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Greening Meetings and Conferences

How to Create Greening Meetings and Conferences

This resource is aimed at assisting meeting planners with greening a conference or meeting and with negotiating with a hotel for other conference venue.

A typical 5-day conference for 2,500 attendees will use 90,000 cans or bottles, 75,000 cups and 87,500 napkins (Meeting Strategies Worldwide, 2003). It is fact that attending a conference or meeting, no matter what the size, can be a waste-generating event. Environmental stewardship should be a part of every conference and meeting. In all practicality, green meetings make good business sense. For instance, they:

  • save money by conserving resources
  • create and enhance competitive advantage and reputation
  • open up new or niche markets
  • present positive opportunities for marketing, improve public relations and demonstrate a commitment to corporate responsibility

Meetings and conferences make a considerable impact on our environment, especially if attendees arrive by plane. Although it is impossible to completely eliminate that impact, other alternatives to conference planning and logistics can be adopted, such as using emerging software to provide seminars and sessions online and reducing the overall usage of paper for the event. In fact, here are several easy tips that you can apply to any meeting to make it more environmentally responsible.

  1. Create environmental theme and put it in writing. Establish an environmental statement or policy for the meeting, and get buy in for it from the meeting host organization’s management and partners.  Share the policy with suppliers, delegates and speakers and promote the statement with as many potential delegates as possible.
  2. Put conditions in the hotel contract. When negotiating a contract with a hotel, include simple stipulations such as the placement of recycling bins for cans, bottles and paper that are accessible and visible throughout the conference area; working with the caterers to ensure that meals largely consist of locally-grown, organic foods; ensuring that no disposable plastic bottles are served during the conference; and giving guests the option of refusing newspaper delivery every morning.
  3. Use paperless technology. Use new media and electronic technology to cut down your paper use; create a conference web site; offer electronic registration and confirmation; offer the ability to download conference handouts (in pdf file) on the conference webpage; offer the option for registrants to purchase carbon offsets during online registration; and advertise the website using the web and/or email instead of using paper brochures.
  4. Choose an easy-to-get-to venue. Reduce distances traveled by speakers and delegates.  Choose a host city that’s close to as many delegates as possible, and within the city choose a venue and hotel that are close to the airport and within walking distance of each other. Promote carpooling and offer incentives for those that decide to carpool.
  5. Bulk up. Have your food & beverage service provider use bulk dispensers for sugar, salt, pepper, cream and other condiments.
  6. Reduce your environmental footprint during your stay. Choose a hotel that offers a linen reuse program and bulk dispensers for shampoos and soaps in guest suites.
  7. Eat green. Include vegetarian meals, and have meals planned using local, seasonal produce (organic if possible).
  8. Recycling. Have all printed materials published on recycled paper, using vegetable-based inks, and on both sides of the page.
  9. Save energy. Coordinate with the meeting venue to ensure that energy lights and air conditioning will be turned off when rooms are not in use; encourage conference registrants to do the same when leaving their rooms.
  10. Green Pledge. Encourage conference registrants to sign a green pledge at the registration desk right before the start of the conference. The conference pledge can be used to promote or encourage registrant to practice carpooling, reuse linens, turn off lights and air-conditioning when exiting rooms, and refuse newspaper delivery to the hotel room.
  11. Challenge Your Delegates to a Green Contest. Develop a contest for conference or meeting delegates by developing a form with green practices and assigned points to each practice. Encourage delegates to circle with practices they conducted while traveling to the conference or meeting. Tally the points for each delegate and give small prizes at the closing of the conference or plenary.
  12. Spread the word!  Tell delegates, speakers and the media about your success.  Doing the right thing can be contagious!