Green Practices for Meeting and Event Planners
By Lori Hill
For decades I’ve been known as a recycling queen and I consider myself an environmentalist. In fact, in less than one week, I’m jumping into the icy Chesapeake Bay for a cause I am extremely passionate about: the fight against global warming.
In one way or another, I believe we all need to be concerned about the earth.
I’ve witnessed the tons of waste in the meeting and event industry, so I’m on a mission, along with many others, to make us greener!
So what are some basic things that we can do as meeting and event professionals?
Use recycled items and recycle everything from paper, signs and name badges to the obvious cans, bottles and newspapers.
Train your clean-up crews to sort out recyclable and reusable items from the leftover waste and if the venue doesn’t recycle, collect it yourself and reuse and recycle it.
Don’t take NO for an answer. During initial conversations with a venue for a children’s music festival I produced in June, I was told that it was just “too complicated” to recycle since attendees rarely took advantage of the containers or used them improperly. I convinced the venue to provide the containers in exchange for us taking three steps to ensure that the containers were used correctly:
1. We made regular announcements from the stage reminding attendees to recycle
2. We strategically placed recycling “centers” with large, well-marked signs in front of each container so that it was obvious what type of waste went where
3. I had one of my teen volunteers periodically monitor the containers and when she noticed that items were placed in improper containers, she donned rubber gloves and sorted items on the spot. Attendees felt so guilty seeing her “dumpster diving” that they got much better with their recycling as the day progressed.
If you must provide printed products, print them on 100% post consumer waste recycled paper that is chlorine free. Be sure to print with soy or vegetable-based ink versus traditional ink that is made from petroleum.
Instead of a paper invitation, send an email invitation which links to meeting/event website and have attendees register online or via telephone if there is no charge.
Publish the meeting/event itinerary on-line and ensure that the venue posts all meeting information on their TV channels and on screens throughout the venue.
If you must use handouts, print on both sides of the paper and bring only the quantity you will need.
Ask presenters to minimize paper hand-outs or don’t provide any at all and post presentations to the event website or have them emailed afterwards. At the annual ISES (International Special Events Society) conference in August, we saved $20,000 and countless trees by not printing out speaker presentations.
Another option is to place all presentations on a flash drive that is provided to each attendee. For a bi-annual meeting that traditionally provided attendees with large binders of information and a tchotchke (a padfolio or a messenger bag), we convinced a client to switch to a flash drive with the organization’s logo which achieved both goals: the attendees received a tchotchke with the organization’s logo and disseminated the critical information.
Make sure that when you are creating signage, it is generic enough so that it can be reused at future events. In other words, try not to reference a date, but if you do, make sure that the old date can easily be replaced with the new one.
For meetings, instead of creating a sign for each individual session, create one sign per meeting room with a plastic (I know, plastic is evil!) 8 ½” x 11” sign holder. Before each session, insert a sheet of paper that includes the name of the session and the time.
Back in October, I attended the Green Festival in Washington and learned of a new biodegradable material used in making signs called bioflex. Consider using this when making signs for your next event.
When ordering your name badges, determine if you really need a plastic holder or can you just use paper attached to an elastic necklace? You can recycle the paper and reuse the elastic necklace. If you opt for plastic holders, be sure to collect them at the conclusion of the event/meeting and recycle the paper inserts. I provide a collection bins for name badges and have staff stand at the exit asking attendees in a friendly voice, “Would you like me to take your name badge for you?” Most people are happy to give it up (and not accidentally wear it outside the event!) and are pleased to know that we are recycling since it saves money and resources.
Lori Hill is president of the environmentally friendly firm, lori hill event productions, Inc. in Burtonsville, MD. Hill has been a member of ISES for more 12 years and currently sits on its International Board of Governors. Visit www.lorihillevents.com to contact her.