Expert Tips On Working Sustainability Into Event Planning And Execution
By Hailen Eisen, From MeetingsCanada.com
For the past several years, ‘green’ has been at the forefront of meeting and event planning. In keeping the environment in mind, planners have swapped plastic water bottles for pitchers and glasses, collected lanyards for reuse, and found creative ways to make ‘green’ part of the event experience. But what will happen to environmental consciousness when the novelty of ‘green’ wears off? Read more.
The green-minded meeting planner will have to start paying attention to sustainability across the supply chain and in more detail. “Until now, it’s been enough to have a checklist that includes basics: asking for local food and reusing name badges,” McKinley says. Going forward, you’ll see planners digging deeper and asking tougher technical questions, like: What materials are these lanyards made of? Are biodegradable badge holders better? What’s the best decision when you need to choose between organic produce or seasonal local produce that isn’t organic? To do this, planners will have to do more technical research and develop more intimate relationships with their suppliers.
green tip: Source lanyards and promotional materials from Vancouver-based Fairware (fairware.ca), whose products meet high standards of social- and eco-responsibility.
The greatest environmental cost of a meeting is often the travel footprint. “While it may not be as ‘sexy’ to plan a meeting or event closer to home, we’re lucky in Canada to have some incredible ‘destinations’ in our own backyard,” says McKinley. Eliminating air travel saves hundreds of metric tons of CO2, not to mention money. If your client requires a distant destination, she advises, choose a ‘green city’ and they’ll do a lot of the sustainability work for you.
green tip: Whatever city you’re in, try to be a catalyst for local enterprise and the betterment of the community. Source supplies from local vendors, and add regional touches to your meeting by connecting with artisans, farmers, etc.
Shawna McKinley is director of sustainability with MeetGreen and writes a blog called Sustainable Destinations.
Nancy Zavada, CMP
“While people used to see ‘green meetings’ as eating granola while sitting cross-legged outdoors, this is not the case,” says Zavada. “Green meetings are about first-class service and fresh, local foods served on fine china—it’s a return to the age of elegance.” She explains that many planners and venues strayed from elegance in search of convenience (disposable plates, napkins, beverages, etc.) and in doing so, forgot about the niceties of life and produced tons of waste in the process. Even if the venue has to install dishwashers and hire labour, eliminating disposables will save money.
green tip: Work closely with the chef to get him/her involved in developing menu-options (i.e. vegetarian meals) that are ‘green’ yet elegant.
Nancy Zavada, CMP, is co-founder of Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) and principal of MeetGreen.