Planning greener meetings doesn’t have to be complicated and it certainly doesn’t have to be expensive. In anticipation of the roll-out of the meeting industry’s APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Event Standards later this year, we asked Nancy Zavada, coauthor, (along with Amy Spatrisano and Shawna McKinley) of Saving Green by Going Green, to share the thought process behind the book and its tools for planners. Zavada is also the co-founder and co-owner of MeetGreen, a company that works with organizations to integrate sustainable practices into their events.
MeetingsNet: What made you want to write a book about saving money by going green?
Zavada:When we began training meeting professionals about environmentally responsible meeting practices, there were a handful of “myths,” as we liked to call them, about why you couldn’t or shouldn’t plan your meetings responsibly. Some of these, such as, “only environmental types are making efforts to go green” and “if we can’t be 100 percent green, why bother?” have been debunked over the past few years. But the myth that sustainable meetings are too expensive has been much tougher to dispel. Our experience has shown this not to be true, so we wanted to share our stories and methodology to help others.
MeetingsNet: Why did you choose a workbook format?
This format gives industry professionals both the knowledge and the tools to implement sustainable practices and to track the economic savings. We have used these systems with our client’s events: They work. The format allows readers to move quickly into saving money and showing to key stakeholders.
MeetingsNet: How is this book different from Simple Steps to Green Meetings and Events (the first collaboration of Zavada and Spatrisano) ?
Zavada: Our first book covered all eight categories of event planning and outlined green practices in each of those areas. Saving Green by Going Green, published in July, includes all of the categories as well but focuses directly on elements that save a conference organizer time, money, and human resources. In fact, each of our practices is tagged to alert the reader to where significant savings will be realized.
MeetingsNet: Do you offer money-saving practices for hospitality vendors?
Zavada: Most of the sustainable practices save money for vendors such as hotels and convention centers by reducing energy and water use, and by reducing waste, which lowers hauling fees. Their economic bottom lines are positively impacted. However, we have seen instances where vendors have tried adding fees for green services and have looked upon sustainability as a new revenue source. We are currently negotiating with a convention center that is attempting to charge a client more for green services while not giving them a discount for the amount of water, energy, or waste fees they will be saving by running a sustainable conference. We discuss how to best handle these situations.
MeetingsNet: Where does this methodology fit into the meeting planning process?
Zavada: Right from the start, with a commitment-level check of your organization and supply-chain inventory. It continues during the budgeting process, with an analysis of sustainable options. And you follow through at the end of the event with a cost-savings analysis developed for both one-time and multi-year events. It is woven into the traditional planning process, not “bolted on” as a separate task for already busy planners.
MeetingsNet: How is measurement covered?
Zavada: Measurement is vitally important from both an economic and environmental standpoint. Sustainable meetings are good business. If they weren’t, they would have died off years ago not continued to grow and become mainstream. But you have to be able to substantiate your savings. Measurement is a four-step process: Set the baseline, select the indicators, affirm a target, and communicate impact. The book offers assistance with all four of these steps.
MeetingsNet: What is your favorite real-life example from the book?
Zavada: There are quite a few to choose from, but I believe the story of how Oracle OpenWorld has saved $420,000 since 2008 by rethinking signage is one of the most dramatic examples, and one with little visual impact. Their tactics, which have cut costs, include:
- Shifting to lighter materials made from renewable paper-based sources,
- Designing costlier, larger graphics, such as banners and tenting, to be used over and over
- Reducing the total amount of signage produced, and
- Using suppliers in the same state to reduce cross-country shipments.
MeetingsNet: What concepts do you want people to walk away with?
Zavada: That’s an easy question. We want people to be able to identify opportunities to save money using sustainable meeting practices, successfully implement those practices, and then prove it with solid information!