Greater Midwest Chapter

June 27 2013

Easy Steps to Green Your Meetings

Jill Formeister

Meetings have changed over the last few years as organizations green their meetings to improve the use of resources, eliminate waste, share with the less fortunate, and decrease expenses.  Following are some relatively easy steps you can incorporate into your meetings:

  • Support hotels that participate in the “farm to table” movement.  These hotels purchase vegetables, fruits, meats, and other food products from local farmers.  This practice supports the local community, decreases food transportation costs, and results in fresher food for your attendees.
  • Check whether your hotel works with Clean the World, an Orlando-based organization that collects and distributes sterilized hotel soaps and amenities to people in need. Local homeless shelters and people around the world can benefit from these soap, shampoo and conditioner collections. Clean the World aims to reduce hotel waste going to local landfills and prevent diseases caused by poor hygiene. Hand washing with soap significantly reduces the impact of two fatal diseases: acute respiratory infection and diarrheal disease. These are the top two killers of children under five years old.

    Planners might consider including soap and shampoo donations in their hotel    contracts.  If your hotel does not already work with Clean the World, you might encourage it to join the Clean the World Hospitality Program.
  • Replace bottled water with dispensers, which can also decrease a group’s expenses.  Some groups sell water bottles as a sponsorship.  Attendees then fill their bottles at the water stations throughout the meeting.
  • Request that your hotels offer linen reuse in every guest room.  Hotels save both water and money when guests take advantage of this option.  These savings could give hotels needed leeway to agree to some concession that is important to your group.
  • Some hotels offer rebates or discounts to groups who go green.  Hyatt offers a “Meet and Be Green” program through the end of 2013.  Planners who agree to 10 steps for greener meetings can be eligible for a 3% discount.
  • Arrange for local food banks or charities to remove unused food and beverage from your meetings and events.  Your hotel or convention center might already have such a program in place.  Besides helping to feed the hungry in the local community, expenses of hauling away the leftovers can be saved.
  • You probably are already reducing or eliminating paper at meetings by eliminating handouts and putting program materials online or on devices such as iPod Touch.  Increasingly, planners are successfully replacing the bulky set-up book with iPads, saving paper - and backs.
  • Choose a venue with an in-house recycling program and encourage recycling
  • Decrease the usage of paper and plastic by using real china for all food and beverages
  • Recycle event supplies, such as name badge holders, whenever possible
  • Collect and reuse items such as table numbers and signage
  • Select hotels and suppliers with green policies and practices
  • Host all multi-session meetings at a central location to limit transportation needs

These are just some of the ideas that planners are employing now. How has your organization changed its practices?