Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hiding the Dirty Laundry

Call me crazy, but when I see a bin like this...

I leap to the conclusion that items placed in the correct slot will be recycled.  Not necessarily true!  Within days of  the greenwashing article I wrote being posted, I came across more "dirty laundry." 

Our client was using a property they held a meeting in several years before.  During the previous meeting, the property had recycled paper, plastic and glass.  Bins such as the one above were scattered throughout the meeting room level.  During the negotiation phase and the pre-con, we asked about recycling and they assured us "all the same systems are in place."

During the back-of-house tour, it became apparent there was no recycling area for the bottles and cans.  When I asked the staff about this, they reported it cost money to have the recycling company pick those up so they no longer recycled bottles and cans.  So sorry.

Yet, in their meeting areas, they still had bins marked as if recycling was occurring.  Attendees were carefully separating their trash and feeling good about helping out when, in fact, it all went to the landfill.  Outrageous!  Somehow, that isn't "all the same systems are in place" in my book and if I hadn't pressed the issue of a tour, I would have never known.

Sadly, meeting organizers are still required to perform due diligence to hold our vendors responsible and consumers are being misled.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Back of House Tour: Dealing with Food Waste

Touring back of house at the Grand Hyatt New York during the BSR2012 Conference, we had the opportunity to observe their sustainable practices.  Chef Nick Rutyna; Dimitrios Mantzouranis, Executive Steward; and Wan Yi Tang, Convention Services Manager, showed us the kitchen, back docks, purchasing and recycling areas.

One of their proudest moments was showing us this hard-working machine.

This is the end of the line for the dishwasher that takes the food from scraped plates, dehydrates the waste, and deposits it into a can for composting.  The scraps are picked up daily from the back dock (along with the compostable disposable cups used at the property).

Bottom line:  This unit has cut food waste down to 1/8th of its former volume.  With no charge in the city for compost hauling, they estimate a total cost savings of 35% from the waste hauling bill.  Not to mention the additional space now available on the small back dock which serves this very large hotel.

Their team is very excited about the environmental practices they have been able to put into place and look forward to continuing their work toward a greener tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Reduce Paper, Gain a Sponsorship Opportunity

Still trying to do away with the paper program for your conferences or events? When the BSR 2012 conference made the choice eliminate the full conference program, they went to a conference app.   Their app program is incredibly robust and has been very successful this year with a large percentage of participants using it to find sessions, learn about fellow attendees, schedule sessions, follow the social media and take polls.  The app can be downloaded to your computer, tablet, or smart phone.

If you don't have access to any of those, we have a solution...

This freestanding, secure unit holds a tablet with the conference app for guests to check.  It is also a highly-visible conference sponsorship opportunity as they are placed throughout the event.  I am not marketing these stands, but I am trying to sell you on reducing paper and gaining a sponsor.  Keep it in mind.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

No Recycling Bins? Problem Solved!

How many times have you been told that a facility can't provide front-of-house recycling because they just don't have enough bins?  More than a few would be my guess.  Well, here's a cool solution you can suggest the next time you hear that excuse.

photo of recycling sign by Nancy Zavada
Use nicely framed signs placed on the serving tray stands normally used for used plates and cups at banquet functions.  This worked well in action in both hallways and at meal functions.

Friday, October 19, 2012

First Class Tap Water

As a follow up to Shawna McKinley's blog post about ditching water bottles and using tap water at conferences, I offer the following photo:

This is one of the most pleasing displays I have seen of fresh, iced tap water set with real glasses.  I can't believe guests would prefer a plastic bottle that gurgles and pops when you take a drink.

Thanks to the DoubleTree by Hilton Spokane City Center for providing this sustainable water station.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Case Study: Back of House Tour

The Efficiency Connections Northwest Conference we manage is being held at the Doubletree by Hilton Spokane City Center.  One of the reasons it was chosen to host this conference, was the property's sustainable policies.

Today, we took a back of the house tour to see those practices first hand.   Leading the tour was Barry Wright, Director of Property Operations.  He was very proud of his team's accomplishments.  (Seen here posing in front of the compost bin with Jody Aldred, CSM).  Among those accomplishments is the facility being the first business in Spokane compost, paving the way for other city businesses.

Measuring up against the other "brand" properties is also an area of pride and I think you will agree when you see these statistics:

Monthly use of Spokane City Center (bold)  vs. the brand average (in parentheses)

Water:     193 gal/room   (207 gal/room)
Waste:     4 lbs/room  (12 lbs/room)
Energy:    52 KBtu/ft2  (110 kbtu/ft2)

Score:      220 (163 out of a possible 300)

The tour of the kitchen was especially impressive with composting and recycling bins next to ever work station.  They have learned the fewer steps the better for diversion. The Chef also has an herb garden and works to provide a menu of local ingredients.  We recommend the huckleberry pancakes!

