Going beyond green to sustainability

published on September 5, 2017
Green meetings Working Smarter

We all want to do the right thing when it comes to being eco-responsible. We’ve mastered the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), we’ve cut down on printing, switched the plastic water bottles for glass pitchers and put blue boxes in all our meeting rooms. While these are all great initiatives, are we really doing the best we can?

Thinking outside the (green) box

Kermit the Frog was right: “It ain’t easy being green.” Somewhere down the line, “green” became synonymous with “more expensive”. Meeting professionals were faced with complicated calculation methods, pricey eco-friendly product lines and bigger food and beverage bills when they tried to make their meetings green.

The GMIC (Green Meeting Industry Council) has established a basic checklist for best practices in green meetings that helps us move from green to overall sustainability in a straightforward and easily applicable way.

Let’s look at the difference between green meetings and sustainable events.

Moving from Green to a Broader Sense of Sustainability

So what does sustainability really mean? The GMIC defines it as using materials that are both ecologically and socially responsible. Green is good, but sustainable takes it further.

While green initiatives are often visible and tangible (recycling bins, biodegradable utensils, etc.), sustainability efforts balance environmental, economic and social impacts in the context of an organization’s business needs – often in less visible ways.

Ensuring the meeting takes place within walking distance of hotels, using local food vendors, encouraging public transit, and donating all leftover food to local food banks are just a few examples a model of sustainability that also offers tangible social and economic benefits.

Tips to make your meeting more sustainable

  • Always remember that sustainability is a combination of three things: economic, environmental and social impact. Thinking of all three enables you to make decisions that go beyond green.
  • You don’t have to go net-zero with your ecological footprint every single time. Unrealistic expectations can throw a wrench even in your best laid plans. The goal is to always do better and to reduce the environmental footprint of your event as much as possible.
  • Take the time to communicate the importance of sustainability to top management, clients and host cities. Meeting professionals are in the unique position of being able to advance positive change by insisting on small tweaks and decisions that make both financial and social sense.
  • Explore how you can give back to the local community and economy. Donate surplus food and materials, create a community activity for your delegates, or organize an off-site visit with local actors in your field and learn about their projects.
  • Buy local to reduce shipping fees (and greenhouse gases) and encourage the local economy. It doesn’t have to be a huge burden to your budget. Smart CVBs (like Tourisme Montréal) can connect you to the perfect local suppliers for your needs.

Your goal as a meeting professional is to plan the highest-quality and most cost-efficient meeting possible, ensuring your event’s positive image and competitive advantage. Rethinking sustainability can be a win-win for everyone involved.