Tag Archives: green meetings

Planners Helping Planners: Green Meetings

Welcome to a new series on the blog where your meeting planning questions and dilemmas are answered by experts – other meeting planners! Comment below with your own questions. 

Q: How can I make my meetings more environmentally friendly?

A: To always be prepared, create an event kit to bring on site. 

Visit the Green Meetings Resource section on ConventionPlanit.com.

This resource section is full of information specific to meeting planners on how to make your meetings more environmentally friendly. Venues are getting on board, too – when searching on ConventionPlanit.com, check off the green initiatives box to view properties committed to improving their environmental footprint.

Got a Tip? Share and Win!

pc nametag badgesDon’t forget – there’s still time to put on your thinking caps and share your best name badge tips!

From creative to useful to income-generating, submit your best ideas for a chance to win a $250 gift certificate for anything in the PC/NAMETAG catalog.

Agendas and sponsorship messages are great – but what other practical little “oh, yeah…” detail or “a-ha” ideas have you had about the backside of badges? Enter your tip today – the winner will be announced at the end of April!

The tip with the most votes wins, so spread the word to your industry peers!

Founded by meeting planners, PC/NAMETAG® provides fellow planners with supplies that solve their problems and simplify their jobs. They specialize in exclusive, innovative products that make meeting registration run smoothly. Check them out if you are in the market for their services, and be sure to enter the contest!

Wanted: Best Name Badge Tips


Printing badges? Don’t forget the 12 square inches on the backside, too, that will be in front of your attendee the entire meeting.

Agendas and sponsorship messages are great – but what other practical little “oh, yeah…” detail or “a-ha” ideas have you had about the backside of badges?

From creative to useful to income-generating, submit your best ideas for a chance to win a $250 gift certificate for anything in the PC/NAMETAG catalog.

The tip with the most votes wins – so start sharing the news with your industry peers!

Founded by meeting planners, PC/NAMETAG® provides fellow planners with supplies that solve their problems and simplify their jobs. They specialize in exclusive, innovative products that make meeting registration run smoothly.

How Green Roofs Can Improve Association Conferences and Events

About 25 association meeting professionals and industry partners of the ASAE Convene Green Alliance (CGA) gathered this summer for a “Green Roof Garden Party and Learning Tour” to discover why the numbers of vegetated roofs have grown wildly in popularity in recent years and how they might improve association conferences and events.

The group then toured the blooming 3,000-square-foot green roof of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) in downtown Washington, DC.  

“An impressive number of hotels and other meeting venues are adding or already maintaining extensive green roofs, including major convention centers such as Chicago, Baltimore, Nashville, and soon Miami Beach,” says CGA Director Kristin Clarke. “With increasing tax incentives and other regulations being crafted by cities and municipalities to encourage green roof construction, as well as the myriad operational, aesthetic, and ecological benefits offered by green roofs, these facilities are sure to become an even more common feature at meeting properties. Planners should monitor this trend and learn how they might take advantage of green roof benefits to add value to their own sustainable meetings.”

Clarke identified a long list of green roof benefits, national and international trends within the soon-to-be $8-million industry, ways that meeting planners might use green roofs creatively to impress and educate attendees, and questions that meeting planners should ask about them on site tours.

ASLA’s green roof expert, Keith Swann, detailed the process his association followed to design, develop, and implement its own award-winning green roof. He then guided the group around the facility, pointing out slope considerations, soil and design features, and the array of blooming cacti, wildflowers, and tough, drought-resistant sedum that cool building temperatures by more than 40 degrees.

While the initial cost of a green roof is greater than that of a traditional roof, according to Swann, ASLA has saved considerable energy costs and benefitted from the roof in other ways, too.

“We have people from all over the world who come to visit our roof,” Swann says.

More than a Pretty Face

Many green roofs are aesthetically pleasing and are used by hotels to provide “garden views” or “artscapes” for guests, but green roofs offer much more substantial benefits.

