While the Association of Science and Technology Centers has been incorporating sustainable practices into its meetings for years, such as reusing badge holders and recycling appropriate materials, ASTC has become more deliberate about its sustainability efforts in the last few years.
“Recently, it’s become part of what we do from the beginning of the planning process to the last day of the event,” said Nina Humes, ASTC’s conference manager.
ASTC now approaches the planning for its annual meeting through a sustainability lens.
“It’s about living the values we have as an association and demonstrating how we do that for members,” said Adam Fagan, director of communications, advocacy, and engagement at ASTC.
Though planning a large-scale sustainable meeting can be challenging, Virginie de Visscher, senior director of business events at Destination Canada, says associations will need to prioritize it going forward.
“There’s building interest in sustainability,” she said. “Attendees are asking for it. Sustainability has become almost a given for the events industry. Associations that are proactive in developing sustainable meetings will stay ahead of the curve.”
Prioritizing sustainability from the beginning, implementing small changes at first, and involving various stakeholders along the way will help associations meet their conference sustainability goals.
De Visscher recommends making sustainability a focus early in the planning process and discussing with senior staff what sustainability means for your association.
“Sustainability can mean different things for different organizations,” she said. “For some, it’s about environmental sustainability, but it can also involve economic and sociocultural sustainability. Have internal conversations about your values, what you want to measure, and what you want to focus on for the event.”
Including sustainability in early planning meetings will ensure that it doesn’t fall off the radar.
“We build sustainability into our RFPs and ask about it early because vendors, convention centers, hotels, and the entire industry is going to be incentivized to prioritize it if they know that’s what we want from the start,” Fagan said.