The meetings industry is changing, and some may say not a moment too soon. Being the second most wasteful industry (behind the construction industry), any opportunity we have to reduce our impact on the environment is significant. While many of us are aware that action and change is necessary, we may not know where to begin or how to address the real and perceived hurdles presented by hosting a “green” event.
In this monthly “Meeting Sustainably” column, I will address current shifts, best practices, and issues within the exhibits and events industry. I encourage your comments, feedback, questions and ideas, so leave your thoughts in the box below!
This month, I want to start you off with a checklist of best practices and procedures. While getting a commitment from show management, clients, and executives to produce sustainable meetings, exhibits and events is a great first step towards success, implementing one or all of these best practices will help reduce the negative impact of your event on the environment.
Top 10 Best Practices for Meeting Planners:
- Provide registration and conference information digitally, through e-mail and Web sites, instead of using printed materials. Also distribute digital rather than paper exhibitor kits and speaker presentation handouts.
- Use badge holders and lanyards made of post-consumer recycled content, and ask that attendees return their badges at the end of the conference.
- Encourage and/or implement recycling and/or composting at meeting venues.
- Choose venues centrally located next to restaurants, hotels and public transit when possible. Encourage the use of alternative transportation by offering incentives, etc.
- Choose local vendors, when possible, to reduce the impact of shipping and support the local economy. Ask out-of-state vendors to utilize their regional partners and rent equipment rather than ship.
- Ask exhibitors to limit materials and collateral by:
- Bringing only what is needed for attendees
- Offering to send material upon request
- Distributing information as PDA downloads
- Avoiding dated materials
- Ask caterers to provide items in bulk as opposed to single-serve (e.g., containers of condiments, beverages, etc.). Also, use china, glasses and silverware instead of disposables.
- Ask caterers to choose local vendors for food items, wines and liquors, when possible.
- Eliminate plastic water bottles by giving attendees a refillable water bottle and providing water stations. Ask that head water not be set and water glasses not be pre-filled.
- Ask the caterer to donate leftover food to local shelters or food banks.
To ensure success, get your executives or association directors to make a commitment to sustainable practices, and post your organization’s policies and commitments on the conference Web site. The other key element you need is attendee education and engagement. By keeping your attendees involved, your new practices are more likely to be embraced, and the overall feeling of the event will be more positive.