Just as in grade school, "Show and Tell" is an important part of the learning process. So as 2010 has just ended and green meeting practices have continued to evolve, it seems like a good time for some "show and tell."
Following is how four different organizations were able to accomplish both. We’ll let them share their stories so we can all learn.
Donation Leads to Reuse
Eclipse Summit Europe is an annual event traditionally held in Germany with over 400 participants. The conference manager reports, "When we left Eclipse Summit Europe 2009, we donated the sign easels to a local art school. The teachers and students were thrilled to have the easels and wanted us to use them when we came back to town. Sure enough, we called today (almost a year later) and they offered to bring the easels to the venue for our use. We also had to purchase lamps for this year’s event and donated them to the school afterwards. One of the key sponsors heard of our donation and has done the same with many of the components of her booth."
Communication & Education: attendees and peers
Oracle OpenWorld, an annual meeting of over 40,000 held in San Francisco, stepped up its Web and e-mail communications to attendees in 2010. An expanded Web page for registrants and exhibitors was created, with specific tips for each about how to reduce their footprint. Mobile applications provided gentle reminders of how to be green once in San Francisco. Green team members also continued to share their sustainable event knowledge to peer networks, both on-site and post-event. Since 2009, Oracle has hosted a special "green" tour of OpenWorld for Green Meeting Industry Council members, who take a special look behind the scenes at what is being done to shrink the event footprint. Show and tell during the event has helped fellow meeting managers better understand how it "looks" during the event itself.
Choosing the right destination and vendors
Canada Media Marketplace is not a large event but has taken its sustainable initiatives very seriously. Destination selection was based on sustainability criteria, which resulted in moving the West Coast event from Los Angeles to San Francisco. In addition to meeting sustainability goals, this also aligned with improving accessibility for media attendees and reducing overall air travel.
Canada Media Marketplace has limited buying power, so it can be tough to negotiate greener practices from vendors who are not already sustainability-minded. It can also be hard to secure event-specific measurements when you’re one of multiple events on-site. One of the primary reasons the 2010 event was able to set and achieve high targets was because event planners chose vendors who were already prepared and willing to accommodate specific practices and measurement. The event will continue to benefit by partnering with vendors that prioritize sustainability as a standard part of their business practice.
Measuring Impact Assists With Critical Decisions
The 2010 UUA General Assembly, an annual event of nearly 4,000 participants from the U.S., has been measuring and reporting on its environmental and social impact for years. Highlighting waste management, this information has allowed it to make informed decisions to minimize conference materials and to work with vendors on increasing their recycling diversion rates.
This consistency has certainly paid off. In 2010, the amount of materials disposed of on-site was reduced by 46 percent over the 2009 event. The event also diverted 76 percent of the waste it produced from landfills and incineration, exceeding pre-event goals by 16 percent and the facility baseline for recycling diversion by 42 percent.
How did this impact the conference experience you might ask? Senior managers and attendees are both highly engaged. For example, the volunteer recycling corps submitted two pages of constructive feedback to improve waste management next year, in addition to the attendee feedback. Senior managers are committed to putting event contracts on the line—in more than one instance—to live up to sustainability principles.
Reflecting on 2010, what would you like to show and tell? Think back on your own year of incorporating sustainable initiatives. Did you take the first step and choose one practice to add during your meetings, such as recycling? Did you measure what you were able to accomplish? Did you take your current practices to another level? Did you get education to begin the process? Did you tell others about your challenges and successes?
As we move forward into the new year, one thing is for sure: 2011 will bring increased attention to the sustainability initiatives of our industry. Green event practices will most likely be standardized, formalized training will become available, and industry-sanctioned certification programs for green event managers will be a reality—a good year indeed to go to the head of the class!
Nancy J. Zavada, CMP, is a leader, innovator and entrepreneur in the meeting planning and events industry. She began her career in the industry in 1978 and is now a principal with MeetGreen, a Portland, Ore.-based conference management and consulting firm that she founded and which specializes in green meetings. Zavada served on the Live Earth Global Green Team and is cofounder of the Green Meeting Industry Council. She is also the coauthor of Simple Steps to Green Meetings and Events. Her blog, "Pretentious Musings of a Meet Green Martyr," shares resources, tips, ideas and funny stories about the life of a green meeting planner, and can be accessed at http://blog.meetgreen.com. To enquire about purchasing a checklist and other tools for planning a green meeting, contact MeetGreen at firstname.lastname@example.org.