Details, details. What if there were a checklist for green meetings that was quick, thorough and handy. Well, there is now, thanks to Gap Inc., which developed this Green Meeting Program, and the San Francisco CVB, which posted it (be sure to check out the new “ecothusiasm” segment on their website, onlyinsanfrancisco.com/green).
Lists of environmentally responsible hotels can be found at greenlodgingnews.com; environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com; greenhotels.com; and usgbc.org. Some guides to consider when selecting “green” hotels are:
- Hotels that provide recycling in all guest rooms.
- Hotels with water conservation fixtures in hotel guest rooms.
- Hotels with programmable thermostats with motion detectors used to control HVAC in guest rooms.
Hotels which have a property-wide linen re-use program that is clearly communicated to staff and guests.
Food & Beverage/Function Space
- Hotel will provide clearly marked recycling containers in meeting rooms.
- Hotel will not use disposable serviceware made out of Styrofoam.
- Hotel will use cloth napkins and silverware in lieu of paper and plastic when possible.
- Hotel has a food donation program.
- If the facility does not have a food donation program, hotel will agree to work with the group to provide food donations at no cost to the group.
Hotel will provide condiments in serving containers and not individual packets when possible.
- Hotel has energy-efficient lighting throughout the property.
- Hotel will provide a recycling program to include paper, plastic, glass, aluminum cans and cardboard at no cost to the group.
Hotel will use cleaning products that do not introduce toxins into the water and air.
While On-Site at a Hotel
Heating/Cooling: Ask hotel to keep meeting space temperatures comfortable, but not too extreme with air conditioning and heating. Advise venues in advance so they can set thermostats appropriately.
Ask vendors the following:
- Do you recycle oil, vehicle batteries, antifreeze and tires when they need to be replaced?
- Do you take actions to ensure vehicles are environmentally responsible; i.e., using refined oils, performing regular maintenance, using biodiesel fuels and conducting emissions tests?
- Do you have any fuel-efficient/hybrid vehicles in your fleet?
A huge area for improvement.
- Consider sending confirmation information electronically, instead of mailing packets. This will save time (collation and transit time), create an electronic “paper trail” and save trees. Hotel information can be accessed on their website, so sending hotel brochures is not necessary.
- At the least, if you consider a travel mailing to be critical (ex: luggage tags are being provided), use smaller envelopes, eliminate the hotel brochure and post the hotel URL on the conference website.
- When considering handouts, consider the need. Alternatives to printing handouts for each attendee:
- Provide information (PPT slides, speaker notes, etc.) electronically after the event.
- Print one handout per table.
- Replace binders of materials with a flash drive containing all documents.
If handouts are necessary:
- Print double-sided.
- Print multiple slides per page.
- Use recycled paper.
- Ask your printer if they can use soy or vegetable-based inks.
- Make sure your venue recycles any extra paper. If your venue doesn’t recycle, and you are trucking materials to/from your event, put them on the truck and recycle them back at the office.
- Donate leftover collateral (signage, paper handouts, giveaways, etc.); keep brand standards in mind when considering what materials can be donated.
- Always do online surveys vs. handing out paper evaluation forms at the event.
- Collect lanyards at the end of your event and use them for your next event.
Research using recyclable name badge inserts.
Food & Beverage/Catering
Don’t print hotel banquet menus!
It’s a lot of paper to have in your binder.
It’s better to partner with the chef to select seasonal, local ingredients. Reduce “food miles” generated by transporting nonseasonal foods from their origin to your meeting.
Provide filtered water stations instead of bottled waters.
If branding is the goal, give each attendee a branded water bottle that they can refill from water stations throughout the program.
- Avoid individual packaging; serve snack items, condiments, cream/sugar, etc. in bulk. This will save you money and reduce waste from packaging.
- Choose seafood from the “Best Choices” list on the Seafood Watch list.
- Tableware: Use china instead of paper products.
Box lunches: Most materials typically used to package box lunches end up in the trash. Some options:
Instead, create a grab-and-go lunch (pre-made sandwiches, etc.) that can be eaten on china at tables, but is quick and easy to put together. Provide bags at the buffet for those who need to depart.
If a box lunch is necessary, choose paper packaging that can be recycled. Make sure recycling bins are provided by the venue.
Look at bio-plastics as options for disposable tableware. The options are improving in this area. Some providers of bio-plastics are: NatureWorksllc.com, Ecoproducts.com and Worldcentric.org
- Many venues are reluctant to donate food due to liability. There are “good Samaritan” laws that protect donors in the United States and Canada, so always ask, particularly if the food items are packaged.
- If you do want to donate food, ask your venue before you arrive on-site.
- Some food donation suggestions can be found at pcma.org or America’s Second Harvest.
- Eco-flowers are increasing in popularity and availability. These control the growing conditions as well as labor practices for harvesting.
- Donate flowers to elderly, sick and terminally ill people in the local area.