  • Of particular interest to meeting planners is that they are often used by chefs for “hyper-sourcing,” growing local and exotic herbs and produce onsite. Beehives also are commonly installed on green roofs, so chefs can harvest the honey for cooking, selling, and making signature spa products. Hyper-sourcing improves food quality and local “flavor” at a lower cost and with a good story to serve up as well.
  • Many properties make their green roofs available to groups, either by private arrangement or because of general public access. However, as Clarke noted, even if a facility’s roof isn’t accessible for events or tours, green roofs send a message of sustainability to any meeting and lower operational costs that affect a planner’s bottom line.
  • Green roofs also can offer potential educational opportunities for “spot learning” during breaks or receptions about ecology, herb-growing, honey sampling, architectural design, butterfly identification and gardening, etc. 
  • They can be places of quiet respite for tired attendees or clients (Health care facilities are among the fast-growing adopters of green roofs, in part, for this reason). Also, studies show that natural environments promote retention of new learning and reduce stress.
  • Green roofs help destinations earn coveted LEED designations, the benchmark of sustainable building practices, which makes properties more attractive to meeting planners who want greener destinations and sustainable meeting practices. 
  • Operationally, green roofs are vital tools for controlling stormwater runoff, a serious problem in major host cities such as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Green roofs hold up to 75% of rain that falls on them, slowly filtering and releasing the water as natural irrigation for rooftop plants, evaporation that cools “urban heat islands” caused by nearby concrete buildings and streets, and as cleaner and slower-moving water into sewer systems.
  • They improve air quality by sequestering carbon and cleansing pollutants.
  • They save dramatic amounts of energy, insulating buildings in the winter and cooling them in the summer.

“As more associations boost the sustainability goals and expectations of their gatherings and as host cities invest in new and upgraded meeting venues that embrace green roofs as key elements of that progress, these facilities are becoming more top of mind for planners—as they should,” said Clarke.

The event also included a Fair Trade chocolate sampling donated by Divine Chocolate, which distributes out of Washington, DC, and supports sustainable meetings.

For more information on ASLA’s roof and green roofs in general, visit http://www.asla.org/ContentDetail.aspx?id=25362, where you can virtually tour the roof and explore related resources. For information about CGA, visit www.convenegreen.com. All association professionals may join CGA for free and are not required to be ASAE members.

Measuring Your Green Meeting ROI

One of the best ways for associations to market themselves as green is through what is often one of their largest revenue sources: meetings and expositions. Green meetings have taken off, and anecdotal evidence proclaims it’s a beneficial thing to do—both for the organization’s bottom line and its image.

But for association meeting planners, more than anecdotal evidence is needed (especially when justifying expenses to the CEO). What meeting planners need is a concrete way to show very real return on investment: That is, how did the extra time, effort, and money expended in “greening” a gathering actually pay off vis-à-vis the bottom line?

At a recent education session on “Evaluating Green Meeting ROI” sponsored by the ASAE Convene Green Alliance at the ASAE Springtime Expo, Chris Brophy, VP, corporate sustainability, MGM Resorts International, and Kristin Clarke, ASAE Convene Green Alliance director and business editor/journalist for ASAE, showed attendees practical ways to measure the return on investment that green meetings can—and should—achieve.

Brophy suggested that rather than becoming overwhelmed with the grand notion of being sustainable and green, take a look at the specific components of your meeting (setup, exhibition, food and beverage, and venue, for example) and identify areas where your sustainability efforts will best align with the goals of your meeting.

As an example, consider how these segments, common to most meetings, could be designed to maximize sustainability:

  • Event setup: Use water- and waste-smart services and options that help you achieve your conservation goals.
  • Exhibition: Consider requiring exhibitors to make sure their giveaway items are recyclable, since many of them will be tossed anyway.
  • Food and beverage: Insist on locally sourced, healthful items.
  • Transportation: Design your meeting to be as walkable as possible and incorporate low-fuel transportation options (or no fuel, such as pedicabs).
  • Venue: In addition to implementing your own sustainability efforts, opt for venues that are already green and adopt their policies and practices as well.

Document meticulously how such efforts saved your organization money by comparing the green meeting to other non-green meetings your organization has held in the past and seeing just how much money was saved (such as less trash to haul away, cheaper energy and water costs during setup, less money spent on transportation, and so forth).

Clarke spoke on something just as important as how sustainability affects the fiscal bottom line: how it affects the social bottom line. She cited examples—such as the National Association of Professional Organizers’ (NAPO) partnership with Soles4Souls and the Toy Industry Association’s Toy Bank—that both engage today’s more socially conscious attendee (a win for the association)  and help people in need (a win for society at large).

Clarke and Brophy both asserted that green meetings can not only bring great value to associations and their members but can in fact aid society as a whole.

“It may sound hokey or melodramatic, but I firmly believe that associations can and do change the world,” says Clarke. “Whether it’s an immediate but transient change—such as feeding the hungry with leftover food—or a dramatic change, such as setting up a scholarship fund for disadvantaged youth in your industry, through actively being socially responsible, associations can make a huge difference in the quality of life of millions.”

For more information, visit www.convenegreen.com.

