Meeting professionals know that the environmental impact of conferences needs to be reduced. The question is how. Many have taken their first steps (we may have seen our last bottle of water at meetings), but far fewer have a comprehensive plan for green meeting planning.

One of those with a plan is Jennifer Dela-Cruz, senior meeting planner at RBC, based in Toronto, who helped to create her company’s “Blueprint for Holding a ‘Green’ Meeting” back in July 2007. RBC, which has more than 80,000 employees, is a leader in environmental awareness and action. RBC has been named one of The Global 100 Most Sustainable Companies in the World. (The list is unveiled each year during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.) RBC has also been included in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for 11 straight years. And the company is a diamond sponsor of the upcoming GLOBE 2010, a biennial conference dedicated to the business of the environment that draws some 10,000 corporate executives, non-governmental organization representatives, policymakers, and sustainability experts.

In 2007, the company launched the RBC Blue Water Project, a $50 million grant program that will run for 10 years. In 2009, RBC gave more than $4 million worth of grants to 31 worldwide organizations that are working on sustainability. The Blue Water Project’s overall goals are to reduce the intensity of RBC’s own water “footprint,” educate employees and clients about sustainable water use, increase RBC’s ability to provide financial services to innovative water technology companies, and encourage other organizations to get involved in the cause.

Created jointly by RBC’s event production and corporate environmental responsibility departments, the blueprint for green events offers suggestions in nine areas, from food to gifts. You can find the basics: turn off equipment and lights when they are not needed, choose reusable cutlery and linens, ask the venue to put recycling bins in meeting areas, donate unopened food to local food banks.

But the RBC blueprint also goes beyond the basics. Have delegates confirm their attendance at each meal, the guide suggests, thereby reducing food waste and cost. Advertise the availability of recycling at the event. Before each break, announce the expectation that delegates will use the recycling bins. Keep track of your environmental initiatives and issue a press release. And be sure to tell attendees how they fit into the equation. Dela-Cruz posts the corporate vision and values at meetings and includes a small presentation at the opening of meeting programs to show how RBC is giving back. “My personal goal is to educate attendees,” she says.

According to feedback and questions she has received, Dela-Cruz says that use of the blueprint has become widespread throughout RBC, and many meeting venues are responsive to the company’s requests. Check out RBC’s environmental Web site for inspiration.