Monday, April 29, 2013

Confessions of a Dumpster Diving Team

Over the last six years MeetGreen has collected a wealth of information about event impacts.  We have entered 40 client events into our MeetGreen Calculator which provides a meta-indicator of how successful our clients have been at improving event sustainability through policy, procurement, implementation and measured results.  We are thrilled to see their efforts continue to improve overall year after year.

In addition, 32 of these events have delivered data about carbon, waste and water impacts.  We audit and analyze this information to filter for reliability and completeness under our ISO 20121 management system.

Based on this information, we estimate the average daily footprint of a typical event attendee at events we have worked to be as follows, which provides us with a baseline of comparison for client events:

319 pounds carbon dioxide per participant
 10 gallons water use at venues per participant
1.4 pounds of landfill at venues per participant
3.6 pounds of waste at venues per participant
 ("waste" includes all event discards, e.g. landfill, recycling, compost and donations)

This above is an excerpt from our 2012 Corporate Report.  For more information about how our event sustainability management system plays a key role in aligning our project teams to pursue consistent, measurable objectives to reduce our operational footprint, improve risk management and measure the impact of legacy activities, read the full report here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sustainability Quotes for Reuse

Sometimes it is one line of a speech or a sentence uttered in a hallway which provides all the inspiration you need.  I offer here, my collection of sustainable meetings related quotes, overheard at the Green Meeting Industry Council's Sustainable Meetings Conference:
"Sustainability is still a beta test." - Eric Ryan

"Don't forget to FLOSS (fresh, local, organic, seasonal, sustainable)." - Chef Steven Ward

"Get past the "holiday" mode of attendees while at an event." - group discussion

"What inspires you more than making money?" - Eric Ryan

"Share shamelessly." - Brian Hunt

"Sustainability: Meeting producers don't be left behind." - posted sign

"Hooray, the final standard, Accommodations, standard is published!  Now we can get going." - Amy Spatrisano and Lawrence Leonard

"I'd rather be a pirate than in the Navy." - Steve Jobs quote during a session

"Is it legal to donate leftover food?"  - question asked during a session.  Immediate and overwhelming response from the room, "YES!"

"We are all in this together."  Paul Salinger

"Make it personal.  Make it visible.  Make it possible." - Julie Baylor

...And my personal favorite,  "What would MacGyver do right now?"

Monday, April 22, 2013

You Have Probably Heard it is Earth Day

photo of Tillamook Bay Oregon by Nancy Zavada

It's Earth Day.  You can't miss it.  Every product, service, news show and community is parading out it's finery, boasting about how they save the planet.  What good global citizens we are on Earth Day.  Wonderful!  This doesn't need to be a day of boasting (we, Americans, can't help ourselves), but if flag-waving is what it takes to get more people conscious of the environmental issues, then I am all for it.

What's missing for me is the celebration of all we have accomplished day in and day out for the past year.  An acknowledgement of each change we made, sustainable initiative we implemented, and our progress (not perfection) from where we were 12 months ago today.   A recognition of our friends, co-workers, vendors and clients who have been our partners every step along the way.

So today I celebrate and give thanks to all of my partners who have made such great progress this year.  Together, we have tried new things, made a few mistakes and learned along the way.  As the momentum has grown over the years, it is really quite amazing to reflect on what we have done together!  I look forward to this next year where we will do the same, day in and day out, quietly leaving this planet better than we found it.

Thank you!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Raise Your Hand If You Aren't Perfect

The Sustainable Meetings Industry has come so far with so many passionate professionals dedicated to making a difference and we aren't done yet.  Thought leaders at the GMIC' Sustainable Meetings Conference last week found common threads in our work in these 11 areas...

  1. It is not more expensive: building the business case
  2. Using standards to accelerate sustainability
  3. Communicating the value of being sustainable
  4. Integrating sustainability into meeting design
  5. Starting a sustainability program
  6. Measuring and reporting progress
  7. Waste not, want not: reduction and donation strategies
  8. Being weird: innovating through sustainability
  9. Beyond green: from fair wages to community action
  10. Sustainable exhibits and engaging exhibitors
  11. Convincing the masses: engaging on a larger scale
Using everything from IPads to color crayons, we unleashed our collective brain power around these topics and found creative ideas and strategies to use moving forward.  We spent the week discussing issues, sharing stories and leaning on each other for support when overwhelmed.

Early in the conference, a keynote speaker talked about "Progress Not Perfection," a motto that rings true in the sustainability world.  We are transforming an industry and have come so far, yet are sometimes disheartened by the amount left to be done. His words reminded us to celebrate the progress and not get caught up in the perfection which isn't attainable yet.  We followed his wise advice and went home with renewed hope for the future of the meetings industry and the planet.

I would like to personally thank those who were vulnerable enough to share their stories about imperfection with me either publically or privately.  You inspire me! It's hard to admit that some days, it is just not easy being green.  Luckily, we all know it is worth the effort. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

WTF Was I Thinking?

What was I thinking when I started out on this green meeting journey?  There wouldn't be any resistance by venues, hotels and suppliers?  The key stakeholders of organizations would immediately embrace sustainability as "the right thing to do?"  We wouldn't have to prove the economic savings before anyone would listen?  That it would be easy being green?  Well...

 Kermit Lied!

We found all sorts of obstacles to more sustainable meetings.  My Pollyanna, tree-hugging beliefs were soon squelched with the reality of trying to change an industry.  I am not alone in my struggles to implement green meeting practices, yet there is rarely an opportunity to talk to fellow meeting professionals commiserate about some of the hilarious antics inherent in "going green."

GMIC leaders were gracious, not to mention very trusting, when they approved my GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference session to talk about some of the bloopers, scrapes and bumps experienced while greening events.  Katherine Manfredi agreed to be my partner-in-crime and share her stories as co-presenter.

We are both confident the story will have a happy ending as each day it gets a little easier.  Suppliers have made great progress in providing environmentally friendly services, standardized systems are in place, and the groundwork has been laid to make the job less overwhelming. We will talk about those too so you don't have to learn the hard way.

Consider this is an open invitation to join us for an irreverent romp through life as a sustainable meeting professional!  Bring a tale or two of your own.