When MeetGreen had an opportunity to coordinate a sustainable event in the British Virgin Islands this spring, volunteers were not hard to find. Our Portland, Oregon, based planners were especially tired of the long, rainy winter and enthusiastic about the project. Armed with event expertise and sunscreen, Jaclyn Skrivseth, Project Manager, boarded a plane for adventure.
While her stories are many, today she shares some of her “lessons learned:”
- The supply barge only comes when the barge decides to come. It is important to know if the barge is front loader or not to match the dock when it does arrive.
- When sending dignitaries to the event by boat (the only option), make sure you know the height of the dock and if it matches the height of the boat.
- Events tend to be formal (suits and dresses) in the British Virgin Islands, so let guests know they should dress appropriately for walking on sand and getting in and out of boats.
- You need to brush up on the local island dialect asap.
- Polystyrene is not an endangered species and neither is 90’s music.
- All the facilities and venues are very small, you need to check the capacity of the sewer system.
- If you order port-a-potties to subsidize the sewer system, they will have to be barged in. See Item #1.
- If the event grows and your hotel room is sold, you may have to sleep on a boat.
- Plan for rain, it isn’t always sunny on a tropical island. That is why they are so green.
- Local food is not local unless it is a fish. Ignore the chickens roaming the streets.
- It may not be easy to set up a recycling system where the garbage is incinerated, not hauled.
- Advise guests to carry-on their important items. Charter airline and transfer baggage service is not dependable.
- Mailing addresses are all PO Boxes and getting a street address is difficult. Warn sponsors in advance to allow for Item #1 and onshore delivery.
- Even a green meeting planner has to resort to bottled water when it’s not safe to drink.
- Don’t upset the local vendors as they may be the only one able to provide the service on the island.
- Know how to maintain a professional demeanor with sweat running down your face or when riding around in a small inflatable boat.
The event was wildly successful and great strides were made toward the sustainability of that region of the world. Jaclyn looks back on her planning adventure with both pride and a new appreciation for island planning.
Photo credit: The Nature Conservancy