Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Think Composting Won't Save You Money. Think Again.

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, Oregon, where in 2011 we instituted a home composting program to capture food waste. It is hauled away with our yard debris--weekly.  Our landfill service is now every other week. 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!

Thanks to this new policy, Portland's landfill waste decreased 44% in the first quarter alone.

Imagine your meeting venue reducing it's waste hauling bill by 44% in one quarter, substantial savings right off the bottom line.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Come Out With Your Sporks Up!

"Justin Beiber doesn't make a ceramic birthday party plate, so here's your paper plate.  
Deal with it!" 

This is a direct quote from my sister as she was handing me a piece of cake for my niece's Justin Beiber themed birthday party and a piece of her mind.  She also shared that she had already removed the plastic "sporks" from the table prior to my arrival.

Just another day in the life of the Eco-Police.  In my defense, I don't believe I am too militant about my my environmental views with my family.   They do read my blog and my books and know what MeetGreen is all about.  Thus, they are usually proudly telling me what they did to use the Earth's resources wisely--without being asked.   I try to live my life sustainably and not get into my loved one's business.  It is after all, their business. 

Okay, I will admit one time I did go on a bit of a rampage about virgin toilet paper after I took a walk through a logging clear-cut on the Oregon Coast.

Then there was one time when I did make a bit of a stink traveling through Illinois and the take-out restaurant put my sub-sandwich in a little polystyrene coffin.  Not only was it unsustainable, but the sandwich flopped around inside spilling its contents and would have been far better wrapped in a piece of paper.  

And yes, I do often ask Starbucks if they have any fair-trade coffee brewed (hint: sadly, the answer is usually no, they only have it available in packages).

Perhaps somewhere along the line, my work splashed over into my personal life and I became the family Eco-Police.  When you are passionate about your work, I guess it happens.

How about you, my fellow green professionals?  Does your family hide the plastic sporks when you come to dinner?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Event Recycling 101

Recycling is the final option before the landfill and one that can still have an impact on your economic bottom line.  It is essential to the environmental bottom line and cannot be stressed enough.  It is also becoming one of the easiest initiatives to request and implement.

Consider how much money you can save on waste hauling charges.  Traditionally, show organizers are charged for hauling away waste from the event.  Your first haul may be free, and then the rest are typically charged at the local rate.  This charge can be from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on where the venue is located.  Avoid paying this fee by both reducing what is brought onsite and increasing the percentage of materials recycled.

The Top Two Tips to make your recycling program a success are:

  1. Choose a destination with a recycling infrastructure in place, this is a key decision that will make your work implementing a recycling program much easier.  During the request for proposal process ask the recycling questions, tour the facility, learn what is involved and what is possible.  It is possible to set up a recycling system in a facility or city that currently doesn't have one, but it is much more time consuming.  And none of us have any extra time, right?
  2. Use volunteers to maximize recycling efforts.  Managing the waste stream can be complex.  For the participant in a hurry to dispose of an item, very difficult indeed. One way to significantly increase your event's recycling numbers is to use "green angels" stationed by the recycling area to assist people with selecting the right bin.  Statistics and experience show us their impact, over and over again.  Sponsoring these volunteers is also a great sponsorship opportunity for many organizations who want their name associated with "feel good, look good!"

Photo courtesy of UUA General Assembly.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ideas to Reduce Box Lunch Packaging

photo of polystyrene container by MeetGreen
By now you know that serving food in bulk saves money and the environment.  Caterers we work with estimate the savings to be between 50% and 60% for serving bulk condiments instead of individually packaged. 

What happens if you need to serve box lunches?  Sometimes it is just a necessity, but there are always options.  Start by coming up with a creative way to replace the container.  One event employed sponsored carpenters aprons for a container. Another had all the items out on a banquet table with bags available if needed, but most people just grabbed a sandwich and an apple and off they went.

Try to steer away from as much individual packaging as possible. Set out the sandwiches on a buffet and have participants select their sandwich, put mustard, mayo, etc. on them before wrapping them up.  The bonus for guests, is they get to have only their favorite condiments.   Cookies and whole fruit don't require packaging and also don't require utensils.

You get the idea, now meet with the chef and get creative.  Ask the caterer to pass along some of the savings by lowering the cost of the meal.

Excerpt from Saving Green by Going Green