Thursday, November 20, 2014

Looking for a Role Model?

Then look no further. The UUA General Assembly has just published it's 2014 Event Sustainability Report and it is another successful year for the planning team of Jan Sneegas, Don Plante, Steve Ransom and Stacey Dixon.

Highlights from this year's event include:
  • Converting the Convention Center to 100% compostable serviceware for all concesions and catering during the General Assembly.
  • Expanding the the recycling and composting programs at the Rhode Island Convention Center to include co-mingled recyclables and front of house food and serviceware.  The Dunkin Donuts Center offered composting for the first time.
  • Record-high contributions toward a carbon offset project.
  • 100% of exhibitors signed sustainability Terms and Conditions for their booths.
  • Hotel worker solidarity was an important issue as the UUA canceled contracts with two local hotels due to outstanding labor issues.

and the list goes on.

The planning team would tell you they didn't get there overnight or without the help of their vendors, volunteers and participants.  To help you along the way, they have shared a "road map" in the form of all past case studies posted on this website (scroll down for the past reports).  They share openly about their challenges, opportunities and successes.  Take a few moments to learn from the best.

2015 will find the UUA General Assembly in Portland, Oregon.  The team is already meeting with the city, convention center, hotels and vendors to make sure sustainable practices are in place.  Keep watching!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Saving Green by Going Green at the Pump

Ten years ago, my reason for buying a Prius was to be gentler on our planet.  I was concerned about reducing greenhouse gases and my dependence on oil (full disclosure: there are some who say I wasn't concerned enough to give up my car completely.  You are right, it is a journey for me too).

Two weeks ago, the Prius turned over 100,000 miles and all of the early hoopla about the batteries not lasting and other scary myths have been put to rest.  I calculated the cost of gas for driving those 100,000 at my average of 47mpg.  Based on $3.35/gallon (avg) paid at the pump, this was a total of $7,127.66.

Just for fun, my husband calculated the cost of gas for his business' pick-up truck, which also has 100,000 miles, and found he paid over $21,000 to drive the same distance.  I saved nearly $14,000 in gas alone by driving a hybrid!

It turns out, by "doing the right thing" for the environment, I did the right thing for my pocketbook.  Perhaps it is time to dust off the bike after all.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Taking the Leap to Paperless

No more binders full of paper, no more printing banquet event orders, no more copies of production schedules.  We did it!  Thanks to technology, resourceful team members and a true commitment to reduce our own event planning paper stream, this fall's event documents are now 100% electronic.

Carole Garner, Director of Conference Management, made it her own personal mission to go digital and through her leadership transformed the way we do business.  The team learned a lot during the testing phase and incorporated those learnings into a final product.  During a pre-con this week, the Grand Hyatt New York Conference Service Manager and staff said we were the first to go through a full week of events without one piece of paper.

In the picture of Carole above, you will also note, we were able to source name badges that don't require plastic name badge holders (Thanks to Shawna McKinley, Director of Sustainability).  The lanyard she is wearing will be reused.

If you want any details, please, just ask!  Those of you familiar with MeetGreen, know that we openly share our resources and don't believe fellow industry professionals should have to reinvent the wheel. 

After all, "One small step for man, one giant leap..."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Treading Lightly Near the Rim

Leaving Las Vegas for the Grand Canyon, I had a lot of expectations around the vast natural beauty I was soon to explore.  What I didn't expect was a sustainable lodging experience, second-to-none, with an honest concern for treading lightly on the Earth.

My hotel room at the Grand National Park Lodge surprised me with:

Bulk hand soap and a recycled-content, compostable cup
to fill with certified coffee from well-managed sources

and all the amenities I could need in bulk dispensers in the shower.

Now I'm no expert...
Well, maybe I am, but I was very impressed by the "legendary hospitality with a softer footprint" the Xanterra Parks and Resorts property offered during my stay.

Early members of the Green Meeting Industry Council, they have worked hard to provide sustainable accommodations to the 4.5 million people per year who visit the Grand Canyon alone.  Since 2000, they have used:

48.6% less water
17.4% less electricity
40% less construction waste per project and 32% less waste overall.

Over 40% of their food is sustainably sourced and in the first three months of 2014, the mules munched three tons of kitchen scraps such as discarded apples, lettuce, melon rinds and pumpkins.

While not every hotel has mules to feed, every hotel has a responsibility to its guests and to the planet.  Having seen this in action, I will be far more likely to hold hotels to a higher standard of sustainable hospitality.

Note:  As I was happily running about the hotel room taking these photos, my patient husband simply said, "Oh no, I feel a blog post coming on."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

#Eventprofs Call to Action

When Lindsay Arell accepted the Convention Industry Council Pacesetter Award last week during IMEX America, she challenged the audience of top-level meeting industry professionals to change an industry.  Her passionate plea is essential to our future and for those of you who didn't hear it, I share it with you now.

"I am so incredibly honored to be receiving this award from the Convention Industry Council and my colleagues.

