Going Green Saves Green

The Travel Industry Association of America noted in a 2003 survey that 83% of US business and leisure travelers are willing to spend 6.5% more for services and products that are provided by environmentally responsible companies. gogr

Sure, sure. That’s what people say in surveys. But the truth is that going green is still hard to sell if it affects the bottom line. A meeting planner’s thickest armor in this battle must be his/her creativity to get the job done in a way that pleases both client and agency. It’s the whole two-way street thing.

This is the first in a series of three posts about what I found to be the very meat of what planners and travelers alike would want to know about going green. Fasten your seat belt and pull up a chair.

Abbreviated Tips

Take a deep breath. There are literally hundreds of ways to make your meetings and your travel more environmentally friendly, and ways that don’t drastically hurt your bottom line. Here are some of the easiest and least disruptive ways to be more eco-responsible.

  • Reuse lanyards, plastic holders and signage.
  • Communicate your eco-desire to reduce, reuse, and recycle with the venue. Some specifics they can help you with:
    • Request menus using seasonal, local-grown foods. This is a grand daddy of habits for several reasons: 1) Allows attendees to taste local flavor, 2) Should cut your costs because you aren’t paying for shipping of the food, 3) You aren’t supporting the transportation emissions it would take to ship food from elsewhere.
    • Donating leftover food and flowers. (Hint: You could even ask your client if they have a preferred local charity.)
    • Serving all beverages in pitchers, including water—c’mon, does it really taste that different in bottles?
    • Providing condiments such as sugar and cream, in bulk containers.
    • Request that all lights be turned off in the meeting spaces when they aren’t in use.
  • Choose venues that have made a similar commitment to being eco-friendly. (Hint: See Friday’s post on Who Wears Green Best for guidance here.)

Thinking Bigger

There are some big ways you can offset your meeting’s footprint too. According to www.expedia.com, “a typical roundtrip cross-country flight can release around 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per passenger” which means that carbon offsetting programs can be a crucial part of your greening policy.

TerraPass is one program that allows you to offset your carbon emissions, and monies go toward funding clean energy, farm power and landfill gas capture. For more information, visit http://www.terrapass.com/business/. The Green Meeting Industry Council also has a link to ClimateTrust.org which allows you to fill out all the details of your event to calculate your meeting’s total carbon footprint.

You can also get more creative with transportation, depending on the location of the meeting. Recommend attendees take transportation that is native to the area, like a streetcar or train ride, and you can even explain how much greener mass transportation is.

(Hint: People like numbers. Have a thank you card waiting in their room, and mention the amount of emissions that were saved on their trip alone because of their willingness to ride with others. This promotes your greening efforts and let’s be honest, people like flattery.)

Next in our series is Wednesday’s post Unraveling Sustainability Standards.

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