As I was preparing this special issue, which is devoted to, I looked up an article I had written on the subject in 1991. Back then, I had been inspired after returning from an event where each attendee had the chance to plant a tree on an old military site that was being transformed into a park. That was cutting-edge at the time — today, the idea of leaving no footprint on the places you visit is commonplace.
In my reporting, I had asked Ray Bloom, the visionary former chair of EIBTM (now head of IMEX), “How much of a factor in site selection is the environmental record of a destination?” He said it could become “as important as a destination's infrastructure, culture, heritage, or reputation for fun.”
How right he was. Today, ecologically minded destinations such as Costa Rica are at the top of travelers' lists, and planners are including questions about hotels' environmental initiatives when choosing meeting sites. Planners are looking for things such as dispensers for bathroom amenities in place of individual bottles, optional towel replacement, recycling containers in meeting rooms, and even, as you'll read on page 14, organic menus.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of industry leaders such as Shawna McKinley, our cover subject and executive director of the Green Meeting Industry Council, who is profiled on page 26, the Internet offers dozens of resources for companies that want to plan green meetings. We've also compiled our own helpful list, starting on page 15.
Also in this issue, we'll explore the advantages of carbon offsets, which are being used by an increasing number of companies to minimize the energy footprint of their meetings and travel as well as other aspects of their operations. Don't miss the article on page 32.
A model for all of us is event giant MCI's companywide green initiative (page 29). After watching Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth, MCI managing director Guy Bigwood was inspired to lead an ambitious effort to train all of this European company's employees about environmentally sound meetings, to green the company's offices, and to lead its clients to more closely examine their meetings.
Green meetings have come a long way since 1991. Now, we must maintain the momentum that started with Gore's movie and Hollywood's embrace of everything green. It's not about passing fads, it's about results. If every one of our readers walked away from this issue and implemented just two of the hundreds of ideas listed here — we really could start a sea change.
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