How to Achieve Green Meetings Success

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Ask For It Colorad Convention Center
Onsite garden at the Colorado Convention Center

Planners hoping to incorporate sustainable practices into their next meeting should just ask for them, according to the Ask For It! campaign launched by the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC). The campaign addresses the lack of communication between suppliers and meeting planners about sustainable practices. It encourages planners to sign a pledge that they will initiate a sustainability conversation using the APEX/ASTM standard as a resource.

The initiative allows planners to register/certify their events in accordance with standards; suppliers can certify to standards as well to accommodate green meeting initiatives.

“There is a feeling throughout the meetings industry from suppliers that they would implement more standards if planners were asking for it,” says Lindsay Arell, sustainable programs manager at the Colorado Convention Center, GMIC Board Member and driving force behind the campaign. “We identified the importance of that conversation and believe in the power of the planner to shift the industry towards more sustainable practices by asking for it.”

This conversation is certainly not new to some planners. Prevue spoke with Katherine Manfredi, CMM CIS, event professional and GMIC Florida/Caribbean Chapter co-founder, about how she approaches suppliers about sustainable practices.

What are the key sustainable practices that you approach suppliers about?

Manfredi: Most suppliers are open to (or already doing) things like recycling and replacing bottled water with water stations. For venues, I look to ensure we’re using reusable F&B service items like China and avoiding disposables, especially Styrofoam, that can fill up landfill waste sites. I’m also looking for venues that are willing to see how we can reduce energy and water use such as through exhibit move in/out at partial lighting and A/C. Often there are good linen reuse programs in many hotels. I also look for indicators of waste reduction such as if they are partnering with “upcycling” groups like Clean the World that take gently used guest room amenities and sanitize them and give them to the needy.

Are there some practices that suppliers have not been able to provide in the past, and how did you work it out with them?

Creativity usually comes to the rescue when there’s something that doesn’t seem doable. For instance, if they cannot provide locally sourced eggs within budget, what can we serve for breakfast instead? I’ve found, by asking the supplier to make suggestions, they have some wonderful options that I may not have thought about. What might seem like a barrier is often the key to a fun and interesting solution.

Now that the APEX standards have been published, what changes do you predict will occur in the industry?

I think we’ll see more suppliers become certified to the standards, which will help planners identify suppliers that align with their needs. Because these standards are performance-based, they specify what you need to do in order to measure and manage mainly environmental sustainability within meetings and events. For this reason, I hope we’ll see us all ramp up our environmental responsibility using the standards as a road map.

With the terminology section in each standard, I also think we’ll start to talk the same language—for instance, using the same definition of what “local” means. I think we’ll also see even stronger partnerships. The standards focus on the partnerships in our industry that are so essential—planner to supplier and supplier to supplier—so I think we’ll see the standards open the door to more conversations about how we can work together to achieve our goals.

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