How To Host Green Meetings/Conferences

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(Reprinted in the WACUHO Leadership Manual with permission from NIRSA’s Sustainability Committee, August 2009)

Environmental Statement: NIRSA is committed to minimizing the environmental impact of our Annual Conference through:

  • Decreasing the amount of solid waste produced by the event;
  • Reducing energy and water consumption at the event;
  • Minimizing or off-setting harmful emissions resulting from vehicular transportation and energy consumption associated with the event;
  • Disposing of solid and liquid waste in an environmentally responsible manner; and
  • Eliminating the use of harmful chemicals at or for the event.

Destination Questionnaire: NIRSA is planning a conference to take place \[date\] for \[number\] delegates. We are looking for a host city that adheres to high environmental standards. Please complete the following questionnaire to assist us in our selection process.

  • Does your city have a program to recycle and/or otherwise reduce solid waste that you work with? Please briefly describe.
  • Does your city have a mass public transit system that is accessible to and from the conferencing area? Please briefly describe.
  • Does your city have a conference center that will accommodate the number of delegates identified above, and that is situated in close proximity to the airport and a selection of hotels?
  • Does your city have an environmentally sound disposal system for solid and liquid wastes? Please briefly describe.
  • Does your city have a comprehensive environmental, or greening, plan? Please outline the major points of the plan.
  • Does your city have a program to reduce the consumption of water?
  • How does your city derive most of its energy? Does your city have a program to reduce energy consumption in place?
  • Does your conference and hotel center have identified outdoor running routes (street or trail) in the immediate area?
  • Please briefly describe any other environmental initiatives in place within your city.

Destination Clause: NIRSA may give preference to destinations that have active and ongoing sustainability programs and policies. Specifically, preference may be given to sites that have:

  • A comprehensive sustainability plan;
  • Programs to recycle and otherwise reduce solid waste;
  • Programs for the conservation of energy and water;
  • Environmentally responsible systems to handle the treatment of solid and liquid wastes; and
  • Environmental initiatives above and beyond those listed herein.

Hotel Questionnaire: See attached PDF – CERES; also accessible at http://www.bluegreenmeetings.org/HostsAndPlanners/PDFs/GHIsurvey.pdf

Venue Preference Clause NIRSA may give preference to venues that have active and ongoing sustainability programs and policies. Specifically, preference may be given to facilities that have:

  • A comprehensive environmental policy;
  • Programs to recycle and otherwise reduce solid waste;
  • Programs for the conservation of energy and water;
  • Programs to reduce the use of harmful chemicals;
  • Programs to improve indoor air quality; and
  • Environmental initiatives above and beyond those listed herein.

Food & Beverage Venue Questionnaire:

  • Ask that condiments, beverages, and other food items be provided in bulk instead of individually packaged.
  • Ensure food and beverage packaging is recyclable, and that it will be recycled.
  • Ask your supplier to buy local produce that is in season, to avoid costly transportation of goods.
  • Ask whether guests are asked of drinking water is desired before being poured.
  • Ask whether fair trade, shade grown, organic coffee and tea is served.
  • Request organic produce, and free-range chicken/eggs/meats.
  • Ask whether environmentally-friendly seafood is served.
  • Ask if unusable, left-over food portions can be composted, or shipped to a local farm for use as animal feed.
  • Ask your supplier to use reusable cutlery, dishware and linens.
  • Arrange to have left over food donated to a local food bank or soup kitchen.
  • Do you have a purchasing policy that gives consideration to the selection of environmentally preferred products in addition to quality and price?

