Hug a Tree – It’s Good for You

By Lain Ehmann

Holding environmentally friendly green meetings doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, according to the Convention Industry Council’s Green Meetings Report, green meetings can have economic benefits. Here are three tips to keep your meeting earth friendly.

Plan ahead. It’s tough to change anything at the last minute, so during the site selection and contract negotiation stages make a list of your green ideas and discuss them with the venue and catering representatives. The Fairmont Hotels and Resorts suggest setting your green goals at the start and figuring out how much time and effort you can put into this facet of your meeting planning. It’s okay to ask for simple things, such as placing recycling bins in plain sight, sending unused food to a food bank or homeless shelter instead of being dumped, and letting hotel let guests know about the linen re-use program. Make your service providers your partners in staying green. They might have ideas you haven’t thought about or participate in programs of which you are unaware.

Think small. Small changes can have a big impact. For example, the Fairmont Royal York in Canada is part of the Bag-a-Cork program. By collecting corks from wine bottles this program has kept more than 50,000 corks out of landfills this year alone. "As one of Canada’s largest hotels and wine purchasers, this practice shows we’re concerned not only about the environment, but also about the small details of events," says conference service manager Jennifer Brock.

Other actions, such as turning out lights when not in use, not prefilling water glasses at banquet meals and sending out premeeting information via email also can have a significant impact.

Reuse materials. We live in a disposable society, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Think of ways to reuse materials or to use goods that are durable rather than disposable. For example, based on information in the CIC report, a three-day meeting for 220 people that uses china and silverware instead of plastic disposables keeps almost 200 pounds of nonrecyclables from going into the landfill. Other ways to reuse include collecting and reusing name badge holders, directional signs, boxes and packing materials and decorations.

Don’t get overwhelmed by all the possibilities. Implementing even one of these ideas is a step in the right direction. Start small and build on past successes and then take your ideas back to your home office. Many of the efforts you make at your meeting or conference can be adapted easily to an office setting.

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