For those  of you who may not know me, my role in our industry for the past 8 years has been to work with planners and suppliers to implement more sustainable best practices in their operation and events.  When I started in this role, these efforts were few and far between.  However, the idea that we could and SHOULD  do things different was beginning to take shape and the conversation was started.  In fact, as I look around the room tonight, some of those early adopters and leaders are here.

One of the reasons I have been so inspired to continue on this path is because the scope of influence that the meeting industry has globally.  When we bring innovation, creativity, and sustainability to our meetings and events, we have the opportunity to touch the lives of thousands of people.  This includes not only the suppliers we work with and our staff, but also the attendees of our events and potentially their friends and family.  If a person experiences sustainability at an event, they may very well bring those practices back to their office and into their daily lives and to their friends, partners and children.  And as we all know, there is a meeting or association for every type of person… meaning our scope of influence is seemingly limitless.

But it all starts here… I truly believe each and every one of us can participate in this movement!  Therefore I am taking this opportunity tonight to appeal to you all with a call to action.  I urge everyone in this room – suppliers and planners – to begin the conversation around sustainability.  Just ask… what can we do differently or expand upon to improve the sustainability of my operation?  Then, take that step.  Even if it is just one… we all need to get on the escalator of change and together we have the power to shift our industry.  Thank you very much!"
- Lindsay Arell, October 12, 2014

Thank you, Lindsay, for your inspired dedication and the call to action.  Let's make her proud!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Leave 'Em Behind

Packing for IMEX America 2014, I pull out all my best "Las Vegas" shoes and fill up a suitcase.

All of this thinking about my feet reminds me of my carbon footprint.

Which reminds me of a fact I learned about last year's IMEX America...

"If every attendee had packed just one less pair of shoes, it would have saved 50,245 lbs. of CO2."  

That's a lot of greenhouse gas.

With this in mind, I parse my shoe wardrobe and pull out these beauties to stay home.  To which, my husband loudly remarked, "You should have left those behind a decade ago."

Headed for Vegas, Baby!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Quick Tips on Negotiating Internet Pricing

A few weeks ago, we gave you some quick tips for determining the bandwidth needs for your conference here.  That's not the only thing keeping you up at night though, right?  You also need to know how to best negotiate for those internet services. The costs can certainly be a budget-breaker if you aren't prepared.

Realizing this, Carole Garner, Director of Conference Management, stepped back in front of the camera to share her expertise on negotiating the best deal.

See you on the road!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Essential Information

When Carole Garner joined MeetGreen in 2006, her passion for nature and a love of the outdoors came with her.  As the Director of Conference Management and Leadership Team Member, she soon discovered bringing green to meetings wasn't always easy.  Through her diligent, caring mentoring of both clients and staff alike, she has enrolled them in sustainability initiatives and created change.  She also learned a lot along the way.

During September's Meetings Focus webinar, Green Meetings Essentials, she shared her insight with other professionals who play a role in bringing sustainability to meetings.  Her strategies and observations are vital if you are leading a team to a more sustainable future, one conference at a time.

You can (and should) watch it on demand right here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Having Nightmares About Event Bandwidth?

Making sure all your attendees stay connected during the event has become your responsibility.  Lack of connectivity is now tantamount to running out of coffee the morning after the big party.  This new task crept into meeting professional's job descriptions catching many unaware and scrambling for information.  We feel your pain.  Our conference team set out to become experts on this issue and after much research, accomplished their goal.

So if you have more questions than answers and need a place to start, I invite you to watch this short video by Carole Garner, Director of Conference Management, MeetGreen.

If you need more help, don't hesitate to contact us at  See you on the road!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Two (More) Words

In article entitled, "Two Words," recently published in Smart Meetings, Jim Spellos taught us everything we need to know about the tech landscape as it relates to events, in just two words.  I highly recommend reading and adopting his wise words.  He included the words, Sustainable Events, understanding sustainability and technology are inseparably linked in this context. 

One of Jim's favorite projects, the Whole Earth Calculator, was recently endorsed by The White House as part of President Obama's directive on greenhouse gas emissions.  The Whole Earth Calculator converts the total pounds of paper products and plastics that are diverted from landfills into the amount of carbon dioxide that is not produced as a result, and then sends this information to social media. The tool can also be used to convert total pounds of donated food into meal equivalents and carbon dioxide averted equivalents.  Simply brilliant!

Moving forward, the two words, Sustainability and Technology, will remain inseparably linked.  They will provide tools to make meeting professionals lives easier and more environmentally friendly.  In fact, they already have, e.g. online registration, conference apps and hybrid meetings.

Jim Spellos talks about embracing change, because "you really don't have a choice." Certainly this is true for both technology and sustainability.  I would like to add my two words worth, "Start Today," because the future was never brighter for meeting professionals ready to make a change.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rockin' the Recycling

The long, hot days of summer are a perfect time to relax and enjoy live music in a beautiful outdoor setting. While listening to your favorite tunes, keep one eye focused on the environmental practices taking place at the festival. The good news is, here in the Pacific Northwest, festivals and events are going green this summer in record numbers. Hopefully, you are seeing this as well in your area.

