The Green Meetings Evolution
The meeting and convention industry has made some eco-friendly strides in recent years, including establishing the recently released APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards. Despite this progress, the green meetings arena is still a confusing place to be. The long-awaited standards intend to clearly define what a green meeting is and create more consistency across the industry, but planners of green events must contend with a wide array of venue and hotel-related environmental standards and certification programs. Read more here.
Before planners become immersed in all the different standards and certifications, they need to start by looking at their own organizations, says Nancy Zavada, principal of MeetGreen, a sustainability consulting firm. Examining your environmental mission, establishing a sustainability policy and creating a green meetings checklist is the best place to begin your sustainability journey, she advises.
“Different organizations have different things that are important to them, so ask what’s really vital to your organization,” says Zavada. “Every organization or event should have a list of things that are very vital to them that they won’t waver from, so when you talk to the venue or do an RFP, these are your requirements.”
If coming up with your own checklist intimidates you, do some research and look for existing standards or guidelines to use as a template, advises Brittin Witzenburg, sustainability coordinator of the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.
“Use some standards or references that already exist. There’s no point in totally re-inventing the wheel,” says Witzenburg. “APEX isn’t the only standard or checklist, so in many ways, a lot of it is upon the planners to educate themselves on what’s out there and what they feel or their organizations feel is most important.”
Start small by picking four or five green practices that matter most to you and stick with them, even if a venue or hotel has its own environmental policies in place that differ from yours. A good provider will be willing to work with you and do whatever they can to help you achieve your goals, says Lindsay Arell, sustainable program director at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.
“If a hotel or venue is saying, ‘This is what we’re doing,’ it’s great that they’re making the effort and educating clients, but if there’s something missing from those practices that you’d like to have or have experienced in other venues, you need to ask for that,” says Arell. “Communicate and collaborate.”