Going Green: GMIC annual conference

May 16, 2013

When Eric Ryan, architect of the Method brand, stepped onstage at the recent GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference, his words rang true: “It is about progress, not perfection.”

In the world of sustainable meetings, “progress, not perfection” is the manta we live by. We are transforming an industry and have come so far, yet are sometimes disheartened by the amount left to be done. It is still more like “What would MacGyver do?” His words reminded us to celebrate the progress and not get caught up in the perfection that isn’t yet attainable.

The largest attendance ever of these passionate professionals convened at the April event in Chicago to discuss some common threads in sustainable meetings and the work left to be done. Here are three of particular note:

  1. Dispelling the myth that it is more expensive to be green: Build the business case with real stories and case studies. Planners and vendors need to openly share their cost savings by implementing sustainable practices. This goes hand in hand with communicating its value.
  2. Innovating through sustainability: Sustainability does not need to be a boring task. Look at ways to integrate sustainability into your meeting design much like the CSR projects many events now include. Engage, excite and enroll your meeting participants in the event’s green components.
  3. Convincing the masses: How can we engage on a larger scale outside our industry? Events have a rare opportunity to lead the consumer. Look at your participants and their world outside the event; how can you impact their personal lives? Today, sports teams and organizations such as NBA Green are making a huge impact through their sporting events.

On a practical, every day level, there were tips from every session that planners can implement instantly:

  • Use the FLOSS system when ordering food for your event. Ask if it is “Fresh, Local, Organic, Seasonal, Sustainable.”
  • Skip the beef for lunch and save both money and the environment. Work directly with the chef on your menu to ensure creative, sustainable meals.
  • When ordering special menus for vegan, vegetarian, food allergies, etc., ask the chef to prepare just one meal that will serve all of these people with special requests. Planners report that this is readily accepted by attendees who normally need to look elsewhere for their meals during an event.
  • Donate $1 to charitable organizations when badges are returned. Participants can “vote” for their favorite charity by placing their badge in the marked bin.
  • Hold a contest asking participants to turn off the lights in their room and hang towels up to be reused. Each day their rooms are checked and the percentage is reported.
  • Always take a back-of-house tour during your event to see if the recycling is being handled as promised.
  • Make your efforts visible. Example: collecting the little amenity bottles for display at the event with photos of people being impacted by the soap.

Progress, not perfection? You bet. Are we having fun along the way? You bet! The Sustainable Meetings Conference’ tag line was “Creating Sparks.” There were plenty of sparks of enthusiasm and excitement for the future of the meetings industry and the planet.


Nancy J. Zavada, CMP, president of MeetGreen and a co-founder of the Green Meeting Industry Council, recently co-authored her second book, Simple Steps to Saving Green by Going Green. You can follow Zavada’s blog, “Pretentious Musings of a Green Meetings Martyr,” on


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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.