In my last column, we discussed different ways and benefits of obtaining a commitment to meeting green from association and company executives. This commitment is a necessary first step in order to get the support that is often needed to incorporate change into the way your meetings are planned. Once this is established by executives and association heads, you need to begin educating vendors, attendees and clients of your commitment to meeting sustainably.
Communicating the nature of the green initiatives and educating them about compliance is critical for several reasons. First, it familiarizes them with the company or association’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, so they understand why certain practices have changed. People become more engaged and enthusiastic about participating when they understand the benefits of doing things differently. For example, someone who expects plastic water bottles as a meeting standard would likely be more understanding of the switch to pitchers of water if they understood how much plastic they were saving from landfills (and maybe even how much money they are saving the company).
Here are some easy ways to communicate your commitment:
- Send out all communications via e-mail and/or post initiatives on event Web sites. Explain to attendees that this is an effort to reduce the use of paper and the carbon output of mailings.
- During the RFP process with vendors, include sustainable practices in your request. Explain that your organization is producing a sustainable meeting, and their compliance in this practice is contractual.
- Seek sponsorship for sustainable practices. For example, instead of having plastic disposable water bottles, have a sponsor for reusable water bottles and a sponsor for water stations. Or, if you are eliminating printed handouts, look for a sponsor for USB sticks, which could hold digital handouts like session leave-behinds and event agendas.
- Have signage at food stations listing the sustainable elements of the meal. For example, whether the group is using china over disposable plates, bulk condiments rather than individually packaged condiments, local and organic food, etc.
- Offer a carbon credit option for attendees to offset their travel to the convention. Preferably use a program that benefits the community the meeting will be held in. Check out the Denver CVB’s green event planner and travel carbon calculator.
- Encourage attendees to inquire further about the sustainable practices of the meeting.
- Be transparent and straightforward in all efforts!