Advisory Council Member Makes Green Impact

Congratulations are in order for ConventionPlanit.com Advisory Council Member Carrie Abernathy, CMP, CEM.

Carrie has been elected to the Board of Trustees for the Green Meeting Industry Council Foundation!

The Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) is a global association dedicated to sustainability in the meetings industry with member representation in over 20 countries.  The organization provides education, research, policy and standards for the industry.

In her position on the board, Carrie will pull from her own experiences to help pioneer innovative green practices in the meetings industry.

We are so proud of Carrie’s accomplishments and dedication to the green meetings effort!

Check back soon for special posts from Carrie about some of the green practices she contributing to.

Have a green question? Leave a comment and we’ll reach out to Carrie for the answer!

Sustainable Industry Standards Now Available

Professionals in the meeting industry have access to the very first green meetings and event standards in the areas of Audio-Visual, Communication & Marketing Materials, Destinations, Exhibits, Food & Beverage, On-Site Office, and Transportation.  The American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) has published seven of nine sustainable meeting standards.

The standards, produced as a partnership between the Convention Industry Council’s Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) and ASTM, were initially conceptualized by the Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC) in discussions with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).  Publication of the standards comes after a period of in intense development since the project was initiated in 2008.

The APEX/ASTM standards are comprised of nine individual “sector” standards, covering all facets of event planning and management. Seven of the nine have been published with the Accommodations standard currently undergoing final balloting through ASTM and the Meeting Venue standard being prepared for publishing:

• Audio-Visual

• Communication & Marketing Materials

• Destinations

• Exhibits

• Food & Beverage

• Meeting Venue

• On-Site Office

• Transportation

• Accommodations

The 9 Standards

Each of the standards will address specific sustainable elements: staff management and environmental policy, communications, waste, energy, air quality, water, procurement and community partners.

Much of the work and research behind the initiative was a result of the work done by the APEX Green Meetings and Events Practice Panel, consisting of 300 planners, suppliers and sustainability experts from across nine time zones.  ASTM International provided comprehensive input, review and feedback from its technical experts, engineers, materials scientists, and sustainability experts across the globe.

The standards are available for individual purchase at the cost of $40 – $46 each through ASTM International in both electronic and paper options.  After the ninth standard on Accommodations is complete, all nine will be collected into a single specially-priced compilation at a cost to be determined once the final Meeting Venue and Accommodations standards are published.  Additionally, ASTM members may select one free Volume of standards with their membership dues that will contain all nine standards.  The modular design of the nine standards gives planners and suppliers the flexibility to choose the mix of resources that are relevant to their operational footprint.

For more information on the standards, ordering information and a complete list of the volunteers that contributed to the project, visit http://www.conventionindustry.org/StandardsPractices/APEXASTM.aspx

What do you think of this new sustainability program?  Would you be willing to pay in order to access the information?

Decipher Meeting-Related Carbon Offsets

Does using carbon offsets equal green meetings?

“No,” says Jeff Benavides, LEED AP O+M, Senior Project Manager for EcoPreserve, a sustainability consulting firm based in the Orlando, Fla., area. “Hold green meetings with a larger purpose in mind. First, reduce the use of non-sustainable resources where you can, reuse [and] recycle materials, and then look at using carbon offsets.

“By taking this approach, an association can achieve the most carbon reduction,” which is what Benavides says equals “green meetings.”

Benavides spoke November 8, 2011 at an ASAE Convene Green Alliance (CGA) Focus Forum called “Carbon Footprinting Made Easy” to help meeting planners decipher what carbon offsets are and how they differ, as well as what their place is in a green meetings strategy.

A recent survey of CGA members revealed that 38 percent of associations are tracking the carbon footprint of their meetings, and an additional 23 percent plan to track it within the next year.

One group already doing this is the U.S. Green Building Council, which asks attendees of its Greenbuild conference to report their mode of transportation and expected mileage. This helps quantify the largest carbon emitters of most meetings. Other areas to measure include the amount of carbon emitted by shuttle buses, vendor delivery trucks or vans, and taxis taken by attendees. The overall energy used by hotels and convention centers as a result of the meeting also should be measured if possible, and many venues offer that tracking now upon request.

Choosing an organization from which to purchase carbon offsets is the next challenge, one made more difficult by the recent proliferation of these groups, which offer everything from tree planting to renewable energy projects.

“You need to identify verifiable and reputable providers,” Benavides says. “Ask to see their certificates. It is easy to get lost in this world and not know what is real and what is not.” Some of the more well-known carbon offset companies include NativeEnergy, CarbonFund.com, and Sterling Planet.

