It took a whole lot of effort to get all of us thinking about the need to protect and preserve the environment. And we aren't quite there yet. Al Gore did his part, and automobile manufacturers are becoming earnest in doing their part. But there is a whole lot more that needs to be done.

You don't have to be a chemist to understand the science — fuel consumption leads to the production of greenhouse gases, and the total of all of our gases combined has a deleterious effect on the environment.

What can we do professionally? I asked folks in my own organization to provide suggestions with an ultimate goal of “greening” CME. Here are their ideas:

  • Eliminate activity-specific paper name tags for staff members and instead provide staff with permanent metal name tags that can be reused.

  • Provide only electronic CME certificates.

  • Encourage the use of online testing for all enduring materials, including journals.

  • Provide syllabi and handouts on USB drives/memory sticks.

  • Create a database of learners who would opt for e-mail invitations rather than paper invitations.

  • Use a PowerPoint slide to show the names and faces of the faculty instead of using tent cards.

  • Use e-mail for submitting questions to faculty.

  • Contract only with printers that use (primarily) recycled paper.

  • Print on both sides of papers when printing. This is absolutely necessary!

  • Add a tag line to every e-mail that asks the readers to print out e-mails only when absolutely necessary.

  • Encourage carpooling to local events (Yeah, this might be a bit complicated, but it is a blue-sky kind of idea!)

  • Try to contract only with venues that will donate unused food to organizations that feed the needy and homeless when this is possible and permitted by law. Way too much food goes to waste. And even the rubber chicken often served at CME activities would be much appreciated by someone in need.

  • Support other organizations that are trying to promote green living, such as those that collect old electronic equipment for recycling.

  • And now that I mention it — RECYCLE!

Create Green Communities

We need to work together to improve the impact we have on the environment. I came across the Convene Green Alliance on the Medical Meetings' Web site, so I joined! The Convene Green Alliance (www.convenegreen.com) is a grass-roots organization of association and meeting professionals concerned about the environment. Aren't we a part of that community? I encourage you all to consider joining.

I realized that in order to jump-start the Greening of CME initiative, we needed a logo, so I called upon my friend and colleague Kathy Zimmerman, a graphics designer based in Huntington, N.Y., to design one (pictured here). I will make this logo available free to anyone who wants to use it on their Web sites, brochures, etc. Please drop me an e-mail at the address below and I will send it to you.

Moving beyond CME, there is a huge opportunity to help medicine become more eco-friendly. To begin discussions and networking about how to make this happen, I've started a LinkedIn group called The Greening of Medicine. Please send me an e-mail if you'd like to join.

Remember, it's not easy being green (according to Kermit the Frog as well as me), but it sure is rewarding.

Lawrence Sherman, FACME, is president and CEO of Physicians Academy for Clinical and Management Excellence, New York. A 14-year CME veteran, he is a frequent lecturer on topics related to the strategic development, dissemination, and evaluation of CME activities. Reach him at LS@physacad.com.