The first time your boss says, “I want a green meeting,” it can be stressful, especially if you’ve never thought about how your events impact the environment. Here are five simple ways you can green your meetings and events.
1. Do an eco-audit
- Ask building or facilities managers to keep track of how much energy and water is consumed during your event, note how far people travel to get there, and ask hotels, caterers and vendors to help you figure out how much waste is generated. Put that information in a spreadsheet so you can establish a benchmark, determine areas for improvements and measure change.
- Use an online carbon calculator like the one at denver.org/convention/green/event-calculator to determine the carbon footprint of your event and ways you can offset its environmental impact. Travel Portland offers a green meetings toolkit that can help planners green their meetings, no matter where they will take place.
- If you want to go a step further, embed a carbon calculator on the event’s Web page and let attendees purchase offsets. Or give your boss or client the option to completely offset the carbon footprint of the meeting by purchasing renewable energy credits or planting trees.
2. Eliminate paper
- Send out e-mail invitations and surveys.
- Use online registration systems.
- Offer to send attendees conference materials, exhibitor information and speaker handouts digitally.
- If you still have materials you want to physically hand people, put them on flash drives. See if you can secure a sponsor to provide them or use the money you would have spent on printing to purchase them.
- Encourage exhibitors to only bring what they think they’ll need or to hand out digital rather than printed information.
- Instead of printing paper menus, project the menus on the wall.
- Rather than a flip chart, ask speakers to use an overhead projector or whiteboard.
3. Reuse and recycle everything
- Don’t buy something for an event if you already have it at the office; bring those supplies with you.
- Think about ways you can reuse conference materials (badge holders, bags, takeaways, signage, etc.) instead of buying them for every event.
- Think about how décor may be reused. For example, if you fill an opening session stage with plants or flowers, think of how they can spruce up a centerpiece, buffet line, meeting room or VIP suite later.
- If there is an event that will be in the space directly before or after you, contact that event organizer and see if there are any elements you can share the cost and use of together.
- Get rid of disposable items: think glass, china and linens instead of paper products, and water stations instead of plastic water bottles.
- If you can’t reuse something, then look at how it may be donated so it benefits the local community you’re doing business in.
- Make sure recycling bins are strategically placed throughout the event and attendees know why it’s important to use them.
4. Think Local
- By reducing the amount of time people have to travel to your event, you dramatically reduce the event’s carbon footprint, so look at locations that are central to the majority of your attendees.
- Consider facilities with virtual conferencing capabilities so you can broadcast the event to other people who aren’t in attendance.
- Encourage caterers to use locally grown and sourced food.
- Purchase materials you need locally rather than shipping them.
- Use local speakers, entertainers and vendors.
- Ask CVBs or local colleges if they can provide volunteers to help with event registration and staffing.
- Ask your hotel partners and suppliers to let you know about any green initiatives they have in place. Many will have great ideas on how you can green operations, or some impressive eco-friendly initiatives your attendees will want to know about.
- Let attendees know how the event is making a difference and the thought behind the green initiatives you have in place. Make this information available on the Web site, on digital handouts and during housekeeping announcements.
- Prepare a post-conference report to measure improvements and determine areas that need work.
- Develop a green standard for your events and enlist your hospitality partners in your commitment to meeting sustainably.
- Send out press releases about your company/client’s eco-friendly initiatives and what their positive impact is on the local communities.
- Keep talking with peers, reading publications and researching new ways of greening events on the Web so that you stay up to date on what’s out there and know how you can improve.