1.) Put your environmental goals in writing. Work with your client to establish an environmental policy for your meeting. Share the policy with suppliers, exhibitors, attendees and speakers. Include the statement in request for proposals (RFPs) and request environmental statements from your vendors and suppliers in RFPs.
2.) Prevent and reduce waste. Determine which materials are needed at your event and consider ways to reduce the amount used. Use paperless technology to cut down on paper use. Communicate with attendees and exhibitors through conference websites, electronic registration, email and social media. Use reusable meeting supplies and signs. Request recycled and recyclable handouts and giveaways. Consider providing or selling reusable beverage containers. Consider reusable bags, folders, etc. for handouts.
3.) Meet local. When possible, plan your meetings close to the largest number of attendees to reduce necessary travel for speakers and conference delegates. Choose venues and hotels that are close to the airport and/or within walking distance of one another. Publicize public transportation options for the attendees. Use green shuttle services.
4.) Reduce, reuse, recycle. Collect paper, plastic and cans in meeting areas. Have the meeting venue collect cardboard and paper in exhibit areas. Have catering collect in the prep area/kitchen. Ask hotels to provide visible recycling receptacles for paper, metal, plastic and glass. Many hotels have in-room recycling as well. Make sure the hotel has a linen reuse policy to reduce water and energy waste.
5.) Eat green! Include vegetarian meals and plan meals using local, seasonal produce. Bulk up by using bulk dispensers for sugar, salt, pepper, cream and other condiments. Plan food service needs carefully to avoid unnecessary waste. Donate leftover food to a charity in the community.
6.) Save energy. Coordinate with the meeting venue or convention center and vendors to ensure that lights and air-conditioning or heat will be turned off when not in use. Seek naturally lit meeting and exhibit spaces.
7.) Spread the word. Share your efforts and goals with meeting delegates, speakers, sponsors and the media. Reward participation by communicating environmental savings achieved.
Compiled with information from Oceans Blue Foundation and United States EPA.
Christopher Wood talked about many of these ideas in his seminar about green meetings at the 2011 Small Market Meetings Conference in Little Rock, Ark. For more information on Wood, visit www.asaecenter.org/socialresponsibility.