Green Eggs and Ham … and Meetings.

Think Green 
So it’s Saint Patrick’s Day today. Is there a better day to post a few tips about “greening up” your meetings? Whether you plan large scale or small scale meetings and/or events, there are many sustainability or green initiatives you can consider. This means changing things up a bit but in the process it can be very good for your meeting and save you money. You just have to begin to think differently. And when you embrace it, it will be kind of like finding a pot o’ gold at the end of rainbow. 

Sustainability certainly isn’t a new issue but it is an issue that needs continuos scrutiny and constant questioning to ensure that complacency doesn’t occur. Recent statistics from PEW research have shown that overall, 32% of U.S. adults say they are quite bothered by people or organizations engaged in the practice of throwing things away that could be recycled and noted that a majority of Americans engage in the practice of recycling. These are your attendees. Why not implement new tactics that will resonate with them? Your attendees bring their attitudes with them to your meetings, so let them know how you are changing your “business as usual” to help the environment. It will go a long way. And let’s give a nod to the Irish today by remembering that nothing is as easy as it looks and everything will take longer than you expect. Those Irish and their proverbs … 

Implementing Green  
One of the first steps is to do your homework by examining your current practices. Do you have a sustainability plan? Does your meeting have a team that focuses on Green initiatives? Do you promote your efforts to your attendees and provide an opportunity for their suggestions to be heard? Consider turning your efforts into a promotional piece that creates awareness and educates them on the positive impact these efforts will have on the environment. Many organizations don’t even realize that they already implement tactics that can be promoted. Does your meeting recycle bottles or cans? Have you included water coolers in place of plastic bottles? Do you give out reusable water bottles to attendees? Do you donate food that is not eaten during the meeting to local community organizations? Have you stopped printing brochures and moved to a mobile app? As you review your current efforts, you may find that your company is greener than you think and that tactics are already in place that can be highlighted to increase the awareness around your sustainability efforts. 

The future is not set, there is no fate but what we make for ourselves. 
― Irish proverb 

Statistics on Meetings, Exhibits and Events 
According to Events Industry Council (EIC), Meetings Mean Business Coalition and Oxford Economics, new data demonstrates that the industry plays a key role as a vital segment of our national economy. In an Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy report, it was found that the events industry generates over $1 trillion USD in direct spending and 26 million jobs. If measured as a contributor to the GDP, the business events sector would rank as the 22nd largest economy in the world.

Some additional findings of significance are that the U.S. meetings industry represents: 
• 5.9 million jobs 
• $446 billion of Gross Domestic Product 
• $104 billion in federal, state and local taxes 

In keeping with the Saint Patrick’s Day theme, that is a lot of green! Clearly demonstrating the impact meetings can have on the economy and the environment. 

The mission of the Events Industry Council (EIC) Sustainability Initiative is to transform the global meetings industry through sustainability and they offer a number of resources that are expanded on and updated regularly. It is a great place to start to learn more or find information that will help you to continue to grow your sustainability initiatives. To learn more, visit their resource library

Additional resources available: 
Green Hotelier  
Environmental Protection Agency 
International Association of Conference Centres 
Meeting Planners International MPI Sustainability Certificate 
Meetings Mean Business

Tips for Greener Meetings and Conferences
You may be asking yourself, will any of these efforts actually make a difference? Of course they do. The U.S. has the largest market for paper products in the world, consuming about 100 million tons annually. Implementing tactics that are sensitive to this one area alone will reap positive results. So, it’s important to remember that you just need to start somewhere. Many a hard fought battle will be had and you will need to demonstrate each initiative’s effectiveness, but don’t get discouraged. Continue to “claddaugh” your way for each win and continue to make a positive impact on the environment.  

If enough meeting planners change the way they are doing things, a tremendous positive impact will occur. Why not be sure to include some, if not all of the 15 items highlighted in the infographic above? In the current environment, many attendees are sensitive to the environmental practices employed at events and to many those with eco-friendly policies will be more appealing. As you plan your meetings and partner with venues and hotels, ask yourself a few questions. Does the facility use environmentally friendly materials? What do they do with the extra food at the end of the event? What kind of recycling program do they have in place? Many of your attendees care about the answers to these questions and not only will it leave a lasting positive impression on your attendees, but in the long run, it’s good for the environment.  

The Irish have another wonderful saying, “May the road rise up to meet you” which translated means, “May you succeed on your journey.” By implementing small steps, staying the course and constantly examining your sustainability practices you are helping to ensure there will be an abundance of little green shamrocks for future generations.

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