August 7, 2019

Know Better, Do Better: Planning Eco-Friendly Meetings and Events – Part 2

“The world is on fire.” This was the ever-inspiring and hope-infused phrase my partner announced to me during a recent cottage vacation. He isn’t always this bleak, but after indulging in David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth – a book that does not sugar-coat its recounting of the consequences of global warming – it was an unavoidable conclusion.

If you haven’t already, take a look at Part 1 of our two-part post on how to plan greener and more eco-friendly meetings and events. Not only will you discover some helpful tools and suggestions, you’ll also avoid being that one person who watches the sequel first.

If you’re all caught up, welcome back!

Don’t Meet Less, Just Less MEAT

Because sustainability is just as much about what you serve as it is how you serve it, let’s take a moment to talk about meat.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love meat! Just the thought of a sizzling rack of ribs, smothered in a smoky, hickory BBQ sauce, served with a side of cool and crunchy coleslaw on a hot summer day makes me… What are we talking about again? Right, sorry! Sustainability. I’m back.

As mentioned in Part 1, water scarcity is a legitimate risk to us as humans if we do not better manage our footprint today. With this in mind, now is the time to flex those creative menu muscles and find ways to incorporate less meat into your meals while still maintaining all the flavour to keep a diverse crowd happy.

Meat requires far more water to produce than other plant-based proteins (e.g. 1kg of beef requires 15,415L of water vs. 1kg of lentils requiring only 5,875L of water), so use this as an opportunity to experiment with vegetarian and/or vegan alternatives so as not to completely remove meat from the menu, but simply to reduce it. And if you’re struggling with this, I have three words for you: Beyoncé loves vegans.

Travel Smart – Travel Green

As planners we have been privileged to visit cities and countries around the world for various client programs. Similarly, many people will specifically choose to register for an event because it’s taking place in a city they’ve always wanted to see. It’s wonderful to travel, but we can’t ignore the impact that group travel has on our environment, particularly our air quality. So how do we minimize?

Start with your venue selection. If you’re hosting an event with a large number of out-of-town attendees, consider hosting them in a venue that is near the airport. While it may not always be the most glamourous part of a particular city, airport hotels also tend to have better room and meeting rates than their metropolitan sister sites.

Group Travel
For locals, it may not make sense to stay overnight at a hotel. In this case, arranging for group transportation such as shuttle buses and coaches is a great way to reduce emissions. Another benefit from a planning perspective when it comes to shuttles is that you now have a dedicated window of time with your audience. Take advantage of this time by providing additional, interesting content via video screens in the coach or providing any sponsors with an opportunity to brand and provide gifting and/or incentives during the ride.

Public Transportation/Walking Tours
Something we always have to explain to friends and family after coming back from a business trip is that we actually didn’t get to see that much of the city we were in. Of course, there have been times where we’ve been able to buffer in a little leisure time, but for the most part we are there to produce the event and head out shortly thereafter.

Chances are, many of your attendees have had similar experiences when travelling for business purposes. Give them an opportunity to really immerse themselves in your program’s city by arranging for transit cards and communicating routes between conference centres and hotels as well as local attractions. Where possible, you can also communicate walking routes and tours for attendees should they opt to take advantage of cities with warmer weather.

Hold Venues Accountable

Finally, your venue is arguably your biggest partner. Depending on the type of venue you choose and the kind of event you are executing, your venue may be in charge of everything from set-up and tear down, food and beverage, AV, and accommodations. Given the large role they play in your program, it’s fair to expect them to be just as diligent as you are in maintaining a “green” experience.

Consider asking the questions included below when selecting your venue in order to be sure you’re choosing the most considerate and collaborative partner for your event:

  • What are your environmental and/or sustainability policies?
  • How are those policies implemented?
  • Do you have any existing partnerships with other organizations to promote your sustainability objectives? (e.g. local food shelters)
  • If catering is done in-house, you should also ask some of the questions we mentioned when discussing F&B sustainability, such as where and how their food is sourced and what their processes are for disposal or donation following an event?

Despite being a few years old, Meetings Today has a comprehensive list that is worth reviewing for more specific questions related to certain kinds of venues or event types.

And there you have it – a few tips as to some of the different ways you can make your next meeting or event just a little bit greener. The truth is, every small step or action counts for something and while you may not be able to incorporate everything we’ve mentioned here all of the time, hopefully you’ve learned ways in which you can incorporate some of these tips most of the time.

Our earth isn’t inhabitable yet and it’s up to us to make sure it never is!

Do you have other ideas or tactics you’ve implemented to make your events more sustainable that we didn’t mention here? We want to hear about it! Find us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and share your story by tagging us so we can learn more too.

Need help finding the right venue or implementing green meeting best practices? Contact Us.