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Green is the New Conference
Think back to the last conference you attended. What was it like? Were there lots of handouts? Were they printed on both sides or just one? Was the food sustainably farmed and locally sourced? Were plastic water bottles used?
Everybody’s doing it
There’s no doubt about it, green is going mainstream and meeting planners for the smallest organizations on up to the Democratic and Republican national conventions are demanding sustainable alternatives to standard conference production practices. No, White House staffers haven’t swapped their suits and ties for love beads and Birkenstocks, and neither have the other organizations that are adopting green conference practices. But they have rejected the myths that green is more expensive, less effective and lacking the science needed to back up its benefits. In a post “Inconvenient Truth” society, most of us agree that climate change is real and we have a duty to start reversing the damage ASAP. Even those who don’t buy into global warming can agree it’s good to reduce, reuse, and recycle because it saves money and protects natural resources. Whether you work on Capitol Hill or Mount Veeder, it’s easy to see that green makes good sense for your business, your constituents, and the planet.
Carbon emissions are so passť
Traditional conference and meeting production can be a messy business when you imagine that a week-long event with 2,200 attendees can generate 2,000 pounds of paper waste from meals alone. That’s not including the paper from handouts and programs, the carbon emissions from all the single occupancy vehicles, or the leftover food and other waste that ends up in the dump and beyond. Yikes. The same size crowd would, according to the EPA, send close to 10,000 plastic water bottles to the landfill. On the flip side, if water were served from pitchers, without pre-filling glasses, participants could save an estimated 500 gallons of clean drinking water per day!
The good news is that more and more meeting planners are insisting on organic cuisine, real china, and cloth napkins instead of the disposable kind; they’re helping guests coordinate ride sharing and alternative transportation; they’re sending e-invitations instead of hard copy, and posting downloadable materials on the web rather than distributing print-outs en masse. They’re demanding pitchers and glasses for water, and absolutely no plastic bottles.
Despite the current barrage by the media touting green everything, real sustainable living is still uncharted territory for most of us. But we’re inspired and hopeful about its promise to dramatically improve our world, so we jump in, happy to learn as we go. And quick as we scramble to keep up with the trends and facts, it’s easy to fall behind when green technology is evolving faster than policy makers can draft ordinances and provide direction. So what’s a socially-conscious meeting planner to do? Before you throw in the organic cotton towel, here are some dos and don’ts to ensure your next meeting is a vibrant shade of green:
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