Take 10 - Sustainable Meetings: Going Green the Easy Way

October 8, 2012

1. You mentioned water and bottles of water. I have attendees that do not like having water in anything other than water bottles for sanitary reasons. Have you used other ways of delivering water or do you request green plastics when you are having meetings?

Sure, you can use water bubblers and compostable cups as a second option. Only use this alternative if the cups will actually be composted though. Check with the facility and caterer.

2. Where can we download the APEX standards? Are they compiled into a single document?

You can access more information about the standards and how they are compiled from the Convention Industry Council website here.

3. I saw someone on LinkedIn state that they were a "Green Certified Meeting Planner.” Is there such a certification, because I've not been able to find any certification program for this.

At this time, the Convention Industry Council (and its members) do not have any certifications for green certified meeting planners, as the standards are just being published.  A certification program will most likely be the next step, so watch for it in the next year. There may be another organization certifying green meeting planners, but I am not sure exactly what criteria they would be using if not the industry standards.

4. Explain about the Green Meeting Industry Council benefits….

The best place to find information about the GMIC is by referring to their website

Personally, I find GMIC is the best place to learn about all aspects of CSR. It has resources, networking, education and a vibrant, passionate community.

5. What are some good ways to market your achievements, both internally and externally?

First of all, make sure you measure your achievements both in environmental and economic savings, and then it is like anything else--know your audience. Tell senior management and the financial stakeholders how much money you saved by going green. Inform participants what environmental savings were accomplished on their behalf. Share with sponsors, how your policies are giving them a competitive advantage and making them look good. These can take the form of reports, newsletters, social media and applying for awards.

6. How should you communicate to attendees the benefits of having a green meeting, so they can look out for the sustainability features, and also meet their expectations?

Start early in the process by telling them what is being done on their behalf, such as going paperless with registration, no pre-mailings, etc. On their registration e-mail, talk about the best form of transportation to the conference and how they can do their part right down to bringing their own coffee mug. During the event, ask them to recycle, take public transportation and take advantage of the hotels towel and sheet reuse program.

7. Does Nancy have a checklist template she can share that we can use at our events?

The new APEX standards will provide a checklist for your use at events. We also have checklists available in both our books “Simple Steps to Green Meetings” and “Saving Green by Going Green.” I would also suggest checking out my blog at, as I am always including checklists in blog posts to help get you started.

8. What do you do if you would like to make more sustainable decisions but your chairs and/or supervisors are not necessarily interested in that?

This is where the economic savings of green meetings come in.  Everyone is interested in saving money, so if they aren’t concerned about the environment, let them know how it will show up on the bottom line.

9. How do you convince your organization to care? I have an international multicultural, multi-age organization and I can't seem to get them to care about this. They insist people need the paper in their hand so they ship blank letterhead internationally to print on (rather than just printing an electronic file locally), then ship all the blank left over letterhead back. I've tried for years to get them to stop it but they insist they need the letterhead stock.

Some people really do need their paper and are just not willing to let go. We have had success in the past with charging for paper copies and the electronic is free. It is amazing how quickly they give up this fight. If you are in an organization unable to release its hold on paper, have the paper printed where the event is happening and then the leftover amounts donated to a local school or non-profit. At least you will save the carbon-foot print from shipping this heavy item.

10. It's extremely distressing to learn that most items made of recycled materials are made in China. Putting the carbon footprint aside, if we can't purchase items made in the U.S., what countries do you find are socially responsible? What do you recommend looking for?

I recommend making sure the products are certified fair trade and sweat-shop free.  You will need to ask the vendor about the company producing the item and push to see what their policies are.  If you are working internationally, you also may need to be concerned about import and export from certain countries.  I wish it were less complicated, but this is one area that takes some research.


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About the author
Nancy J. Zavada | President, MeetGreen

Nancy is a leader and entrepreneur in the events industry focusing on sustainable business practices. She founded MeetGreen in 1994 after beginning her career as a corporate health care planner in 1978.