If not, help the festival organizers along with these Top Ten Tips for Sustainable Events...

1. Talk to your waste/recycling hauler early in the planning process to develop a recycling program
2. Hire/appoint a recycling coordinator
3. Purchase green power for the stage and lighting
4. Use biodiesel to power generators
5. Require food vendors to serve local, sustainable food
6. Do not allow vendors or the venue to serve food in polystyrene and non-recyclable plastics
7. Provide incentives for the audience to use mass transit
8. Purchase carbon offsets to mitigate the travel by artists
9. Develop talking points for the artists to discuss what is being done to green the event
10. Just get started. Choosing even one idea from this list will have a huge impact. Measure what you have done and build on it next year.

As an audience member, don't forget to do your part by taking mass transit, bringing a reusable water bottle and using recycling bins provided.  We're in this together!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ignore the Polar Bear

Last week I saw a consumer product with a photo of a polar bear.  Right next to the sweet polar bear was the tag line, "The Right Choice."  Searching the rest of the packaging, I was unable to find any reason this product was environmentally the right choice or better than the competition.  Polar bears have become the symbol for Saving the Earth and can be found on cleaning products, office supplies and even the back of buses.

In the past, we have talked about greenwashing, the practice of "advertising positive environmental practices while acting in the opposite way", and hoped it would subside. Sadly, it is alive and well in 2014 although as consumers have gotten more savvy, so have the claims being made. How can you avoid falling prey to greenwashing in the meeting and event industry?

Here are a few tips: 

Be informed. The first step is to make sure you research your supply chain. What does it mean when your suppliers say they are sustainable? Don’t be afraid to ask them about their specific practices.

Understand what terms such as ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ mean. Natural does not necessarily mean healthy--arsenic, uranium and formaldehyde are natural yet poisonous. And as far as non-toxic goes, everything is can be toxic, or deadly in sufficient dosages including oxygen, water and salt.

Be clear on the criteria used by ecolabels and certifications. The hotel sector has quite a few, such as Green Seal (US), Green Key (Canada) and Green Globe (Europe and Austral-asia). These are all third party certifications which look at sustainable operations. LEED certification looks at green construction. When researching ecolabels and certifications look for those using clear criteria, that adopt third party verification and report regularly on their environmental performance.

Participate in a back of house tour. This is the most effective way to ensure that vendors who claim to be green actually have sustainable practices in place. Ask to see the kitchen and areas where waste is sorted. Vendors who are being honest will not be fearful of letting you see what they do in the back of house. Note: this is a critical step which I missed once and learned the lesson the hard way.  Learn from my mistakes.

Be transparent in your own practices. Do what you say and be honest about what you do. Your risk of greenwashing in your organization is reduced when you are clear and up front about your commitment, intentions and actions.

Step away from the polar bear and remember the general rule of thumb applies: Caveat emptor – buyer beware!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Business Lessons from Twenty Years in the Event Industry

Celebrating MeetGreen's 20th Anniversary

They say if you start a business and it is still in business five years later, you are a success.  I would add, if you start a business and twenty years later you are still engaged, excited and passionate about what the company brings to the world, you are triumphant.

As we celebrate MeetGreen’s 20th Anniversary this year, the excitement and passion for our work as a talented group of impeccable professionals is unmistakable.   Not resting on our laurels of being acclaimed pioneers in sustainable meeting management, we are pushing forward to bring the power of human connection to the future of meeting design.

Pausing to reflect during this important company milestone, I share the secrets of our triumph:

  1. ALWAYS surround yourself with the best, brightest and most passionate people.
  2. Technology is your friend, embrace it.
  3. Empower your team to take the initiative.
  4. There is no such thing as giving a client too much service.
  5. Make decisions based on people, profit AND planet.
  6. Hiring people is fun, firing is not.
  7. Never stop learning and growing.
  8. Data is important.  Track it, measure it, analyze it.
  9. Someone else probably has a better idea than you.
  10. Always acknowledge an employee’s contribution.
  11. Nothing is off the record.
  12. Treat your vendors as true partners.
  13. Everyone pitches in during “crunch time” and that means everyone.
  14. Showing stress at work is contagious, so is showing kindness.
  15. Your very first client should still be a client.
  16. Listen!
  17. A bad year isn’t the end, but it is an opportunity for change.  Use it.
  18. Look out for each other.
  19. Collaborate with your competitors, you all win in the end.
  20. Be grateful!
Thanks to all of our employees, clients, partners, mentors, fans, significant others, and esteemed colleagues for making this the best 20 years of my life.

Reprinted from the MeetGreen July, 2014, Newsletter

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Question that Never Ends

There's a children's song called, "The Song that Never Ends" and thanks to Lamb Chop & friends, the music still plays in my head.

