Going Green – 101

18 April 2016

No matter the size of your organization’s meetings and events, it only takes a few easy steps to build an eco-friendly and sustainable meeting experience. These small steps will add to your budget’s bottom line, positively influence your attendees, and give back to the community impacted by your meeting/conference. There are many levels to sustainability and I will describe a few best practice implementation strategies in the paragraphs that follow.


The first step is building a sustainability policy for your organization. Do your research and formulate a committee to assist in creating these baseline policies. Make sure you set reasonable and achievable goals. This policy will provide a foundation and set expectations when you begin the planning cycle for your meeting/conference.


Follow your sustainability policy and communicate it directly into the goals and objectives of your RFP. The Convention and Visitors Bureau’s (CVB’s), hotels, and convention centers are all focusing on sustainability and will be happy to share their efforts with you. Working together to focus on sustainable events will help to align your green efforts.

For additional information, programs such as Green Key Global and their Green Key Meetings Program https://greenkeyglobal.com/– are set up for the hospitality industry to set and rate lodging and event facilities in N. America. Also, The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ is the most recognized third-party certification for green buildings and design.


Incorporating locally sourced food provides fresh and seasonal ingredients for your catering functions and it is a great way for your attendees to experience another aspect of the regional destination.
Instead of having water at each table in pitchers or plastic bottles, ask that there be water coolers in your meeting rooms or in the hallways. Use recyclable plates, utensils, cups, and napkins to reduce the conference’s carbon footprint and minimize water usage. Donate leftover food to shelters. Note: this strategy can vary drastically depending on the type of food and the laws that govern the city, state, and/or region where you are holding your event.

Energy and Transportation

Make sure your meeting site is centrally located to help reduce the environmental impact. Instead of having to take a bus to the meeting site, your attendees can walk. Encourage your attendees to do so by supplying them with simple routes to and from the venue. You can even provide a place for your attendees to slip off their walking shoes and store them while at the conference.

Paperless Technology

Still using a paper program? An easy way to go green is to get rid of those 80-page programs that go out of date before you even print them. Instead, use an app! Your sponsors are happy to share or cover the costs of having an attendee app for dynamic ad placement.

Tracking attendance? Streamline your tracking through a cloud-based smartphone device. This strategy eliminates the need for paper sign-in sheets completely. No more losing data or compiling multiple spreadsheets either. This alternative allows you to instantly produce certificates which include credits earned at your conference, which can be sent out electronically.

Speaking of electronic methods, use email to distribute details prior to your event. Electronic surveys can be sent out with thank you notes and attendance certificates once your event has concluded.


Tell your exhibitors that your organization is making strides to go green at the conference this year. You can ask them to minimize the giveaway literature and consider a personal email with links or attachments. Offering exhibit companies a fast and easy alternative to asking the attendees to fill out a sales sheet will substantially limit paper use. Using a lead retrieval app will streamline this process while reducing your carbon footprint. Be sure that the app has the ability to provide customizable questions that make for a concise and timely follow up. With the right company, you will generate revenue while reducing waste!


Communicate with your attendees and exhibitors to get them excited about the effort. This open channel of communication will get them involved with your efforts. It is also great PR for your conference during all phases.

Make it fun!

Share facts about walking and how many calories your attendees are burning, not to mention improving their own lives while reducing their carbon footprint. Consider a localized Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project to give back to the community. Offer morning wellness programs such as bike rides or fun walks.

Incorporating sustainability into your meeting/conference is a victory for everyone. I encourage you to take this challenge and increase your awareness of this worthy cause. Implementing these basic steps can sprout your future sustainability efforts, and impact the attendees' experience while saving your organization some serious “green”.

Posted by Christina Buck, CMP