CGA staffer Kristin Clarke also suggested that the choice of a carbon offset organization should align with the values of the association. “This can help you make choices about what calculator to use and how you want to offset,” she said. “I do all my offsetting through American Forests. If your members care a lot about animals, clean air, and trees, you may want to do that instead of building a wind farm, for example.”

Benavides also encouraged attendees to leverage the environmental commitments of sponsors and exhibitors in calculating what the association is doing to reduce the carbon footprint of a meeting. Communicating this effort to attendees and exhibitors is important, too.

In addition to Benavides, the Focus Forum featured a panel discussion that included representatives of the Orlando Convention District, which sponsored the program.

Dee Dee Baggitt of Rosen Hotels and Resorts and Michael Jueds of The Peabody Orlando joined Benavides to talk about how Orlando is advancing green meetings, including opportunities around carbon offsetting.

A new program called “Green Destination Orlando” now connects all industry sectors to create what Jueds called “The Sustainability Experience:” “We want to make it a sustainable experience from the moment you arrive until the moment you leave. We incorporate the most recognized and aggressive green building and operations standards.”

One partner in that effort is Rosen Hotels and Resorts, which recycles French fry cooking oil into fuel to power lawnmowers used on hotel properties and has a host of sustainability practices in place to lighten the eco-impacts of meetings onsite.

“All industries from restaurants to hotels are part of the initiative,” Baggitt said. “We share and learn from each other.”

Benavides added that the Orlando hospitality community pioneered the concept on which the nonprofit Clean the World has since organized formally, collecting used soap bars from hotels and providing them to nations in need to reduce diseases and infections. Numerous hotels in Orlando and outside of Florida are increasingly partnering with Clean the World to offer meeting planners, conference attendees, and other guests the chance to donate used and unused personal care items for the needy.

For more information about CGA, visit www.convenegreen.com.

DC Event: Reducing Carbon Footprints for Meetings

Here is an exciting, free learning opportunity for association professionals in the Washington, DC area that sounds too good to pass up!  It is also being put on by our industry partner, The Convene Green Alliance:

What: Carbon Footprinting Made Easy 

Learn about today’s green meeting trends and define and explore renewable energy credits, carbon offsets, and other resources that meeting professionals can use to reduce the carbon footprint of future meetings.

When: November 8, 2011

Where: ASAE Headquarters Conference Center

Cost: FREE to association professionals

Registration and Additional Information: www.convenegreen.com

CP Director of Communications, Al Rickard, CAE, will be attending the event (and sharing the highlights with us).  Say hello if you see him there!

Organization Tips for Meeting Planners

Where is that RFP?! And that set of green meeting resources…it was here a minute ago! I know I had that list of money-saving tips for the next convention, but now I can’t find it!

RFP OrganizationIf you’ve ever scrambled to find things in the rush of day-to-day business, you’ll appreciate the many ways ConventionPlanit.com can keep you organized and ensure that what you need is literally a click or two away on the web.

Here’s how:

•  ConventionPlanit.com offers three different options for submitting online RFPs,  and each one ensures that your RFP is easily accessible if you need to check specs or see where and when it was sent. Best of all, the 24-hour RFP Response Guarantee even ensures that you don’t have to get on the phone to follow up.

•  Leading destinations, convention centers, hotels, resorts, and other meeting service providers are always there in the online searchable database, complete with all relevant meeting specs so you can instantly make apples-to-apples comparisons to speed your decision-making.

•  The latest “Divine Deals” are listed online, helping you take advantage of the best special offers in the meetings industry.

•  “Stellar Tips” has hundreds of excellent meeting tips for saving money and improving your next meeting, searchable by keyword. You’ll never lose this list and you can even win a $50 American Express gift card by submitting your own tip if it gains the most votes from other meeting professionals during the next month.

•  Green meeting resources include links to industry organizations focused on green meetings, such as the ASAE Convene Green Alliance, plus many articles and white papers.

•  Best practices in the meetings industry, including those created by the Convention Industry Council Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) and other groups are all listed.

•  Dates and locations for future meeting industry conferences are listed in the “Save the Date” section.

•  For global meetings, up-to-the-minute currency exchange rates, conversion tables, international telephone country codes, time zone maps, value-added tax information, and weather forecasts are all available from one webpage.

•  Past issues of the ConventionPlanit.com e-Alert, including the headline for each issue, can be easily searched and accessed.

Many of these are listed under the “Planning Resources” tab on the ConventionPlanit.com home page. Look for the “Meeting Tools” and “Planning Resources” dropdowns from this tab and you can see most of the resources.