Our involvement with a variety of organizations certainly backs up his theory--we have clients at each level. All of them working hard to move forward. In our observations, the toughest leap seems to be between "Functional" and "Strategic" for many firms. Here it is vitally important those passionate individuals and units are sharing their success stories (environmentally AND economically) with the rest of the company to get key stakeholder's attention and reach the tipping point.

Where is your organization in the sustainability journey? What can you do in 2011 to take the next step?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Easier Than Exercise

Here are a few ideas for New Year's Resolutions that don't require a trip to the gym or giving up chocolate. Repeat after me...I resolve to:

  1. Set up a Green Team for my organization’s meetings and events. That's right--I don’t have to do it all alone.
  2. Have recycling stations at every meeting and measure the amount of waste diverted from the landfill. I will let key stakeholders what has been accomplished.
  3. Order seafood only from sustainable fisheries. No more farmed salmon for my guests.
  4. Include green clauses in all of my contracts with venues, hotels, caterers and transportation companies.
  5. Hold virtual meetings when I don’t really need to travel to accomplish the same task.
  6. Look for ways to hold face-to-face meetings that will keep my participants healthier e.g. serve fresh and local food, networking time outdoors, or schedule time for exercise.
  7. Not serve any food on disposable service ware.
  8. Join an organization such as the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) or attend a conference to learn more about sustainable practices from colleagues.
  9. Choose a venue close to hotels, restaurants and entertainment so participants can walk instead of take shuttles.
  10. Ask caterers to serve beverages in bulk instead of individually packaged such water, juices and even soft drinks--like iced tea and lemonade in pitchers for a refreshing/inexpensive afternoon break.
  11. Thank the housekeeper for not replacing my towels and sheets everyday when I travel.
  12. Mentor someone just starting out in green meetings.
  13. Donate all the leftover food to a food bank.
  14. Ask all my vendors for their environmental policies.
  15. Look for destinations that already have green vendors and venues in place to make my job easier.
  16. Not print the date on my signage so it can be reused for the next event.
  17. Always ask for fair-trade coffee.
  18. Keep track of the financial savings for all of the green practices and become a hero in my boss’ eyes.

    ...and you didn't even need to change your shoes.