It's hard to deny that green meetings have gone
mainstream. Convention centers and meetings hotels routinely
tout their LEED certifications, sustainabile practices, and
other "green building" credentials, and upgrade them during
renovations. Nearly all third-party planning companies now
offer advice on how to make meetings more sustainable in ways
that go well beyond replacing individual water bottles with
water stations or asking the hotel about its recycling program.
A growing number of companies have formal environmental
policies in place.
In fact, when we polled Successful Meetings
readers in March,
nearly three-quarters (72.4 percent) of the 123 stakeholders
who responded said they have green policies and procedures in
place for at least some of their meetings and events, and
nearly one in five (18.7 percent) said they have these policies
in place for all of them.
Sustainable policies and procedures are also key factors in
selecting third-party vendors and other organizations they work
with, these planners said. Nearly three-quarters (73.2 percent)
of respondents said it has either some or a great deal of
influence on hotel choice, while about two-thirds said the same
of event venues (67.2 percent) and convention centers (66.9
percent). Between 50 and 60 percent said this influence
extended to restaurants, attractions, convention and visitors
bureaus, and destination marketing organizations.
One planner, who works for a major consumer foods firm that has
green meeting standards in place, says the reason is simply,
"to be environmentally responsible. Simple changes can be made
that will impact the future of our planet." That's not the only
reason to consider green meetings, however. Many sustainable
practices can actually save money.
A planner for a well-known brokerage firm that spends more than
$50 million on its meetings spoke of being "fiscally and
educationally responsible" as well as "investing in our
communities" as its reasons for including green practices.
That's why his firm goes beyond post-event surveys, following
up with local organizations that benefit from sustainable
practices such as using food service vendors who buy locally
and recycle, as well as donating excess food and meeting
materials like pens and notepads to charitable organizations.
His firm also reduces paper use by handing out electronic
documents when possible and printing on both sides of the paper
when not. It works with hotels to persuade attendees to reuse
things like linens and soaps, and recycles paper and beverage
bottles at its meeting venues - although it also sets up water
stations and distributes reusable water bottles to attendees.
At the same time, the planner says that while attendees react
positively to these sustainable practices, they don't notice
them if they are missing - a comment with which nearly half
(49.6 percent) of his fellow respondents agreed.