Likewise, in sustainable meetings, there is a "Question that Never Ends" and, by golly, it hasn't.  The question is..."Is it illegal to donate food after an event?"

Rarely does a week go by, when someone doesn't ask me this question. Then it hit closer to home yesterday when my daughter asked the same question.  Working for a hotel, she had volunteered for the property's Green Team thinking it was going to be an easy project given all of the "green stuff" she has been inundated with over the years.  When she raised her hand at the first meeting and asked why they didn't donate food, she was told for "liability reasons."  She argued her point for a while and then came looking for back up.

Here are a few links I passed along:

and there's an app for that 

Long story, short, The Bill Emerson Food Donation Act allows you help the hungry.

What does the law do? The law protects good-faith donors from civil and criminal liability in the event that the product later causes harm to its recipient. The Emerson Act gives uniform protection to food donors who may cross state lines.

Who is protected? The law protects food donors, including individuals and nonprofit feeding programs that act in good faith. More specifically, the law protects individuals, corporations, partnerships, organizations, associations, governmental entities, wholesalers, retailers, restaurateurs, caterers, farmers, gleaners, nonprofit agencies, and others.

What sort of food is protected? The Emerson Act provides protection for food and grocery products that meet all quality and labeling standards imposed by federal, state, and local laws and regulations - even though the food may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus, or other conditions.

Where can I find a place to donate? Find a local food bank using the Food Bank Locator on Feeding America's website.  Your role is to connect the local food bank and the catering firm. They will take care of the details.

In the current economy, food banks are struggling to fill their shelves to help the hungry and planners want to know how to help.  I am glad this question keeps coming up because at least people are still asking about food donation.  Now I just need a few lyrics and a memorable melody!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Accidental Planner

It wasn't too long after starting my job as communications director for a national healthcare firm, when the president appeared at my desk one day.  "It time we start planning our annual conference and by we, I mean you," he calmly stated.  The blank stare on my face was hiding the sheer panic in my mind and my racing heart. 

Over the years, I came to realize I am not the only one whose meeting planning career wasn't part of the original plan.  I have met meeting planners who started as nurses, engineers, musicians, computer programmers, scientists, and yoga instructors--all accidental planners.  Whether through volunteer work in their field or as job responsibility in a large corporation, they were drawn into the role of producing a meeting.

All of us have fumbled our way through learning about budgets, how many people a gallon of coffee will serve, meeting room sets, why good AV is so vital, and how temperamental VIPs can act.  Dealing with the simple logistics before we ever heard anything about the ROI or meeting architecture.

Luckily for me, meeting planning was a natural fit. As the company grew, so did my professional skills until the day when I became the Director of Conference Management.  But I have never forgotten my first meeting.

So for all of the accidental planners out there, I feel your pain.  In an effort to help, we have put together a 12-Step Program called Event Planning 101.  This list will at least get you started asking the right questions and learning a few of the fundamentals involved in planning a meeting.  You've got to start somewhere, right?


Thursday, June 5, 2014

There is No Finish Line

Chalk finish line photo by Nancy Zavada

Here's the deal...there is no finish line.  Marathon runners cross the line only to start training for the next race hoping to beat their best personal time.  Graduation day celebrants talk about what is lies ahead.  Work promotions are steps to the next goal.  Event planners know they are only as good as their last event and look forward future events.

So it goes with sustainability.  There is always more to learn, attempt and accomplish.  First it was implementing basic green meeting practices, then came measuring/benchmarking and on to reporting.  As the next event rolled around it was time to increase initiatives and beat the personal best.

The fact there is no finish line shouldn't make us want to give up and stop trying, it should invigorate each one of us to keep going to reach even higher goals.  That is the beauty of the human spirit...we keep trying!

Embrace the joy, hope and excitement as you keep creatively integrating sustainability into your work and your lives.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Data is a Beautiful is Water

photo of the Oregon Coast by Nancy Zavada
Data is a beautiful thing.  It helps you tell a story, understand the significance and ultimately, demonstrate you are doing the right thing.  The right thing, like conserving water.  In today's "radical transparency" world of social media, your personal, professional or organization's reputation may depend on it. Just a few tweets by watchful participants at a conference can significantly impact your reputation in either a positive or negative manner.

Initial data from the Living Future unConference 2014 helps tell the story of a sustainable meeting.  The conference organizers made informed choices and the data makes it real.  For instance, they...

  • Chose chicken instead of beef for the dinner event saving 257,750 gallons of water.
  • Chose apples instead of tropical fruit such as bananas saving 9,536.75 gallons of water.
  • Chose a hotel with a linen-reuse program saving 1,340 gallons of water, thanks to attendee participation.
  • Provided tap water for attendees to refill their reusable water bottles saving enough energy to run an average American household for 2,062 hours.  Note: changed from tap to a filtered water system after Portland announced a Contaminated Water Alert during the conference.  Even with this alert, no individual bottles of water were consumed (a blog post unto itself).
These are in addition to other policies we posted about earlier such as serving 100% either local or organic food or verifying recycling during the event.

