Aiming for a more recognizable brand and a sharper focus for their company, Amy Spatrisano and Nancy Wilson, co-founders of Meeting Strategies Worldwide, have renamed the company MeetGreen. The women have been in the vanguard of planning greener meetings since 1994.
“The simple fact is,” says principal Nancy Wilson, CMP, “that after 15 years, we had to acknowledge that our company had outgrown its original name. It no longer captured the essence of our core business or the new directions in which we are moving.”
The change to MeetGreen is also in response to the growing interest in corporate sustainability initiatives. “There is so much more to the notion ofthan eliminating Styrofoam coffee cups and plastic water bottles,” says Spatrisano. “Global corporations are hungry for guidance in how to connect people in ways that are as effective as they are environmentally responsible.” While training and consulting are key growth areas for the company, planning face-to-face conferences and events remain at the core of MeetGreen’s business, she says. The Portland, Ore.–based firm is opening offices in Vancouver, B.C., and Washington, D.C.
The company recently announced two initiatives that will help spread the green meetings gospel to the meetings industry. One new program will create Eco-Event Zones in cities in which multiple organizations planning meetings there band together to encourage green initiatives by using their collective buying power. “This is an initiative we are offering as a value-added piece of our existing client work,” says Shawna McKinley, project manager, MeetGreen.
The idea is to tap into the growing network of green meeting professionals—through groups such as the Green Meeting Industry Council—to help leverage and advocate for some of the community services that make MeetGreen’s work easier such as composting, municipal recycling, and green hotel programs. “We also help CVBs and other suppliers in the destination show their decision-makers that sustainable meeting infrastructure matters to us as customers.”
One example where this is already happening is in Salt Lake City, where the Unitarian Universalist Association is holding its annual general assembly in June and Meeting Professionals International is hosting its World Education Congress in July. Both organizations have a green event mandate but were challenged to secure full composting services at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
“We were thrilled to find the convention center recycled, had switched to compostable disposables, and was providing limited prep-food composting. However, the city didn’t have the infrastructure to compost meat, oil, or disposables, which accounts for about 15 to 20 percent of our waste,” says Janiece Sneegas, PhD, director, General Assembly & Conference Services, UUA, Boston. “We wanted to find a way to advocate for this, but were one voice and one event.”
MeetGreen connected UUA to MPI’s Elizabeth Henderson, CMM, CMP, director of corporate social responsibility. “When the Eco-Event Zone concept was proposed, we knew it was a natural fit, and was something that could positively affect ourindustry as well as our host communities.”
The three organizations have issued their support to the city to research and develop a commercial composting service accessible to the meetings industry. While two local hotels, a handful of downtown restaurants, and the convention center divert vegetable prep waste and coffee grounds to a small composting facility, investment is needed to create a commercial composting operation able to handle the volume of compostable disposables like cups and food containers from an operation the size of the convention center, according to Kate Whitbeck of Momentum Recycling in Salt Lake City, a local recycling company. “The volumes of waste from hospitality are what we need to help make operations viable,” she says.
“Even though these organizations will have come and gone from Salt Lake City by the time commercial composting is implemented, our city departments understand this is a desired service and one that is a site-selection factor for meeting planners,” adds Scott Beck, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “When you consider the direct value of just these two events is estimated at more than $20 million, it is easy to see the enormous impact of meetings on our local economy.”
MeetGreen is actively seeking other such partnerships for its other clients and cities, including the U.S. Green Building Council meeting scheduled for Minneapolis in 2010.
MeetGreen’s second initiative offers members of the Professional Convention Management Association discounts on MeetGreen’s services including a toolbox of requests for proposal andlanguage for everything from sustainable destination, venue, accommodations, and catering to tips for using carbon offsets. The MeetGreen Calculator is an online tool that tracks planners’ success in implementing green practices through measurement and comparison.
Says Wilson, “We created our tools to give very practical, ready-to-use documents and advice to help planners integrate sustainability and measure their practices. Meetings are threatened. Sustainability is the way to reduce costs, enhance image, and prove return on investment.”