Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Graduation Day

With four graduations in our family this spring, "completion" has been a prominent theme around our house. Each of the graduates has proudly marched across the stage, received hearty congratulations and set out to celebrate their individual accomplishments over the past four years.

It occurs to me, many of us in the sustainable meeting industry have done the same. We worked very hard to research, learn and integrate green meeting practices. We have started green teams, improved waste management, cut down on energy use and made more responsible purchasing decisions. Just like the graduates, we may have received recognition for saving time, money and the environment and celebrated our success.

At home, (as soon as the parties ended) each of our graduating students started looking toward the future, eagerly anticipating the lessons awaiting them. Whether college, graduate school, or entering the business world, graduation in their eyes is the start of the next level of learning. They are enthusiastically embracing changes still to come, not resting on their latest achievement.

What about sustainable meetings? Are we eager to continue the momentum we have created or do we think we have "checked it off the list?" I would like to believe we are like Michelangelo who was quoted as saying...

"I am still learning."

Friday, May 27, 2011

Leading By Example

photo of Oracle OpenWorld in MeetGreen blogSometimes "show and tell" is the best way to teach. Today I offer the Oracle OpenWorld's Event Sustainability web page as an excellent example of stakeholder communication. This page is just one component in the education of conference participants, speakers, exhibitors and sponsors. With one click, they know what is being done on their behalf and how they can be involved.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

2011 VIP Requests

Today's hotel VIP has new wants and needs. Now more than ever high-level guests are demanding free internet service including Katy Perry http://travel.usatoday.com/hotels/post/2011/05/katy-perry-wants-free-internet-in-her-five-star-hotels/171554/1?csp=34travel
(Thanks to Meeting Focus for pointing me to this article).

Top musicians such as Jack Johnson, Pearl Jam, Green Day, Sheryl Crow and The Roots are leading the way with environmental responsibility during their tours. I would bet their riders include free internet along with sustainable practices such as in-room recycling, local and organic food and energy efficient fixtures. As musicians lead, their fans will follow.

Is the hotel industry keeping up with the times to pamper valuable clients? How have your VIP requests changed in the past two years?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

CSR Goes to Market

Looking for a community project for your organization or event? Here's an idea from Hollywood. Not the "Hollywood," instead my neighborhood in Portland, Oregon.

The local community center recently started a project to glean food for area seniors. Each week, Hollywood Farmer's Market vendors are asked to donate any food products not returning to the farms. Community Center volunteers arrive at the market upon closing, round up all the healthy, fresh food and take it to the neighborhood senior center. The Hollywood Center prepares the food and serves 30-60 seniors in-house and 150-200 seniors daily.

Such an easy, creative volunteer project with huge rewards. Now look around. Is this already happening in your area or could you start it? Could your organization provide volunteers? Would your conference or event provide volunteers as a community project? Imagine the difference a few hours of time can make to those in need.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Digesting the APEX/ASTM Standards

Photo of organic artichoke taken by MeetGreen

One quarter of the food for your event’s meals will be sustainable. Yes, 25% sustainable food may be required to meet Level One of the Food/Beverage Sector of the APEX/ASTM Standards according to the latest version (remember, these aren’t final, but I am still trying to help you get prepared). Sustainable food, in this case, includes both organic and/or local food products from within 250 miles.

Planning Sustainable Food and Beverage Events was the focus of yesterday's GMIC webinar including some of the proposed standards for Level One. Wendi Shafir, LEED AP, Chair of the APEX/ASTM Standards Food/Beverage Committee, provided clarification on a couple of procurement points. There was also discussion on both budgeting and negotiating to make environmentally friendly meals a reality. If you are interested in learning more, the full webinar will be available here http://www.greenmeetings.info/gmicwebinars

P.S. During the presentation, I promised to research another requirement of “bird friendly” coffee, here is a link with more information http://nationalzoo.si.edu/scbi/migratorybirds/coffee/lover.cfm

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Save the World...Or At Least Iowa

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Iowa for a family graduation. While it was personal and not business, I was unable to take off my sustainable meeting professional hat and feel compelled to file this report:

The hotel we chose is part of a large chain constantly touting its environmental commitment. At the front desk, I asked about their environmental practices and my question was met with a row of blank stares and shoulder shrugging. Up in the sleeping room, there was no towel/sheet reuse program, no recycling and no compact fluorescent light bulbs. There were, however, Styrofoam cups (wrapped in plastic) with plastic stir sticks and lids for my coffee. The staff kept asking me to fill out the guest comment card and I happily obliged with ideas on how they might be more sustainable…as already advertised, but not practiced.

Speaking of Styrofoam, all of the restaurants we visited offered polystyrene either for eating there or for items to be taken home. In fact, my personal favorite was the deli which used oblong Styrofoam containers for their submarine sandwiches. All treehugging aside, doesn’t paper actually do a better job of keeping the sandwich together?

Anyway, I am confessing here and now that I had to accept some of these meals and also had to throw the containers away. I’m sorry, I was hungry. If you know of a Styrofoam Offset Program, I would be happy to contribute with the hope the local restaurants and hotels could use the money to get started implementing greener practices.
My intention isn’t to call out Iowa or its citizens (they are not the only folks still maintaining outdated practices). My intention is to remind those of us living and breathing sustainable hospitality, we still have work to do.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I Prefer "Caribbean Green," If You Don't Mind

photo of green crayons taken by MeetGreen for sustainability blogSomeone referred to me as "dark green" the other day. Strange. It made me think of crayon colors, although I am sure that wasn't his goal. It also made me think about all the other colors in the box.

There are organizations who are very sustainable, environmentally and socially responsible who haven't brought this mandate forth to the meetings and events they hold. We see this time and time again. Somehow there is a disconnect between their vision to save the planet and their actions when convening stakeholders.

On the flip side, there are meeting departments producing exceptionally green meetings when the organization isn't all that interested if it doesn't impact stock prices. Venues have the same issue when the operations team incorporates measures to save energy, water and the environment, yet the sales team appears to be completely unaware (management usually knows because these measures are saving money).

As leaders in this industry, I believe our next step is to reduce this "silo effect" in each of our organizations and remember, even if we are different colors, we are all in the same box.

Monday, May 2, 2011

That's No Ordinary Joe!

Imagine for a moment you are planning a conference for over 1,000 participants and the topic is corporate social responsibility. Now imagine the cost of serving 100% organic, shade grown, fair trade coffee is not within your budget (probably not that tough, right?). Now imagine the reaction if the coffee served at meals isn't sustainable. Yikes!

This dilemma was experienced by Carole Garner, MeetGreen, while planning the 2010 Business for Social Responsibility Conference in New York. She had to get resourceful and fast. Read about her solution as well as the other ideas to consider in Notes From the Field