Meetings and events are big business in the U.S. They are valued at about $1 trillion and invariably listed as one of the ten largest industries in the country. With so many meetings and events, this can have a significant impact on the environment and the use of natural resources.
Fortunately, hotel properties are already very focused on Green and sustainability issues. Their guests now expect it, and hotel and lodging facilities are now enjoying one of the many benefits of sustainability: saving money. However, there is more to do. Administrators are encouraged to focus more attention on ways to reduce their environmental footprint when it comes to meetings.
Far too often, these have been overlooked. But there are many ways we can turn this around. Often it requires some “partnering” with the organizations planning to hold an event at your property, and in most cases, they will be more than happy to do so.
One way to start this partnering off to a good start, is to make sure the prospective client is aware of the sustainability and environmentally preferable initiatives already in place at the hotel. This way they can plan accordingly and know what to expect should they plan an event at your property.
So what are some of the ways we can partner with our clients and make meetings Greener and more sustainable? Among them are the following:
- If attendees are flying to the meeting, provide the client with airlines that offer direct flights to the meeting city; direct flights tend to use less fuel and contribute fewer greenhouse gas emissions
- If possible, provide group transportation for attendees to get to the hotel; provide the client with information on how participants can travel to the property using public transportation; another option is to arrange for attendees to carpool from the airport to the meeting
- At the start of the meeting, have the meeting host or a hotel representative discuss with participants that the property is very focused on protecting the environment and asks the cooperation of all attendees. This gets everyone in a Green and sustainability frame of mind from the start and can prove very effective.
- Encourage the client to select badges made from recycled materials, which are also recyclable; offer to order these for the client
- Make sure recycling trash cans are strategically placed throughout the meeting area
- Trash cans should be labeled “wet trash” and “dry trash.” Dry trash cans do not need plastic liners, which are usually not made from recycled materials
- Do not provide paper napkins, paper or plastic glasses, plates, or utensils; provide the real McCoy
- Select decorative items that can be re-used
- If placing flowers, select flowers that are in season and locally grown; this way they do not need to be flown in from somewhere else in the country, consuming fuel and releasing greenhouse gasses
- Serve water from pitchers; do not provide plastic bottles
- Make everything digital. Using the hotel’s wireless system, encourage the client to provide all items that would typically be delivered on paper to be delivered electronically to the attendee’s computers, tablets, phones, etc.
- Encourage all participants to take notes digitally; if paper is supplied make sure it is made from recycled materials
- Printed material should be on recycled paper using vegetable ink; it’s often a good idea to note these attributes on all printed material. Once again, it encourages attendees to do their part in protecting the environment
- All food should be provided by local suppliers; stress “eating green.” It’s healthier and has a reduced environmental impact when compared to meat
- Before and after the meeting, clean the room using Green-certified cleaning solutions
- Turn on heat or A/C and lights about 30 minutes before the event and turn everything off right after the event; if it is possible, take advantage of daylighting – for instance a morning meeting would be in a room facing east to make use of sunlight – that can help reduce energy needs.
Stephen P. Ashkin is founder of the Green Cleaning Network, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating building owners and suppliers about Green Cleaning and president of The Ashkin Group a consulting firm specializing in Greening the cleaning industry. He is considered the “father of Green Cleaning,” on the Board of the Green Sports Alliance, and has been inducted into the International Green Industry Hall of Fame (IGIHOF).