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Why Your Meetings Should Be Low-Impact (and How to Get Them There)

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Leaning on local resources can help you reach your sustainability and equity goals.

You want your meeting to have an impact. But maybe it shouldn’t—at least, not when it comes to environmental, social, and cultural impact.   

Meeting planners are making strides in these areas: According to the American Express 2023 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, 80% of organizations consider sustainability when planning events, and 87% actively incorporate equity into them. 

But when approached separately, these forms of impact stay siloed. Instead, consider incorporating your social and environmental goals under one umbrella: low-impact meetings. 

“The benefit of low-impact meetings extends far beyond reducing environmental waste,” said Bruce Dalton, president and CEO of Visit Aurora, which supports business tourism in Aurora, Colorado. That includes making sure that money spent on events contributes to the community, does not environmentally harm the destination, and honors the people who made the location a desirable destination in the first place. 

Approaching meetings with a holistic intent of minimizing impact doesn’t need to differ from your usual mindset, though: It’s still about prioritizing what attendees need. 

“Time is our most precious resource,” said Allyson Fredeen, general manager of Stanley Marketplace, a community of more than 50 independently owned Colorado businesses that also features event space. “And if people know that there’s a low-impact element and that there’s been real consideration given to that, maybe they’re more inclined to show up, and that can make attendees more engaged because it’s something they value.” 

To start making low-impact meetings your standard-bearer, gather your current sustainability and DEI practices—and then consider these steps, all of which begin at the source: your destination.  

Consider Your Destination’s Infrastructure 

Meeting your impact goals will be easier if your destination has already done some of the work for you. “Aurora is only minutes from Denver International Airport, the third-busiest airport in the country,” Dalton said. “Aurora’s light rail, buses, and ride-share options also make getting around the city a breeze, with options for even the most conscientious traveler.”  

A location that’s accessible to attendees without a long ride to and from the airport, a developed public transit system, a water system created with conservation in mind: All of these add up to a built-in boost to your environmental goals.  

Look for a Diverse Destination 

“Events can be held anywhere,” Dalton said. “By infusing local elements, attendees can experience new perspectives through authentic encounters.” 

Savvy meeting planners incorporate equity regardless of destination, but hosting a meeting in a location known for cultivating diversity can help ensure your event staff, programming, menu, and more are designed with inclusivity in mind.  

For example, holding an event in a relatively homogenous location means planners will have to work harder to find a diversity of voices. Choosing a diverse location makes that a bit easier. Aurora, for example, has around 390,000 residents—but within that population, there are more than 160 languages spoken, making it one of the United States’ most diverse small cities.    

Regardless of where you host your meeting, actively seek out diverse event staff at all stages of the planning process, from catering to panel selection. Choosing local diverse talent can also support environmental sustainability goals, cutting down on necessary travel. 

Use Local Resources 

Local vendors, convention and visitors bureaus, and destination marketing organizations are versed in the culture and sustainability possibilities of the area—so lean on them. 

“Our destination services team can assist you with your DEI and sustainability goals by connecting you with local organizations, nonprofits, and causes that not only engage your attendees, but give back to the local community,” Dalton said. 

That engagement can take a number of forms. Fredeen points to one of Stanley Marketplace’s vendors, Zero Market, which specializes in safe household products in minimal packaging. “If a meeting planner is doing a picnic-style lunch, they can effectively go to Zero Market and get all reusable items for that picnic, like metal straws, reusable containers, and reusable wipes instead of paper towels,” she said. 

Local businesses can also help you direct your meeting’s economic impact. Fredeen suggests partnering with local makers markets for swag, citing Stanley Marketplace’s digital market coins. “A meeting planner might say, ‘OK, we’re going to give every attendee a certain value of market coin and they can redeem it on food and beverage or shopping,’” she said.  

Destination bureaus can also help planners coordinate elective events—farm dinners such as those available through Village Farms at Stanley, or outdoor activities focused on wildlife and waterways. 

The pandemic saw enormous economic fallout in the meetings industry, with 640,000 American jobs lost and $14 billion in potential travel-generated taxes never coming to fruition. By keeping your meetings low-impact, you can help restore host communities to their fighting strength—and the planet to hers as well. 

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Visit Aurora is the official convention and visitor’s bureau for Aurora, Colorado. Our mission is to drive economic growth through tourism by promoting Aurora's diverse cultures, natural beauty, and award-winning attractions. We strive to be a forward-thinking, innovative organization, committed to showcasing Aurora as the ideal destination for leisure, business, and special events. Discover all that Aurora has to offer at visitaurora.com.

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