If you have ever thought that by going green, you won't really make a difference, think again.

I recently led a roundtable discussion on green meetings at NEMICE, the annual meeting of the New England Chapter of Meeting Professionals International. A day later, we found out that Lois Lawson, a meeting planner who had attended the roundtable, went home and reminded her host hotel for an upcoming event — the Hyatt Regency in Newport, R.I. — that she had asked for a statement on what the hotel was doing to improve its carbon footprint. “I was quite pleasantly surprised to receive a fairly lengthy list and a note from my convention services person telling me that I was about 90 percent of the impetus for them to get going on this,” she told us. “They now have a Green Team, and this week are receiving a ranking from the state of Rhode Island as a green hotel.”

Not long ago, I heard a similar story from the CSM of the Westin Bayshore in Vancouver. After her client came to her determined to put on a green meeting, she started educating herself about everything from food recycling to green power. A year later, many of the practices that the Westin put in place for that meeting are standards in her hotel.

At NEMICE, a common thread among the hotel salespeople I met was that they are increasingly being asked about their recycling and waste-reduction practices by clients — and as a result, they're spurring changes within their hotels. A theme among the planners was that they weren't sure how much they could ask for. My advice: Ask for everything you need when it comes to greening. They can only say no — and that's not good for anyone.

There's also a parallel between what's happening in our industry and what's going on in our companies. Green efforts don't have to start from the top; in many companies, the employees are driving the change. If you can identify advocates for green practices in different divisions and bring them together (virtually), you can share ideas and best practices — and perhaps even be the impetus for companywide changes.

2 Easy Changes with Big Results

One simple step to take: Always use this sentence at the bottom of your e-mails: To save paper, please think twice before printing this e-mail. It might get others doing the same.

Another easy one: Ask your company to offer employees who travel the chance to purchase carbon offsets. I recommend the supplier that the Green Meeting Industry Council used for its meeting earlier this year: Offsetters Climate Neutral Society, www.offsetters.ca.

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