In the world of art conservation (and insurance), there’s a great term I just learned: “inherent vice.”
Inherent vice is a hidden defect that causes or contributes to the deterioration, damage or wastage of a good or property. These characteristics or defects make the item an unacceptable risk.
To me, that feels like an accurate description of why we should take green meetings seriously. Are we putting ourselves at risk by creating goods and properties (events) that help deteriorate, damage or waste our natural world? Does our irresponsibility in using resources and disposing of materials a hidden defect in the event business?
If you read my last column, you might agree that we could do a lot more than we are now. In that column I promised to offer some solutions, and not just preach at all of you. So, here we go. Probably the one question I get more than any other is “How do I get started?”
I’ll admit that question frustrates me. Having done what I do for a few years now, I figure everyone knows some of the basics of meeting green. I also realize this isn’t necessarily the case. It certainly wasn’t when we at Oracle started an initiative to go green at all the events we run globally.
There are many ways to start, and I’ll address some in future columns. For now, let’s go with a simple checklist. This is the one we used to get Oracle’s event marketing people started on greening their events. The list of 18 minimum requirements were vetted globally and as a group. We felt they could be achieved by almost any event in any location. They come in four categories: materials, food, fuel and communication.
1. Use biodegradable materials for name badges.
2. Retain lanyards for future events.
3. Use a mobile app instead of a printed program and encourage exhibitors to eliminate or reduce their use of printed materials.
4. Reduce the amount of signage at the event. Recycle what you do create to use again.
5. After the event, donate usable supplies (conference bags, office supplies). The local convention bureau or a DMC can recommend receptive organizations.
6. Reduce food waste by considering consumption data from past events.
7. Add a compost receptacle next to traditional trash and recycling cans.
8. Donate leftovers to homeless shelters or food banks.
9. Offer tumblers and hydration stations instead of single-use bottled water.
10. Provide public transportation and ride-sharing details in registration information. Create incentives (small prizes) for people who share rides.
11. Book hotels within walking distance to your venue and make sure attendees are aware of walking routes.
12. Minimize the fuel you use. Print materials locally instead of shipping them; use local entertainment and shuttle services; ask food vendors to use local suppliers.
13. Offer sponsored pedicabs to minimize taxi and shuttle use.
14. Include the cost of carbon offsets in registration and exhibitor fees or find a sponsor to cover the cost.
15. Share your sustainability strategy with attendees in registration materials and/or opening remarks.
16. Make sure vendors know you’re looking for sustainable practices and ask them to do the same.
17. Recognize hotels that embrace green practices.
18. Create a system to track your sustainability initiatives and results, so you can measure progress over time.
None of these ideas seem controversial or hard to me, but this conversation always raises questions about cost. We’ll talk about that in my next column.
(Thanks to Shawna McKinley of MeetGreen for her contributions in developing this list.)