Environmental Meeting & Event Nuts & Bolts
Step 1: Gain Management or Sponsor Support
Sell your approach to management by emphasizing the range of environmental benefits, enhanced public image, and potential cost savings that result from incorporating environmental considerations into the planning process. In addition, your environmental leadership may help you obtain new or additional sponsorship and funding.
Step 2: Set Your Environmental Priorities
First, identify environmental issues that are especially significant to your organization, community, or region. Next, select environmental priorities reflecting those particular issues. Finally, determine the amount of effort your management will dedicate to meeting the priorities.
Clearly defined environmental priorities will help you identify the specific actions you can take to meet these objectives. The planning checklist at the end of this guide can help you set and meet these priorities.
Preventing or Reducing Waste
The best way to deal with waste is not to create it in the first place. Determine what materials are needed at your event and consider ways to reduce the amount used. For example, conference planners may reduce the amount of paper they distribute by purging duplicate addresses from mailing lists and requiring that all printed materials be double-sided.
Work With Your Recycling Vendor to Consider:
- What items can be recycled in the event community?
- Where will you collect and store recyclables?
- Who will be responsible for signs and collection?
Contracting for Services:
If your event does not take place in a facility with recycling and food service contracts already in place, remember to share yourenvironmental priorities with the potential contractors:
- Incorporate priorities in the contract.
- Let reluctant contractors know that you can shop around for other contractors that will meet your environmental priorities.
- Consider incorporating incentives into contracts, such as sharing profits from the sale of recyclables.
Recycling and Managing Waste
Arrange for collection of as many recyclables as possible. Work with event site managers and recycling vendors when planning your meeting or event. Waste prevention measures and recycling collection will significantly reduce the amount of trash generated during your meeting or event.
Other Environmental Issues
Other environmental issues important to your community might include water conservation, air quality, or specific natural resource issues. For instance, meeting planners in California might place a high priority on water conservation during water shortages.
Step 3: Translate Your Priorities Into Actions
Selecting a Site
Look for a site that best addresses your environmental priorities. To meet waste reduction and energy conservation priorities, for example, look for a naturally lit site offering comprehensive recycling collection and mass transit services.
Arranging for Food Service
Select food service providers that use reusable serviceware, or sell products that come in recyclable, little, or no packaging. A careful head count of attendees will reduce preparation of unnecessary meals.
Encourage your planning team and contractors to look for products that:
- Are reusable (e.g., name tags, binders, grease boards).
- Have recycled content (especially postconsumer).
- Use little or no packaging or packaging that contains recycled or reused materials.
- Are recyclable or compostable on site or in a community program.
Encourage attendees to recycle with visible signs, written announcements, and opening remarks. Also, inform event contractors, exhibitors, and vendors about recycling procedures prior to the event. Arrange with your recycling contractor for an appropriate number of containers to be strategically placed throughout the site.
Promoting Your Event's Environmental Features
Make sure that event attendees are aware of its environmental features. Take the opportunity to exhibit your leadership and share your environmental commitment with others.
Monitoring and Evaluating Results Enable You To:
- Document and track problems, successes, and failures of event initiatives.
- Quantify results and measure the effectiveness of initiatives.
- Promote the environmental achievements of the event.
Step 4: Evaluate the Event and Celebrate Its Success
Measuring Recycling Collection and Waste Generation
As collected recyclables are removed, look for food waste mistakenly discarded in recycling bins or recyclables placed in the wrong bins. Try to determine the cause of any contamination such as inadequate signage or poorly placed containers. Request that the recycling vendor and trash hauler report on exact quantities of materials and trash removed from the meeting site.
Surveying the Participants
Some meeting planners have done exit polls asking respondents to comment on the environmental aspects of the event. Also, seek suggestions to improve the environmental quality of your next event.
Promoting Environmental Achievements
Inform management, shareholders, sponsors, contractors, and the public about your success using your internal newsletter, bulletin board system, or annual report. Prepare press releases highlighting the environmental results of your event.