If you haven't already, start today collecting data, measuring, reporting and sharing your story.  Let them catch you doing something right, it's a beautiful thing

Source: Fun facts generated by  "If One Attendee" tool.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

100% Fresh, Local, Organic Meals at a Hotel? You Bet!

The challenge...serve 100% local or organic food at the Living Future unConference 2014.  In our experience, this has never been done before for a group of over 1,000 people for three days.

Bryan Siegel, Executive Chef, Hilton Portland & Executive Towers, was up to the challenge this week.  He diligently sourced the conference menus and was able to serve 100% local, organic or both local/organic food (in many cases). Fresh, healthy food to feed the innovative participants of this event and support of the local farmers, ranchers and companies.

With a huge thank you to Chef Bryan, the Hilton Banquet staff, and all of the community farms and vendors who worked so hard on our delightful meals (roll credits)...

Mary Organic Chicken
Zenners – sausages
Carlton – pork loin
Beecher’s Cheese
Tillamook Cheese
Stieber Farm – Eggs
Columbia Valley Organic Juice
Nancy’s Yogurt
Rumiano Family Cheese 
Essential Baking – bread
Marsee Bakery – breakfast pastries, cookies, desserts
Bob’s Red Mill Granola
Ryan’s Juice
Odwalla Juice

Broetje Orchards
Viva Tierra
Rainier Fruit
Cal-Ore Potatoes
Food Source
Deardorff Family
Field Fresh
Del Cabo
New Horizon

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Is Our Meeting Sustainable?

If you are attending the Living Future unConference 2014, relax we've got you covered.

Even before you made plans to attend, The Living Future Institute conference organizers and MeetGreen team were on the job, planning an environmentally-responsible event.  The first step was choosing a Green Seal and Green Key Certified hotel, the Hilton Portland & Executive Towers.  The hotel is in a walkable community with access to mass transit from the airport, local shopping and dining.

It is not enough to select the hotel and hope all of the green initiatives are in place, the team must also verify these practices before the event begins.  So yesterday, one day before the unConference 2014 was set to begin, we took a back-of-house tour where we saw all of the systems in action and breathed in the sweet smell of composting material.

Here's what we found:
  • Recycling bins in the meeting rooms and guest rooms
  • A 2014 year-to-date waste diversion rate of 72.74%
  • An elaborate waste system which has eliminated two days of garbage hauls per week
  • Three master recyclers on staff
  • 1,500 lbs. of plastic wrap is recycled each year
  • and a composting bin tipper, affectionately named "Tipper Gore" by Don George, Hilton's Composting Guru

It must be said all of these sustainable efforts take place at a downtown hotel with less loading dock space than most people's back decks.  It is a 24-hour process to bring compost and recyclables from the five kitchens in two buildings.

So check-in, grab your name badge and rest easy, we've done the heavy lifting for you.  Stay tuned for the 100% local or organic food to be served.  It will be a first in our experience!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

No, Not the C Word!

Yes, that's right, "Collaboration."  The word, collaboration, is widely used when talking about sustainable meetings.  Sustainable event planners go on and on about how they must collaborate with the venues, chefs, waste haulers, general service contractors, hotels, transportation companies and even entire cities to produce an environmentally and socially responsible event.  They are right.  It takes communication and cooperation between all parties to really drive this change to the next level.

Now for the scary part.  The next level will also require collaboration between industry competitors, even to the extent that we share our failures.  There is no quicker way to move this process along than to talk about a failed attempt and the lessons we learned.  Imagine each of us, checking our egos at the door and discussing a fabulous plan that just didn't work out.  To be vulnerable to our peers with the hope that in the spirit of collaboration, we all learn.  Thanks to Elizabeth Glau, who bravely did just that on her blog.

For years, Oracle Open World (pictured above) has thrown open it's doors for planners (including competitors) to go behind the scene and see Oracle's successes and failures during this huge event.  They collaborate with the entire hospitality community and repeatedly offer other conferences the opportunity to share their resources in the San Francisco area.

Ten years ago, we first had to sell a potential client on the very idea of being more environmentally conscious before talking about our services and our competitors were very few.  Today, most clients are aware of the benefits of corporate social responsibility and the number of competitors vying for the business has increased significantly. The landscape has changed.

Let's not let the fear of increased competition keep us from collaborating with each other.  Let's instead manage this monumental shift in our industry by sharing resources, ideas and, yes, even failures.  If the recent reports of climate change are any indication, there will be plenty of work for all of us.  We can make this work a little lighter with an open spirit of collaboration along the way.

"If everyone is moving forward together, 
then success takes care of itself." - Henry Ford

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

SCRAPy Solution to Event Waste

Photo at SCRAP in San Francisco by Nancy Zavada

Imagine, someone begging for donations of used signage, conference bags and lanyards?  Me neither, until I took a field trip to SCRAP during the GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference. 

