By now, most of you have seen the “Top 10 best green practices for meeting planners.” We know plastic bottles are bad, compostable or recyclable disposables are good, china is better, and to never, ever use styrofoam. However, after finally wrapping our heads around what we need to produce a sustainable meeting, we are now struggling with the how. With hundreds of different details to consider when organizing a successful meeting, the last thing we, as planners, should have to do is teach our vendors how to recycle. The good news is you don’t have to. By putting a few key environmental questions into your RFP, you are able to not only whittle down the list of potential vendors and venues, you also can set the expectation for adherence to your sustainable mission from the very beginning.
An RFP can be as detailed or as vague as you choose, and often considers many different factors. Therefore, in order to keep things simple, I suggest choosing a question or two from each of the following areas of sustainability: energy, water conservation and quality, waste reduction and diversion, air quality, purchasing, food and beverage, and community. If this is too much, focus on an area of importance for your organization. It is also important to ask specific questions, and not ones that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”
Here are a few suggestions and examples to include in RFPs to learn more about the sustainable practices of your potential vendors.
- Please describe your organization/ facilities energy conservation efforts.
- Does your organization purchase renewable energy? If so, what percentage of the energy used annually is renewable?
- Are you able to provide energy use estimates per event?
Water conservation and quality
- What are your water conservation practices?
- Are toilets and sinks low flow or dual flush?
- What water station options are available besides water bottles?
Waste reduction and diversion
- Does the facility offer recycling and composting both front of house and back of house? What items? Is the recycling single stream?
- Is a diversion rate provided at the end of the event?
- Are left over materials donated to local organizations?
- What anti-idling policies are in place and enforced?
- Is the facility located within walking distance of hotels and restaurants?
- What alternative transportation options are available and/or offered?
- Are bio-fuels and/or alternative fuels used in vehicles?
- What post consumer recycled paper products are used? Paper towels? Toilet Paper?
- What green cleaning products used at the facility?
Food and beverage
- Can you provide sustainable menu options (local and/or organic), priced comparably to conventional food items? Please include an example for breakfast, lunch, reception and dinner.
- Can you offer bulk condiments?
- Do you offer china at no additional charge?
- Are your disposable items compostable or recyclable? Is an appropriate bin placed front of house to capture the waste stream properly? (For example, do they offer front of house compost collection if disposables are compostable?)
- What sort of community engagement does your facility participate in?
- Do you donate leftover food to local shelters? If so, are verification or donation receipt with quantities provided to clients?
The benefits of including these questions not only informs them of your mission and expectation, but also serves as an education of what they can do in order to earn your business. As a bonus, including these expectations in the beginning equals less work for you and your team while still producing a sustainable conference or event!
Stay tuned. In next month’s column, I will give tips on how to include your expectations in contracts and discuss the importance of adherence clauses.