Once a sustainable venue is selected, how can planners leverage internal and external marketing efforts?
“More people are paying closer attention to sustainability in their personal lives and attendees are becoming increasingly aware of the ‘green’ components in a meeting,” Arell says. “It helps create enthusiasm for the meeting and morale-building as attendees know they’ll be able to make a contribution, large or small, to sustainability.”
Abby Gulden, sustainability coordinator at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), in Orlando says participation by attendees in practices such as recycling or making donations of unused items like t-shirts, tote bags, pens and notepads gives the meeting an added sense of purpose.
Staging a meeting at a sustainable convention center makes a strong statement about a company’s values and commitment to preserving the environment, says Erin Rowland, sustainability coordinator at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.
At the 2012 Worldwide Convention of 16,000 McDonald’s owner-operators and global staff at the OCCC last April, the company implemented a variety of initiatives to showcase and enhance its green practices to demonstrate to consumers, employees and suppliers its commitment to sustainability.
“We have been in the unique position of developing our sustainability goals in partnership with the OCCC,” says Julie Larson, project manager for McDonald’s’ meetings and events. “As we expand our goals and initiatives, the building staff have been valued partners in helping advance our goals and elevate our efforts to reach new heights.”
Informing the public about the impact of sustainable meetings is evolving.
“There are more opportunities for groups to tout their efforts in social responsibility to the general public,” Gulden says. “At the OCCC, we can now give groups more statistics and metrics on how their sustainable actions measure up and make an impact on the community.”
Walk the Walk
“Talk is cheap when it comes to green practices,” Wilhelm contends. “Planners, suppliers and venues must be able to walk the walk to execute a productive ‘green’ meeting.”
Wilhelm says an acute evaluation of facilities followed by the proper execution of green practices at a meeting makes a positive statement to attendees and the general public.
“Planners should not overlook the importance of the set-up and housekeeping staff, and how adept and experienced they are at executing green practices such as the proper placement of recycling containers and organizing items to be donated,” Rowland says.
Ed Schmidt is a frequent contributor to Meetings Focus and also recycles in his spare time.