SCRAP takes an amazing amount of used items (ones that Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity won't) and diverts 250 tons of waste from the landfill each year.  The Creative Reuse Center and Warehouse is organized by type of material: wood, metal, glass, fabric, paper, images, plastic, natural materials, beads & buttons, arts & crafts, toys, and more. The entrance contains a section of free materials. The rest are available at low-cost to artists, teachers and the creative public. Monies raised from the depot keep SCRAP going, offering free materials pick-ups, low-cost workshops, school field trips, and more.

Never again will conferences and events in San Francisco have to wonder where they can donate those leftover items.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Stop Hunger. Looking Silly Optional!

On Day Two of the GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference, participants took part in a project to help Stop Hunger Now.

This is one of the most well organized volunteer projects I have ever been involved in.  It was easy for attendees to step right in and begin packing food for the hungry.  It was fun, worthwhile and the music kept the energy up.  In just one hour's time, attendees were able to pack nearly 30,000 meals and look silly all at the same time.

Take a look at their website (linked above) and consider doing the same at your event.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

No Excuse Guest Recycling

No guest room recycling because your hotel can afford to add recycling bins?  Look no further.  This low tech answer is as close as a paper bag.  When the GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference convened at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, guests found this solution in their rooms which resulted in a twitter fury praising the hotel.

Sustainable event planners will definitely remember this idea the next time their conference hotel pushes back on in-room recycling.

For those not able to attend the event, check out the impressive playlist of sessions for virtual attendees

Friday, April 11, 2014

Poetry Friday

There once was a team from MeetGreen

They didn’t like polystyrene

They said, “No more at our meetings
or there will be beatings”

For we want our planet pristine.

Because sometimes it is okay to be silly and not take our work in sustainability so seriously.  Looking forward to some silly, innovative, enriching and thought-provoking discussions next week at the Green Meeting Industry Council's Sustainable Meetings Conference in San Francisco!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Things You Should or Should NOT Do in a Hotel Room

You know the basic rules of staying in a hotel, such as not stealing the bathrobes or keeping your neighbors up late at night. Right?  Today, we are talking about basic rules for traveling green. Somewhere between leaving home and arriving in the hotel room, many travelers forget about being environmentally responsible. People, who wouldn’t consider opening a new bar of soap every time they wash their hands, don’t bat an eye at opening a new mini soap each day. Even self-appointed, tap water connoisseurs at home, grab the $5.00 individual of bottle sitting on the night stand while on the road.

Whether this is new information or simply a reminder, here are a few rules to travel by…

  • Take the morning paper unless you intend to read it. Otherwise, tell the front desk to skip your room. 
  • Use the Keurig. In case you haven’t heard why not, read this
  • Order room service. Rarely are the mini, individual portioned condiments donated, reused or recycled.
  • Leave your lights or HVAC on when away. Heat or cool your room when you return from your day’s activities without wasting energy all day long. 
  • Leave your discarded conference swag, donate it. A recent Cornell University study found 20% of hotel left behinds are from meetings. 
  • Recycle in your guest room. If bins aren’t available, ask housekeeping what to do with recyclables. 
  • Reuse linens and towels. Follow the hotels directions and if they are changed anyway…Complain! 
  • Check out using the paperless system. Most hotels offer this service which saves paper and time. Extra points to the hotels who email the receipt to you. 
  • Take mass transit or a shuttle back to the airport. Plan ahead to save money and the environment. 
  • Ask the concierge about walking to shops and restaurants instead of taking a cab or renting a car. Enjoy the local flavor and get some exercise. 
After all, we are guests at their hotel as well as "guests” of this planet. Let’s remember our manners.

Note:  Conference attendees may need to be reminded as well.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Case for Case Studies

After every event, meeting managers produce reports for registration, food & beverage, room nights and  budgets.  We tie up all the loose ends in a neat little package.  What planners usually fail to do is tell the story of the conference in an easy-to-digest document for all of the event stakeholders.

Our conference management team has adopted the practice of producing an Event Sustainability Report for each meeting we manage.  In addition, to covering the green meeting practices it also consolidates valuable conference data.  The report includes:

  • Event Scope
  • Event Purpose
  • Sustainability Strategy and Challenges
  • Meeting Venue
  • Food and Beverage
  • Communications and Registration
  • Community Service
  • Carbon Offsets
  • Exhibits
  • MeetGreen Calculator Summary
  • Recommendations for Future Events
  • Photos of the Event

The sustainability initiatives, challenges, outcomes and recommendations in one neat package is provided to the host organization. Case studies not only help the organization and it's stakeholders learn but also help other meeting managers and organizations who are working towards more sustainable events.

The Society for Ecological Restoration's World Conference on Ecological Restoration has graciously agreed to share their recent case study with all of you.  You may view the entire case study here.

So when you are "closing up shop" on another event, add a case study document to your final duties.  You'll be glad you did!

