It is said that money is what makes the world go ‘round. In the world of environmental sustainability, the overwhelming mantra is to “make the business case” for sustainability, which translates to “how will this save money. This was welcome news to me, actually, as I had been training my whole life for this. Heck, I grew up in a family that would pull over on the highway to pick up a can worth 5 cents! But from a meeting planner’s perspective, sustainability equals cost savings can sometimes be difficult to measure and, therefore, to ‘sell’. So, in light of this, here are a few ideas to help get the big green ball rolling.
First, a few easy steps:
- Start with a sustainable destination – Can you avoid offering (and paying for) transportation services by choosing a walkable city? Does the venue have an existing relationship with local/sustainable food providers?
- Food waste – Ask the caterer for their expertise in ordering quantity and crafting a less expensive, seasonal menu. It can often save on initial food cost as well as food waste (think hauling cost).
- Favor reuse – Storing that sign for next year (and the ten after that) instead of creating a new one will reduce cost, and waste. This of course assumes that you…
- Maintain brand – Try to retain the same logo/graphics year after year and avoid specific dates/locations to allow for reuse.
That wasn’t so hard! Let’s go a step further:
- Bubblers not bottles – If you provide bottled water to attendees, see how much you could save by switching to bubblers.
- Digital downloads – It is difficult to get away from paper, even in this day and age. If you rely on printed materials, try to offer a digital version for download onsite to see how your attendees react. You might find savings in printing and transportation costs right away!
- Think local – Printing and buying locally can save a great deal on shipping costs, and will ease your mind about it arriving on time.
- Communicate electronically – Save on postage and printing by sending pre-event materials electronically. Also, see if the venue/hotels have electronic signage you can use to replace physical signage.
- Donation program – Ask the venue or general services contractor about organizing an exhibitor donation program. Often they will have experience with local organizations and be able to collect and distribute materials to be reused instead of tossed away, saving on hauling costs.
This savings doesn’t have to stop with your pocketbook, either. Be generous with your frugality! Spread it around by asking suppliers to take simple sustainable steps that will save them time and money, too. This does not have to be difficult. In fact, it could be as easy as copy/pasting the following and pressing ‘send’:
In the interest of your time and money, and the commitment we have to minimizing our environmental footprint during MY EVENT, I would like to ask that you take the following measures during our time with you:
- Make sure all lights/electronics are off and blinds are shut in unoccupied rooms
- Create/maintain a linen-reuse program that is enforced throughout the event (save 1.3 gallons of water per linen reused)
- Use energy efficient lighting technology (1 LED saves $250 over incandescent bulbs, plus labor/disposal of 26 bulbs)
- Please email the event resume, and do not print copies for my team for the pre-con, we will access them electronically. If your team can do the same, all the better!
- Our group prefers limited disposable items. This means we prefer china over disposable service ware; condiments such as sugar, creamers, and ketchup served in bulk instead of individual packets; pitchers of beverages instead of individual drinks, etc.
- Provide newspapers upon request only
Please let us know if you are able to accommodate these requests. Thank you so much for your time and commitment.
*Bonus – request that hotels send an email to each of your attendees informing them of the environmental measures that have been taken for your event, and encouraging them to take advantage!
Remember that greening meetings can be an incremental process and you should not expect to implement everything all at once. This is not to say that you shouldn’t shoot for the moon, but rather to maintain realistic expectations to avoid feeling discouraged. As you experience successes (and you will experience success), make sure to share your victories with attendees and your team, and give accolades to those who made it possible. Everyone likes to be thanked!
And there you have it. Now…Go forth and save!