Guest post: Simple Steps to Eco-Friendly Conferences

Chris Philp works on behalf of Maxvantage, global specialists in strategic meetings management. In honor of Earth Day tomorrow, Chris wrote this guest post about simple steps conference organizers can take to go green. Even for big events, it’s not as hard as you might think!

When planning meetings or conferences, it might be easy to miss the need to be eco-friendly, but a little forethought and planning can have surprisingly good results, not only for environmental impact, but also on the bottom line. Many conferences are planned far from home, in locations where there is no environmental consciousness. Looking closer to home—and at a like-minded venue—can reduce costs related to travel, time wasted, and food and entertainment costs.

Reducing travel costs might be the single largest reason to consider staying close to home when planning a company event or conference, as this can cost thousands for each participant alone. And by not flying, the carbon emissions are radically reduced, keeping your carbon footprint to a minimum. Simple considerations such as planning to use a shuttle rather than individual vehicles can reduce costs and carbon emissions further still. As an example, the federal government spent nine billion dollars on travel last year alone to meetings and conferences.

Plan to meet at a location that is dedicated to providing a green experience. A large hotel can use more products in one week than one hundred families will in a year. Event planners can work around this by providing materials such as water or condiments in bulk, rather than individually packaged. Recycling bins can be made available to reduce the packaging waste. These will all help to reduce the paper, plastic, and food waste associated with a large group of people meeting.

One large hotel chain says that a three-day meeting attended by a thousand people can use a hundred thousand gallons of water, more than two hundred thousand kilowatts of power, and can produce up to twelve tons of waste. To reduce or eliminate waste of resources, consider going digital to eliminate the need for paper, pens, and printed reports. Add to this that going digital will greatly reduce costs and improve productivity with resources literally at an attendee’s fingertips at all time and you have a winning solution.

Providing catering for a large number of attendees can be challenging to plan, particularly considering possible waste. As you plan, consider what the attendees will need to eat, and for a small meeting, you can even cater to individual desires to reduce waste. When catering, choose locally grown foods to reduce the carbon emissions created by transport. Select a venue that will use reusable flatware, or at least some with recycled content. You may even want to ask if leftover unneeded food could be donated to a local charity.

In conclusion, here are 5 practical tips for a greener meeting:

1. Travel less

2. Use shuttles instead of individual transport

3. Eliminate paper

4. Choose an environmentally conscious meeting location

5. Plan food and beverage beforehand to reduce waste