The name game: What defines a green meeting or event?

“Green, Green, bo-been
Banana-fana fo-feen

One of the biggest challenges facing proponents of the green meeting industry is the idea that a “green” meeting is something completely different from a “traditional” meeting. This misperception is perpetuated by many of us within the industry, where we continue to differentiate them so definitively in every conversation that we have. We cannot resist the urge to label everything, create an acronym, establish a #hashtag and go on a speaking tour.
Defining a green meetingYes… I am also guilty as charged: “Psst… if you liked that last meeting, I have some new ones and they are #green… you want to try it?

At its core, a green meeting is still a meeting. Putting a label on it doesn’t magically make it better. The same components that comprise a great meeting or event cannot be lost when planning a sustainable event. It always comes down to execution.

What is the definition of a green (sustainable) meeting or event? The Convention Industry Council defines it as:

“A green meeting or event incorporates environmental considerations to minimize its negative impact on the environment.”

That sounds pretty simple and straight-forward right? Actually…it is the interpretation of that definition that perpetuates the myth that a green meeting is somehow radically different. I wrote a blog post a few months ago where I provided the following interpretation of what some stakeholders believe about sustainable/green meetings:

“We would shiver on yoga mats, in the darkness of a conference room, dimly lit by beeswax candles. Our attendees would be provided half used (but freshly sharpened with the pencil shavings composted) pencils and paper (salvaged from the office recycling bin – one side already had been used). Conference organizers would shuttle attendee’s back and forth from their hotels using a Smart Car and during coffee breaks, everyone would go out and plant a tree. Oh… and the whole venue would smell like patchouli oil.”

If this is what folks are thinking, that somehow we need to sacrifice comfort or become a martyr in order to plan/attend a sustainable meeting. No wonder it creates a chasm of misunderstanding.

What can we do? How can we change the way we serve up sustainable meeting strategies?

Provide solutions, not ultimatums: Replace the current “good, better, best” selection with best practices for our industry. Best practices are never static – they may change and evolve as new information is received. When we keep ourselves informed of industry best practices, we can provide up to date solutions for our clients.

Where can we learn about industry best practices? We learn by sharing information with our colleagues. We learn by networking with industry leaders who are testing best practices consistently. We learn by familiarizing ourselves with current standards.

What do I do? I stay up to date with current standards and best practices by attending the GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference each year. It is an opportunity to hear from meeting and event professionals who are committed to sustainability and learn best practices from the experts.

It’s 2013! Let’s weave the thoughtful thread of sustainability through every meeting or event we plan.

Let’s plan a GREAT Meeting! (#gr8tmeeting)

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