February 4, 2010

Going Green: Saving Money while Saving the Planet, One Meeting at a Time

Despite what Kermit the Frog might think, it can be easy to be green, especially when it comes to planning environmentally friendly meetings. Corporate social responsibility is a hot topic right now in the business world, and since meetings are a highly visible reflection of your company, they have the potential to help make or break your firm’s reputation in this area. More and more companies are introducing sustainability practices into their corporate culture and meetings are ideally suited to assist with this goal.

Here are some helpful tips to help green your meetings:
· Consider the impact of attendee’s travel on the environment when making site selection decisions. Choose locations that are centrally located and easy to reach with minimal air or car travel as the first step to reducing your meeting’s carbon footprint. Is the destination on a train or rapid transit line, or are there public transportation options that would make it easy for attendees to reach the meeting?
· Consider including green criteria into your site selection/RFP process. Simply adding in questions about the location’s sustainability and green practices can assist you with determining which location would be a better fit for your own green initiatives. Sometimes, by you asking for this, it can cause a hotel to rethink how they conduct their own operations. Consider asking your hotel/convention center to: Provide compostable plastic cups and disposable cutlery; offer onsite recycling for paper, plastic and aluminum in the meeting space for attendees’ use; serve food and beverage in bulk, including bowls or dispensers of sugar, sweetener and cream vs. packets; replace water bottles with water coolers.
· Go Vegetarian: Replace one or more meat-based meals with vegetarian, locally grown or sourced entrees to both save you money and reduce your carbon footprint. Additionally, especially at lunches, these lighter meals tend to rejuvenate attendees rather than make them sleepy and lethargic. Work with the culinary staff, and consider doing a tasting of a variety of options prior to making your final choice. Many hotels now have wonderfully prepared vegetarian options on their banquet menus already. While you’re at it, ask the hotel their policy about reusing or donating your leftover food to local charities.
· Whenever possible, go paperless. Consider creating your program brochures and promotional materials as online documents, rather than printed pieces. Many groups have found little to no problem with replacing their promotional and program materials and, with the rise in use of social media, the ability to market your meeting online makes these types of materials ideally suited. Instead of producing conference handouts, load speaker handouts onto your website and grant access to conference attendees in advance so they print only the materials they want or need. I recommend you send an email with a direct link to the materials and keep the materials online for a specific period of time after the conference.
· Rethink your own policies and ways of doing things. Instead of producing signs that will be used just once and then discarded, rethink how you use signage. If your budget allows, consider replacing signs with plasma screens placed in high traffic areas with continuously looped slides promoting events, thanking sponsors, acknowledging exhibitors, etc. If you must print signs, use generic logos so they can be reused. Ask your sign maker to print signs on both sides so you can use a sign for one function and reuse it for another. Switch from bottled water to water coolers or water pitchers. Recycle name badge holders and lanyards.
· Take some time to sit down with your coworkers to brainstorm and think of ways you can reduce both your waste and your carbon footprint. Set a goal of evaluating your meetings with an eye toward making your meetings greener each and every time you plan one. You’ll find you can save money while saving the planet, one meeting at a time.

No comments:

Post a Comment