Oracle OpenWorld brings together roughly 40,000 Oracle customers, users, partners, and others every fall at San Francisco's Moscone Center. Vice President of Marketing PAUL SALINGER is dedicated to the conference mission — educating attendees about Oracle's products and strategic direction — but he has another critical goal: sustainability. So much so that the 2008 OpenWorld just earned a Green Meeting Award from IMEX and the Green Meeting Industry Council. We caught up with him to ask about his successes and how he plans to make this year's event the greenest yet.

Corporate Meetings & Incentives: You began greening OpenWorld in 2007. How have your efforts evolved?

Paul Salinger: In 2007, we made a conscious decision to run this as a sustainable event, but we didn't have a concentrated approach back then — we were winging it that first year. We tried to go as paperless as possible, and we started to eliminate bottled water. We also incorporated recycling and began thinking about our energy consumption. But we quickly realized that we only knew so much, and we needed some help. We brought in Meeting Strategies Worldwide [now renamed MeetGreen] to help us at the end of 2007, and they have been working with us since. In 2008, we established a baseline to measure our efforts against.

CMI: What were some of the things you tracked?

Salinger: We focused on the areas in which APEX [Accepted Practices Exchange] is developing green standards: the venue, accommodations, F&B, transportation, exhibits, destination selection, on-site practices, and marketing and communication. We tracked our efforts in each of those categories. For example, in the area of transportation, we expanded the number of hotels within walking distance of the Moscone Center and reduced our shuttle buses [by 11, which saved $60,000]. By eliminating bottled water, we avoided using 500,000 plastic bottles and estimated a savings of $1.5 million. We also saved 965 trees by reducing the size of our 2008 program from 400 pages to 125 pages and printing on 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper with soy ink. And we diverted 67 tons of waste from landfills — we're trying to get to 100 tons this year.

CMI: What were some innovative environmental efforts at last year's event?

Salinger: One of our aims was to educate our attendees, so we had some fun with it. We had “Ready, Set, Connect” stations around the exhibit hall where people could pedal a bike and the stored power from that effort was used to charge laptops and cell phones and also to run a margarita bar. Attendees who pedaled for 15 minutes got [a voucher for] a cup of coffee. It was a fun way to get people to see what we were doing.

CMI: Are there additional costs associated with greening an event of this size?

Salinger: A lot of the efforts we implemented in 2008 saved money, such as eliminating bottled water, so we invested those savings back in to the program so we can spend in other areas. Signage is one area that can be more expensive if you want to use completely recyclable materials. Green promotional items are sometimes more expensive also, but because of our size, we are able to drive the prices down on some of those things. The cost of using post-consumer recycled paper and soy ink to print our agenda is higher, but because we significantly reduced the size of the agenda, that extra cost was offset.

CMI: What are your goals for OpenWorld 2009?

Salinger: This year it really comes down to measurement. The more we can measure and understand the impact we are having and the resources we are using, the more we can reduce or rethink the way we use those resources. For instance, we are tracking F&B — how much is local, organic, vegetarian, free range, and fair trade — in order to understand the carbon footprint in our food system. We are also working with vendors to track their emissions, both during the planning process and the actual event, to develop a whole picture of what it takes to produce OpenWorld from an environmental-impact perspective.

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