Thanks also to Rebecca Mebane, Project Manager, MeetGreen, for sharing her work with the world.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pack One Less Pair of Shoes

Did you know if you pack just one less pair of shoes you can eliminate 5 lbs. of CO2 when traveling by air?


If you opt for an electronic program instead of a paper one you can save 52 gallons of water?


If you participate in a hotel's linen-reuse program you can save 1.3 gallons of water?  That might not sound like much, but what if you multiply those 1.3 gallons by all 250 participants attending your meeting.  The water savings would be 325 gallons of water--a substantial amount in today's drought-stricken climate.

This handy calculator was developed to help meeting managers tell the story of how our daily decisions, and those of our attendees, can affect the environment.  If you are interested in this storytelling aid and over 40 other meeting planning tools in addition to APEX/ASTM Sustainable Event Standards checklists, check out the MeetGreen Resource Kit today.

We've "done the math" for you!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Water, Water...Everywhere?

Widening Circles by Nancy Zavada

If you don’t consider the scarcity of water a huge issue for the citizens of this planet, you haven’t been paying attention.  Water scarcity affects 2.7 billion people worldwide for at least a month a year and it is getting worse.

Are we in the hospitality industry paying attention?

Several recent examples of this have me wondering.

  1. During a stay in a drought-stricken, water-restricted town in Texas, the ice bucket in my room was filled every night without request.  It is one of their guest services.  I tried desperately for the three nights of my stay to get this “service” to stop, but was not successful.  
  2. At a recent conference in California, the hotel caterer required all the water glasses were pre-filled.  When the event coordinator pleaded to instead have just a pitcher of water and glasses on each table, she was told it was a “labor union policy.”  It was not until this event coordinator elevated her request to the General Manager, citing Governor Brown’s recent Drought Emergency Act,  that the practice was discontinued “for this event only.”
  3. Another hotel in a city facing water restrictions is clinging to the idea that all of their guests need their sheets changed (and washed) every single day without giving guests the chance to opt out of the program.

Again, are we paying attention?  Can our industry be part of the solution and not part of the problem? 

As meeting professionals, both planners and suppliers, we have an enormous opportunity to make an impact just by making more responsible choices, to be aware of the consequences of our requests on the communities where our events are held.  Most of these choices are the low-hanging fruit of water conservation.

The “higher-hanging fruit” food and beverages choices will be next.  Here are some examples of the water footprint of commonly ordered products to think about.

  • 1 gallon of wine requires 1,008 gallons of water
  • 1 gallon of coffee requires 880 gallons of water
  • 1 gallon of tea requires 128 gallons of water

And if that doesn’t hit where it hurts, how about
  •  1 lb. of chocolate requires 3,170 gallons of water

We talk a lot about how mighty the travel/meeting industry is and about our buying power.  Let’s put it to good use for the fellow citizens of this planet!

Source:  The Hidden Water We Use, National Geographic, via Treehugger

Monday, February 10, 2014

You Make Me Feel So Good

Think storytelling doesn't do any good?  Think your stakeholders don't need to be praised for "doing the right thing?" 

Think again!

My annual Blue Sky Renewable Energy Program statement from came today from Pacific Power and I couldn't be prouder.  My support of  renewable energy over the past year:

Avoided 13,200 pounds of CO2 = 14,212 miles not driven or 
155 trees planted

They also informed me that by participating, I supported the Dry Creek Landfill Gas Project (powering 3,200 homes for a year); a wind power project in Wasco, Oregon; and four native fish habitat restoration projects.  


Why am I telling you all of this?

Because it was a strong reminder for me (and hopefully others in sustainable event management) to share the story with every conference participant who takes a moment to sort their waste instead of tossing into the landfill or walks instead of taking a cab or reuses their towels.  

Don't forget to make them feel good all over again for making a wise choice!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Navigating the ABCs of Sustainable Meetings

Aqueous Inks to BioPreferred to CPG Compliant. What the heck?

The ABCs of today's event managers have certainly changed with the inclusion of sustainable practices in our daily routines.  There is a new vocabulary set which comes into play when making wise choices about your meetings and how they affect the planet. 

Thanks to my CMP, I can rattle off definitions for chevron sets, attrition clauses, and RFPs.  The environmental definitions are still not solid in my brain, so I refer to this online glossary we developed

Please use it as your own as you make decisions and purchases for your upcoming events.  We also welcome any new information to add to this resource because "all of us are smarter than one of us."  Simply add it to the comments field and we will post it in the glossary.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Standing on the 50 Yard Line

In July of 2007, we were standing on the football field in Giants Stadium making preparations to bring sustainability to a very large sports arena.  How could we possibly recycle, compost and otherwise divert the waste of 51,000 screaming fans?  In our case, the fans were concert goers for the Live Earth Festival and the greening of sports venues hadn't caught on as it has today.