NIRSA Suggestions:

  • Choose centerpieces and decorations that can be reused, such as living plants, or silk flowers. Give these away as table prizes.
  • Give your delegates reusable coffee mugs at the start of the conference.
  • Ask delegate whether or not they would use the conference giveaway instead of just giving it to them, or allow delegates to select one item from a variety.
  • Improve name badge re-use program (eg, write a special message to the next user before donating it in specific bins at specific points, maybe at conference venue and at all hotel front desks).
  • Offer vegetarian meal selections; vegetables consume less land base and energy to produce.
  • Ask delegates to \’sign-up\’ for meals, by letting you know what meals they will be attending. This will reduce food waste – and your costs.
  • Allow delegates to pre-select their meal sizes beforehand. Some people may not want all of the courses; others may want smaller portions. Pre-selection will cut down dramatically on food wastage.

Exposition/Meeting Venue Questionnaire:

  • Is on site recycling provided for cardboard, pallets, paper products, plastic bottles, cans, glass and other recyclable materials that are generated?
  • Are clean-up crews trained to sort out recyclable and reusable items from the garbage?
  • Are display booths created using recycled &/or reusable material?
  • Do you have a purchasing policy that gives consideration to the selection of environmentally preferred products in addition to quality and price?
  • Are staff instructed to shut blinds, turn off lights, and turn down the heat/air conditioning when rooms are vacant?
  • Do you use environmentally-responsible cleaners (MSDS Health Hazard Rating of 1 or less) throughout the property?
  • Have low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) been used throughout the property? (circle: paint, adhesives, carpeting, air freshener)
  • Are water bottle refill stations available throughout the property?
  • Does your property use water conserving fixtures? (circle: 1.5 gallon per minute (gpm) aerators, 1.6 gallons per flush or better toilets)
  • Does your property use or purchase renewable energy?

Other Expo Ideas: Tell your exhibitors about your greening plan. Get them involved by asking them to:

  • Print their collateral materials on recycled paper stock, using vegetable-based inks;
  • Bring only what they need to the event, and take away what they don\’t hand out;
  • Suggest they give away items that are made from recycled materials, durable, reusable, etc.
  • Promote their own environmental initiatives

Communications & Marketing (NIRSA):

  • Prepare an environmental policy for the meeting, and share it with all those involved: management, suppliers, delegates, presenters, and exhibitors.
  • Keep track of your specific greening initiatives and let the media know about them.
  • Use the Web and emailing lists to promote the event.
  • Offer electronic registration, and publish the conference itinerary on-line.
  • For material that needs to be available in hard copy, print using both sides of the paper, using soy or vegetable-based inks and recycled, chlorine-free paper with at least 30% post-consumer recycled content.
  • Ask your hotel if they can dedicate a TV channel to conference information and updates.
  • Give delegates their packages when they check in - not beforehand - to avoid duplication.
  • Allow delegates to request electronic proceedings of the events.
  • Ask presenters to minimize paper hand-outs.
  • Post speakers\’ notes electronically along with conference proceedings.
  • Use your leverage to encourage contracted services to go green with their communications and outreach too.
  • Include an Environmental Clause in your communications contract.

Conference Legacy Ideas: Here are just a few ways you can ensure your meeting leaves a positive environmental legacy:

  • Arrange to have a tree planted for each delegate;
  • Have delegates participate in a local community clean-up campaign;
  • Make a donation, on behalf of your meetings client, to a local environmental charity; or carbon offset.
  • Arrange an off-site field trip to a local nature preserve so your delegates can learn about environmental issues facing the community.

Sources: Main Source [www.BlueGreenMeetings.org-http://www.bluegreenmeetings.org/]  Oceans Blue Foundation/ La Fondation Océans Bleus

Planners page with links [1] Includes:

  • 10 easy tips for greener meetings – includes other links with great info & ideas
  • specific areas (links to the left) – some listed below
  • How Green is Your Meeting? Quiz
  • Success stories

Examples of following info below [2]

  • Destination questionnaire
  • Sustainability Preference clause

[3]

  • (CERES) \’Green Hotel\’ Best Practices Survey (PDF file)
  • BlueGreen Preference clause example

[4]

  • Meeting/event venue checklist
  • Preference clause