Congratulations to the entire Doubletree by Hilton Spokane City Center team and thanks for making our job easier!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Attention CMPs: CEUs For Reading My Blog!

That's right, fellow meeting professionals. 

According to the October 2012 issue of PCMA Convene, if you read the article "CMP Series: Olympian Effort" and followup by reading this post about What's New in Green Meetings  http://meetgreen.com/whats-new-in-green-meetings/ and the 2011 European Ecological Federation Sustainability Report you can apply for one hour of CEU credit. Instructions on  how to apply for the credit are included on page 76 of the Convene article.

What a handy, cost-effective way to earn credit towards your CMP.  Great idea, PCMA!

Photo credit: PCMA

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

5 Step Waste Management Plan for Events

In case you weren't able to attend Amy Spatrisano's presentation at IMEX America about strategies for waste management at events, I thought I would summarize the key elements so you can begin formulating your own waste management plans.

She recommended a five step approach to dealing with conference waste:

Step 1:  Avoid waste
Step 2:  Set a goal
Step 3:  Make a plan
Step 4:  Verify Practices
Step 4:  Write and talk about it

Let's take a closer look at "Step 3: Make a plan."

Start by asking the facility how they will manage the waste from your event.  How many waste streams are possible at their venue?  Do they recycle paper, cardboard, plastic, cans, glass, kitchen grease?  Are they able to compost and if so, is this front of house or back of house composting?  Will the rest go to the landfill or do they also have a donation stream.

Once you are assured they have the infrastructure to complete the tasks, there are some additional facts you will need to set up your plan.  Ask if they have staff who manage the waste inhouse AND if they have an outside provider.  You will also need to know if you need to supply staff or volunteers to assist with the process.  Find out who will be training both staff and volunteers to assist attendees with the often-confusing waste stream sorting.

Your role in this as the event organizer is also to understand how waste will be disposed of properly.  Different cities and different venues all have their own systems. Learn as much as you can about the system to help you prepare.  You may also need to be willing to support the facility with additional resources to provide the diversion rate you want.  Depending on what those resources are, this is usually a sponsorship opportunity.

After you have finalized all of the details into a written plan for your event, communicating it to everyone becomes your next move.  Who's everyone?  Meeting room cleaning crew, facility cleaning crew, general service contractor, waste hauler, catering staff, attendees, volunteers and your own staff.  Cast a wide net for success.

With all of the elements in place, you can sit back and watch it happen.  Well, realistically, you will probably won't be sitting back but instead be doing "Step 4: Verify," but that is another blog for another day!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Shout Sustainability From Your Website

Want all of your sponsors, attendees and exhibitors to know what green meeting policies you have in place for them?  

Don't miss the opportunity to educate and enroll them by putting information right on the conference website.  Key stakeholders are excited about the opportunity to attend a conference AND feel good about their environmental impact.  You have done all of the work to make it happen, why not share it with them and the world?  It may also provide you with a competitive advantage if prospective participants are shopping around.

Need some help deciding how a sustainable meeting page might look like for your organization?

These pages come in all shapes and sizes with some even offering Sustainability Reports from their past events.  Instead of telling you all about how to design one and what should be included, I am proudly sharing what a few of our upcoming clients have done.  Pictures (in this case, web pages) speak louder than words. 

2012 Net Impact Conference:

2012 Business for Social Responsibility Conference:

2012 IMEX America:

Efficiency Connections Northwest:

Look for our team at any of these upcoming events and we will gladly share our sustainability story!

Monday, October 1, 2012

ABCs of Sustainable Meetings

A Alternative Fuels - Includes a wide range of fuel types including biofuels derived from corn, so and recycled cooking oils, ethanol blended fuel, biodiesel, bioalcohol, etc. 

B Biodegradable - Capable of being broken down by natural processes, such as bacterial action (hint: always ask how long it takes to break down and if the product has been certified).

C Carbon Offset - A way of counteracting the carbon emitted when the use of fossil fuel causes greenhouse gas emissions. Offsets commonly involve investing in projects such as renewable energy, tree planting and energy efficiency projects. 

D Diversion Rate - The percentage of waste materials diverted from traditional disposal such as landfilling or incineration to be recycled, composted or re-used. 

 ...and on and on through the rest of the alphabet soup of sustainable meetings.  Green meeting practices often come with a whole new set of words to master. Like me, you probably don't have an environmental science degree and want an easy solution to this challenge.  

We've gotcha covered.  After constantly adding to and updating our glossary over the years, we recently published a new edition.  There are now over 500 words relating to meeting planning, CSR and sustainable events.

Please use our glossary http://meetgreen.com/free-info/glossary/

U Will be so happy you did!