Green Travel Summit Marries Environmental Concern with Business Needs

At the Fairmont Newport Beach in California March 23-24, Green Travel Summit keynote speaker David Refkin, former director of sustainable development for Time Inc., told meeting planners to watch for tropical diseases moving north, heavier rainstorms in some areas and droughts in others, and general variability in weather patterns as a result of environmental changes. Meanwhile, panels tackled greening of hotels and venues; an introduction to carbon offsets; how virtual meetings fit into a green plan; green meetings guidelines and checklists; and case studies of Royal Caribbean's eco policy and InterContinental Hotels Group's social responsibility policy.

A luncheon honored the National Business Travel Association's corporate social responsibility award winners and the winners of MeetingNews and Successful Meetings' Greenest Planner Awards: Harith Wickrema of Harith Productions, Jodi Morrison of Oracle Corp., and Kim Booriin with Guardian Investor Services in New York City.

Harry Lewis, attorney advisor for the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, delved into how the EPA is incentivizing companies to go green by doing meetings business with eco-conscious firms. The EPA's RFPs now include the "14 Questions" that address water conservation, recycling, accessibility to public transit, and related issues.

Lewis also discussed his own "environmental neurosis." He once declined to travel to a meeting to speak on a panel because of limited time to share his information and the environmental cost. In addition, for companies curious about carbon offsets but not sold on the idea, he favors spending money on a nonstop flight over the offset.

In a speech, Auden Schendler, executive director of sustainability for Aspen Skiing Co., and author of Getting Green Done, said while it's empowering to hear of green successes, it's vital to discuss, and learn from, failed attempts, too.

Originally published April 20, 2009