Students in the Green Meeting Industry Council’s new Certificate in Sustainable Events Planning program won’t just learn how to plan sustainable events. They’ll actually plan one—GMIC’s own Sustainable Meetings Conference April 14–17, 2014, in San Francisco.  

“They are in charge of it,” says Johanna Walsh, CMP, president, Twirl Management, San Francisco, an event planning company that partnered with GMIC to launch this online program. Participants will be responsible for the development, planning, and implementation of the sustainability strategy for the conference, says Walsh, who developed and will teach the online coursework.

The eight-module course begins October 8 and will accommodate up to 40 students. Some spots are still open but registration closes October 1. The class will meet twice a month leading up to the Sustainable Meetings Conference, where the students will meet face to face for the first time.

“We created the eight-module plan that follows the flow of planning a sustainable event,” says Walsh. For the first module, which meets October 8 and 29, the class will be writing the sustainability policy for the conference—and it will be the actual policy that is used. The rest of the modules will instruct students on communication, implementation, working with vendors, and more. “The class acts as a green team to learn how the pieces come together.”

Each module is broken up into two sessions—the first consists of online instruction by Walsh, a certified trainer of APEX/ASTM Green Meeting Standards who has planned 10 APEX/ASTM-compliant meetings. The session will be delivered live through the Adobe Connect Pro webinar platform with sessions recorded for on-demand viewing. The second session of each module is group oriented, where teams will get together via Google Hangouts and Google Docs and brainstorm to turn their ideas into practice, working out the details of the conference implementation plan.

Real World Experience

Within each of the modules, students will interview and hear from key stakeholders, such as vendors, members of the SMC host committee, and the meeting planning team at GMIC led by Amanda Ulbrich, director of operations. “They are going to work closely with me and the logistics team on all these different elements,” Ulbrich says.  

The program culminates with the Sustainable Meetings Conference, which the students will attend. They will participate in the pre-conference planning meeting, do a site tour, and meet with stakeholders and vendors. They’ll take part in a walk-through and go over the implementation plan, including looking at housekeeping, waste management, menus, measurement, and all the aspects of a sustainable conference. They will also be recognized at the meeting for their contributions.

The eighth module occurs in May, after the conference, and tackles reporting, performance measurement, and ROI. Students will also put together a case study of the conference.

“The goal of the course,” says Walsh, “is to create the next group of leaders in sustainable event planning,” giving them the hands-on experience and the confidence they need to run their own sustainable meetings.

The course is open to meeting professionals of all stripes—both planners and suppliers. Another benefit of the program is that students will form relationships and can collaborate with their classmates going forward. In addition to earning a Certificate in Sustainable Event Planning, students will earn 21 continuing education units.

There are still a few spots open in the inaugural class. The $1,500 fee ($1,200 for GMIC members) includes registration to attend the Sustainable Meetings Conference and a one-year membership to GMIC. Go to gmicglobal.com for more details. Registration closes on October 1.