Has a focus on sustainability diminished as we faced a global recession, lowered budgets, increased expectations with reduced resources being common themes faced through all areas of the industry? Is producing more sustainable events truly more expensive? Is this a cost we need to bear in order to be responsible global citizens as we bring groups together? Or is it possible to actually save money while making sustainable choices?
The Green Meetings Industry Council has just finished its annual meeting, bringing together hospitality and meeting professionals who are passionate about one shared objective – making our events the most practically sustainable they can be. This is a meeting of optimists and game changers, and the ideas go far beyond “green” to consider a more holistic people, planet, profit model, as one feeds the other.
Continuing the discussion of innovative solutions, simple ideas, and back of house processes that will make the ongoing opportunities easier to implement were inspiring. Also at this meeting, the Convention Industry Council announced the final instalment of the APEX/ASTM standards – this final for accommodation – has been completed, providing a method and process for measurement across all areas of the industry.
As more corporations and associations share their core values, we find thousands around the world that have stated sustainability objectives, and we can continue to build on these in the face-to-face meetings that they will host or participate in. We are taking strides in the direction we need to be moving as an industry that has a big footprint.
We can pursue a green agenda in several ways, beginning with choosing one of the many global destinations that are forward thinking in their transportation options, waste management strategies, good human rights and care practices, and access to sustainable food among other criteria. Partnering with venues who are LEED (or similar) certified to host your meeting will naturally minimize your impact as they will already be sharing best practices for heating, cooling, water, waste, recycling and similar facility-driven initiatives. These are also often facilities that are supporting their communities through food sharing and social responsibility initiatives, and are taking care of the people who work there through fair wages and good talent resource initiatives. In Canada we have a plethora of facilities and hotels that are on the leading edge worldwide for sustainability, and are great places for groups to connect, collaborate and share knowledge.
Additional small green initiatives that can be considered by meeting organizers include:
- pre-event marketing, planning and registration by primarily electronic streams
- carbon offsets for air travel
- unique low impact transportation options on arrival or through the program
- limiting print materials by possibly including a mobile app and using existing digital signage
- serving regional, seasonal food and beverages
- hydrating without harm using bulk plain and flavoured water stations and avoiding pre-pouring water at meals
- integrating a local CSR program that generates positive energy and direct local results
- choosing great partners that share your (and your end client’s) sustainability objectives
If you determine you want to measure your year-to-year results against available certified standards, there are organizations that specialize in this and can support you, but if you just want to make green your new black, take small steps and embrace the journey.