Green Meetings, Helping us all Breath a Little Easier

This was originally written back in March of 07 and although it was 5 years ago, it still resonates with me and has some good practical advice. This post also shows how little is being done on the Green Meetings front because in five years, not too many people are practicing everything that is written here.

If I remember correctly, this was a piece that was published in Event Solutions Magazine. The thoughts are not radical, they are more common sense, simple steps everyone should be doing for every event.

Let’s face it, despite all of the current evidence that global warming is upon us and that we had better radically change our ways…many companies and of course politicians are slow to come around, naive, greedy or just stupid…. who knows? No matter your political tilt, I think that is just common sense to want to protect the environment don’t you think?

This leads me to “green meetings”, although not always possible, they are a good way for the meetings industry to do our part when and where we can. They also help promote our clients as caring and cutting-edge, and right now it is simply a good idea.

While holding a “green” meeting may seem like an impossible task, meeting planners doing what they do best, will find that these meetings are achievable and add value to their programs in the eyes of the attendees and the general public.

Here are some simple tips to get us all headed in the “green” direction:

Pick the Right Venue

The Easiest is to choose a meeting venue with a proven track record of environmental commitment; energy conservation and towel/linen re-use programs. Examples are the Oregon Convention Center and the San Francisco Hilton. Both have amazing and award-winning “green” practices that you can promote to potential attendees.

Location is Everything

Locate meetings at or near hotels to minimize transportation. Publicize and subsidize a mass transit transportation option. We do this in Chicago by providing tradeshow attendees with train passes that will take them from downtown to McCormick Place Convention Center (a couple of minutes ride, but it saves hundreds of cab trips).

Stop Printing

Encourage clients, exhibitors, and speakers to limit printed handouts. Although not always possible in the case of medical meetings or technical presentations there are hundreds of times the attendee would rather listen to the presentation and then have a PDF file e-mailed to them for later review. It also saves shoulder and back muscles because you are not carrying around 400 lbs of paper in your bag.

When you Must Print

When printing is necessary, use double-sided printing and a printer that uses soy-based inks, and let the world know that you are doing this. A simple blurb can bring recognition about how forward-thinking we as meeting planners are.

Get Out and About

Plan nature-based activities such as hikes, eco-tours and sailing. These do not have to be nature walks, love-ins. They can be cool, exciting, and a chance to teach attendees about the location they are in. We did a few of these in and around Cancun and Minneapolis and they we a major hit.


Collect waste and paper during the event and encourage the venue to participate in the recycling efforts. They can also benefit from some good press.

Bulk Containers

Serve water in bulk containers rather than in plastic bottles (which end up half empty sitting on bus trays or tables anyway).


Tell your clients, attendees, and exhibitors about the environmental savings achieved and then write a press release and let the world know that we may not always be able to achieve nirvana on the environmental front, we are at least trying. Which is more than anyone can say about a lot of industries.

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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