Time really does fly. 2014 marks my 20th year producing sustainable meetings, and there have been so many positive changes over the years.

Two decades ago, even the term “green meeting practices” sent venues and vendors running for cover. Today, most have a working knowledge of the requests I am making even if they are just learning to accommodate the change. The good news is that most hotels, convention centers, caterers and industry providers are willing to try.

Thanks to the hard work of many industry professionals, there are now initiatives, certifications and standards for the meeting and event industry that define and assess sustainable events. This year we will begin to see these adopted as the new way of doing business. This provides me with both job security and a new excitement for the possibilities.

My New Year’s resolutions address a few of the practices I hope soon become (pardon the pun) standard, so here it goes. I will…

(1) Always request glass and china service.
Ten years ago I had to fight a convention center not to serve Styrofoam cups and plates to the conference attendees. This would have resulted in 10,000 polystyrene cups going into the landfill from this one conference alone. Today, there are more sustainable options and many suppliers are touting compostable, biodegradable options. Our experience in 2013 has taught us these options aren’t always what they seem, and a significant amount of due diligence is required to ensure they don’t go to the landfill. So I am going back to requiring the old-fashioned elegance of glass and china service for my guests.

(2) Require local, preferably organic, food be served.
Early in my planning days, meeting venue food was never local, fresh or healthy. Luckily things have changed for the better and many convention caterers are prepared to serve fresh, healthy food to conference attendees. Today, I include the percentage of local or organic food to be served in the contract with the caterers and check on-site to make sure it is happening. Yes, I will walk through the kitchen and check the packaging to verify.

(3) Give up conference bags and swag.
Thank goodness this elaborate, expensive tradition is no longer required for most conferences, and amazingly, participants get along just fine. If I am tempted, I will remember no one really needs another “grocery bag,” either.

(4) Choose a walkable meeting neighborhood on mass transit.
The days of a fleet of shuttle buses and taxi cabs are giving way to a healthy lifestyle. Participants are much more open to walking a few blocks or riding a light rail system to get from the meeting venue to their hotel. Downtown locations have been revitalized and guests often request accommodations close to shopping, restaurants, museums and nightlife.

(5) Track my economic savings from environmentally responsible choices.
This year, I will track every cent saved from using sustainable practices and wave it in the face of the accounting department, senior management and anyone else who will listen. I will prove, beyond a doubt, that I am lean and green in 2014.

What’s on your list?

 

Nancy J. Zavada, CMP, president of MeetGreen and a co-founder of the Green Meeting Industry Council, recently co-authored her second book, Simple Steps to Saving Green by Going Green. You can follow Zavada’s blog, “Pretentious Musings of a Green Meetings Martyr,” on MeetingsFocus.com. MeetGreen’s website is located at www.meetgreen.com.