It was daunting at best, but mostly terrifying.   As I stood on the fifty-yard line my initial “freeze-fight-flight” response was to run across the field, up the stairs and get the first plane home.  Thanks to my fellow MeetGreen team members, who believed we could make a difference even though their knees were knocking too, I stayed on the field.

As the media hype builds surrounding the Super Bowl in Giants Stadium (now MetLife Stadium), I am having flashbacks of:
  • working with unions who weren’t really interested in sustainability when it would be much easier to just use bulldozers to clean up the parking lot trash and haul it away.
  • conversations with caterers who didn’t know how to source food containers that could go into the compost stream with the uneaten food.
  • convincing sponsors who wanted to hand out little plastic sample cups and spoons of their organic product, there must be a better way to minimize the packaging.
  • managing volunteers who donated their time to help teach concert-goers from New Jersey and New York how to recycle, when most of them hadn’t started recycling at home.
The plan came together and through the commitment of so many, Giants Stadium was able to divert 76% of the waste from the landfill.  The Stadium Operations Team was the true MVP of the day because without their dedication and hard work, the project would have never been successful.   Even after the event, they hoped to be able to incorporate many of the practices they learned on Live Earth and carry them through to the new stadium when it was built.

Fast forward to 2014, where the headlines read this will be the “Greenest Super Bowl Ever.”   This time I am watching from the stands (aka my couch) not the 50 yard line.  I am rooting for the Stadium Operations Team we worked with and hoping that the groundwork we laid together nearly 7 years ago has made their greening efforts a little easier this week.

Go Team!!!

Past blogs with links about greening Giants Stadium and the Live Earth Concerts:  Leaving a Legacy and Hotter Than It Should Be.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's Alive!

You can't get much fresher than stepping up to a lunch buffet and having your salad hand cut for you.  Selecting from red leaf, butter, arugula, romaine and a variety of other lettuce was the only difficult problem.  This Living Salad Bar was showcased at the GMIC Oregon Chapter luncheon.  Appropriately, the focus of the meeting was on "Sustainable Food and Beverage."

As if that wasn't enough, lunch also featured locally-caught salmon, crabcakes and marinated vegetables which still tasted of the summer sun.  To finish off lunch, handmade (local) truffles.

Perhaps it should have been called "Pampering Your Guest Food and Beverage," but isn't that really what sustainability is all about?


Friday, January 10, 2014

What if "Good Customer Service" was the Entire Marketing Plan?

 Stepping up to the restaurant counter I am greeted by a surly worker who clearly doesn’t want to be there or take my order.  My meal is prepared by another equally unenthused employee who slaps the food together, snaps the to-go container shut and hurls it over the counter towards me.  This scene is repeated over and over again millions of times a day in airports everywhere.  

As a traveler, I am constantly amazed at the poor service in each and every airport outlet I visit.  Later that evening as I watch TV in my hotel room, I am inundated by slick, flashy ads for the same food chain telling me what a delightful experience a visit to their restaurant will be.  

In another glaring example, two different meeting venue managers recently sent me emails thanking me for my business at their venue while apologizing for not seeing me personally during my stay because they were “ busy.”  It is important to note, we were physically in their building 14 hours a day for 8 days, running an event using the entire building, yet they were too “busy” to stop by?  I nearly told both of them to stop making sales calls and working on their marketing plan long enough to walk down the hall and say hello and thanks for the business.   To make those already using their property feel welcome and appreciated.

Our team of meeting professionals is constantly on the ground, front line with conference participants.  When attendees step up to the registration counter for their name badge, they want to be greeted by a warm smile after their long journey, they want help getting acclimated to the event and they don’t want to be hassled.  That is what any of us would all want and that’s what they get.  It doesn’t matter if it the first time or the 1,000th time we have heard the same question.

The team exceeds the client’s expectations by taking care of every detail, so our clients can convene their communities and make the world a better place.  The rooms are set, the food is served, the exhibit hall is open, the audio visual is working and sustainable practices are in place.  That’s our job.  We make the event run smoothly with a flair for solving issues as they arise.  

We are only as good as our last event.  Word travels quickly in this industry and most of our clients have come to us after being referred by someone who has seen our team in action and experienced one of our conferences.  We still work for the first client who hired us 20 years ago.   

My point here is not to boast about our work, but to use it as an example of marketing at its best.  We don’t need to advertise to tell people about our capabilities, the integrity of our work, or the experience they will have if they hire us.  They won’t be promised one thing and experience another.

That’s all I want from any service.  Save the money spent on expensive, image building ads and make sure the person helping me has what they need to excel whether it be training, skills, compensation or compassion.  

Imagine a world where everyone does their job with the spirit of an adventurer not the drudgery of a prisoner.  The word would spread and people would come back time after time not because of the marketing plan but because the employees enjoy their work and are doing their job well.  

This blog post was inspired by the people who work with me.  Even when their feet hurt, their stomachs are growling and sleep is long overdue, never miss a chance to make sure a conference participant is well cared for.