How To Cultivate Green Meetings for a Bumper Crop of Sustainability

We all spend lots of time helping other businesses achieve their environmental goals, but what about our own? Or if we don’t own our business, what can we do as individuals? The power of one is greater than you might think.

I will never forget seeing a preschooler with an empty can in his hand ask an environmentally sleepy host, “Where is your recycling?” The host looked around uncomfortably as this little kid, fully expecting an answer, stared at him. Eventually, the host produced a receptacle. From then on, recycling happened in that house. The difference in impact between requesting something “special,” as in “Do you have x, y or z?” and expecting it to exist, as in, “Where is x, y, or z?” is enormous.

Meetings, conferences and events offer exceptional opportunities to educate and modify behavior by being proactive – both by planners and attendees. As a planner, you can start with the actions below. As an attendee you can ask questions to gently encourage planners to meet higher expectations for sustainability. If they are already meeting them, your questions will validate their efforts.

Infographic of how to make your meetings green.

Providers will gently wake up to the demand for greater sustainability when they realize attendees and employees expect it. If you are the event coordinator or sponsor, you can get a head start on sustainable planning by visiting the best practices page on The Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC) website, or any of the resource links at the end of this blog.

Technology also plays a role getting you started. The recently updated MeetGreen Calculator tool helps companies audit the environmental impact of conference activities, assess event management practices, and track measurable outcomes in 14 key categories using globally certified, sustainable standards. The calculator is designed for simplicity with options for more advanced use. MeetGreen also created a Carbon calculator, a Sustainable Event Kit, a Sustainable Policy Template and a Green Event Checklist. All are available under the resources tab on the MeetGreen website.

Large events benefit greatly from the guidance of a specialist. Meet Jaime Nack, president of Three Squares Inc, (TSI), a cutting-edge sustainability consulting firm specializing in developing comprehensive sustainability plans for corporate entities, government agencies, and academic institutions. TSI is “a global leader in green event production and the first firm in the U.S. to earn ISO 20121 compliance.”  

Nack names four key areas when planning an event:

  1. Cutting overall energy and water consumption;
  2. Sustainable food and beverage sourcing;
  3. Waste reduction and diversion through composting and recycling, and;
  4. Attendee engagement activities.

Engagement is key because policies can only be as successful as the number of engaged participants. To that end, TSI has also developed an app via its sister company, One Drop Interactive, to help employees change their behavior by making it “fun, engaging and rewarding for their efforts.” While writing for the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, Nack said, “We strive to create an innovative event with a positive social and environmental legacy that matches the message onstage. We also want to show that with the right commitment and planning, any organization can significantly reduce the impact of its events.”

Getting buy-in from employees, attendees, vendors, and everyone associated with a company or an event creates a culture of sustainability that resonates out into the communities they serve. Individuals can ask, engage, and acknowledge, and businesses can respond, partner, and deliver. Together we will build a sustainable future that benefits us all.

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Resource Links:

Three Squares Inc.
Green Meeting Industry Council Best Practices
Food Rescue Database
MeetGreen Calculator
Climate Reality Leadership Corps
One Drop Interactive
Lanyard Library
Sustainable event tips
Events Sustainability Roadmap


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