Green Meetings for the Win

In a belated celebration of Earth Day, some new and unique ways association meeting planners and tradeshow exhibitors are playing a role in planning and executing green meetings.

Earth Day was earlier this week, and according to the Earth Day Network, more than 1 billion people in 192 countries did something to protect the environment on Tuesday. And it’s a pretty safe bet that some of those individuals were meeting planners or tradeshow exhibitors.

That’s because whether it’s choosing venues that grow produce and other foods onsite, using recycled signage and booth décor, or ditching tote bags, hosting greener and more sustainable conferences is top of mind for the majority of meeting planners and exhibitors.

And while many in the industry say going green is just “the right thing to do,” the savings that often come along with it can make it even more compelling. For instance, the Green Meeting Industry Council estimates that $12,000 is saved when water is served in pitchers instead of bottles during a three-day conference and that up to $40,000 in transportation costs can be eliminated if planners choose hotels within walking distance of meeting venues.

But no matter the reasons why organizations are planning more sustainable events and green meetings, in honor of Earth Day, I decided to dig around and find some unique and new ways associations and destinations are incorporating green elements into meetings and tradeshows. Here are three I stumbled across.

Go Green From the Start

Want to get your attendees to go green? How about offering a green registration option? That’s what the American Anthropological Association (AAA) is doing for its 113th Annual Meeting, taking place in Washington, DC, in December. By opting in for the “Green Registration,” attendees agree to forgo the printed onsite conference book. Instead, they choose to use an e-reader formatted program, online personal scheduler, and/or the AAA Annual Meeting mobile app to navigate the conference. Green registrants also receive a small discount—$4 off the regular registration fee. According to AAA, more than 30 percent of meeting registrants have decided to go green so far.

Plan a Green Showcase

The German Convention Bureau (GCB) is determined to once again win the “Green Exhibitor Award” at this year’s IMEX, which is happening next month in Frankfurt. To ensure a repeat victory, it’s taking a number of steps in its expo hall space, which will involve more than 200 exhibitors from the country’s convention centers and hotels. These steps include eliminating paper waste by using USBs and having green catering—serving fresh, regional, and seasonal products along with fair-trade coffee and tea from organic farms. In addition, exhibit staff is being encouraged to take public transportation to and from the show, and GCB will calculate and report live “on its CO2 footprint created by exhibitor and service staff travel, stand energy consumption, and accommodation and waste impacts.”

Build a Green Army

If you’re looking to not only let your attendees and exhibitors know about your meeting’s green initiatives but also get them to take part in some of them, you might think about building a volunteer army to spread the word—something the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) will be doing at its WINDPOWER 2014 meeting early next month in Las Vegas. Called Green Angel Volunteers, these participants “will assist in green efforts and at special networking events at the conference” and will “help promote and coordinate different green initiatives during the conference.”

AWEA’s other green efforts include having the conference be 100 percent wind powered and launching the WINDPOWER Green Team Exhibitor Challenge. The new initiative recognizes “exhibitors who have taken steps to increase the sustainability or ‘greenness’ of their booth,” such as using energy-efficient booth lighting and recyclable signage.

Now it’s your turn—what’s your association doing to make its meetings and events greener? Please share in the comments below.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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