Yes, going green is trendy right now, but it is also an important way we can all use our scope of control to impact our environment as little as possible. In our industry, we have a unique opportunity to plan meetings that will be friendly to the environment, hopefully inspiring others to apply these principles in other parts of their lives as well. Here are some ways, big and small, that you can make your next meeting green.
Lay the Foundation
Going green doesn’t just happen on its own. It takes planning and prioritization to make the greenest choices possible, and that starts with policy making. Build your intentions for being environmentally conscious into your meeting planning and execution guidelines so that everyone is aware of the goal. Establish minimum requirements, and use an emissions calculator to keep track.
Communicate with Emphasis
Everyone at all levels of planning and execution should be aware of the goal to be green. Communicate with vendors and suppliers. Let your venue know that this is important to you, and they might let you in on services you didn’t know they had, like dish rental, recycling programs, or group transportation.
All About the Destination
Perhaps the biggest factor in going green is the destination you choose for your meeting. Choosing a city that is closest to the majority of the attendees is key, as is avoiding air travel. Car and train transportation have a markedly lower impact on the environment. Cities with thriving public transportation systems or pedestrian-friendly layouts are helpful as well. Here are just a few cities that have been recognized for being the Top 10 US Cities for Green Meetings.
Establish Venue Criteria
Scoping out a meeting venue that aligns with eco-friendly practices isn’t as difficult as it used to be, thanks to the popularity of programs that help them make better operating decisions. Look for venues with LEED certifications, preferably in silver, gold, or platinum levels. Think about your guests’ experiences while they are there as well. How far is the meeting venue from open accommodations? Are there restaurants and other destinations within walking distance? Do you have in-room recycling? If not, how is guest recycling handled? What are the venue’s environmental policies? Including energy conservation practices?
Consider Virtual Options
Of course, it is not always possible, but virtual meeting options are easier than ever. When you can, plan on holding meetings virtually and save the big expeditions for events that happen less often. In fact, they can be more valuable than traditional face-to-face meetings.
Ditch the Paper
Use planning and file sharing platforms for everything from invitations to communication. Maps, agendas, and FAQs can be downloaded onto attendees’ phones and carried with them everywhere—instead of forgotten in their hotel rooms just to be tossed in the bin. It is easier than you think to design your own app.
Aim to Be Zero Waste
The obvious culprits at meetings are plastic water bottles and plastic straws, which are by no means essential to your guests’ experiences and are easily substituted with better options. Set out pitchers of water. Offer compostable or reusable straws. Opt for real glassware, cutlery, and dinnerware if needed. Avoid handing out branded trinkets that will likely get tossed into the trash. These seemingly small details can make a big dent in the waste created by your meeting—without infringing on everyone’s comfort and experience.
Keeping It Local
When it comes to sourcing the things you need for your event, try to do so as locally as possible to cut down on transportation, which has the added bonus of supporting the local community. From food to gifts, try to find local treasures to avoid having items shipped in during your meeting. Working with restaurants and caterers who source their goods locally also means you get that extra charm and personality of the city you are visiting.
Tie Up Loose Ends
It is a shame to see hard work in planning an eco-friendly event be tossed into the trash—literally. Make sure that everyone on the cleanup crew knows to recycle what they can. Over-catering is a common practice at many events, resulting in unnecessary waste. You should also ensure any unconsumed perishable food has been handled correctly so it can be donated to food salvage programmes. Put someone in charge of donating leftover food to a local charity and flowers or other decoration to nursing homes or hospitals. This follow-through is key to a truly environmentally conscious event. Tips for donating food after an event.
As more businesses work to plan carbon-neutral events, paying offset costs is becoming a popular way of making it possible. By purchasing carbon offsets, you can create a positive impact somewhere that offsets the effects of your event. There are many ways to cover this, whether by taking on a sponsor or building it into registration fees. Also, creating an “opt-out” for attendees makes it more likely that they will willingly pay to make the meeting a green affair.