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!"

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 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 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 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!