Some of the most progressive green meetings policies are emerging not from the private sector but from the U.S. Government, specifically the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive. Their tips below can help you create a foundation for environmentally friendly meeting management:

1. Decide if you need a traditional meeting.
Traditionally, conference attendees travel to the event site. Emissions from flights and ground transportation add up quickly. While there are benefits to having all attendees in the same location, today’s technology makes it possible to hold a meeting without requiring attendees to travel. Think about whether all attendees must at the same location or whether technologies like video teleconferencing, which allows online face-to-face interactions, can be used to reduce the amount of emissions generated from attendance.

2. Help attendees travel greener.
It’s ideal to plan events near a major airport hub that is connected to public transportation. Airport hubs offer the opportunity for more nonstop flights than smaller airports, and these produce fewer emissions than multi-stop itineraries. Airports that are connected to public transportation offer a green and inexpensive way for attendees to travel to the event site. If public transit is not available, provide shuttle buses (preferably hybrid electric or alternative fuel vehicles) for attendee transport to the event site.

3. Choose hotels with a linen reuse policy.
Linen reuse programs reduce energy and water consumption by reducing the number of laundry loads a hotel runs each day. Marriott’s global Linen Re-use Program saves an average of 11 to 17 percent on hot water and sewer costs involved in laundering operations at each hotel per year.

4. Choose facilities that use energy- and water-saving devices, such as compact fluorescent light bulbs and low-flow plumbing fixtures.
Hotels and conference centers use enormous amounts of water and energy in their everyday operations. By choosing a facility that uses energy- and water-saving technologies, you can make your meetings greener. The ENERGY STAR for Hospitality Program reports incredible savings by their member hotels. When it joined the ENERGY STAR program, Columbus Hospitality Group, a Bass Hotels and Resorts franchise, began a complete renovation with the goal of making its hotels as energy-efficient as possible. The improvements have already increased the hotels’ energy performance and saved more than $30,000 in energy bills and reduced maintenance costs.

Meanwhile, the W Hotel in Dallas, a 33-story property with 251 guest rooms and 144 luxury residences, installed low-flow faucets, showerheads, and toilets in all rooms. These efforts, combined with the hotel’s linen reuse program, save the hotel 6,410 gallons of water each day.

5. Choose hotels and conference centers with established recycling programs.
This will ensure that attendees have accessible recycling options. Find out what items can be recycled at the facilities under consideration for the event. Items to ask for include: paper, and plastic, metal, and glass beverage containers. Find out where the recycling collection bins are located. Having collection bins in the halls adjacent to meeting rooms is ideal to increase the recycling rate. Event planners can also help by collecting badges from attendees at the end of the conference for reuse at another event. This saves money as well. For additional recycling ideas, visit the EPA’s Recycle on the Go web page.

6. Use electronic marketing, registration, agendas, handouts, and proceedings.
Meetings can generate an enormous amount of paper, from registration forms to handouts to publications. Today’s technology offers many options for requesting and providing information electronically in a safe and secure manner. Here are some ideas:

  • Collect registration forms through the event’s web site.
  • Collect presentation abstract submissions online.
  • Post draft and final agendas on the event web site.
  • E-mail marketing documents instead of sending hard copies.
  • Post event proceedings online.

7. Use double-sided printing on a minimum of 30 percent post-consumer recycled content paper, printed using vegetable-based inks.
Avoiding all printing is not an option for some events. When the printing of documents and publications is necessary, use double-sided printing to decrease paper use. Better yet, print on recycled content paper. E.O. 13423 requires Federal agencies to use paper containing at least 30 percent post-consumer fiber. Also, use vegetable-based inks for printing.

8. Choose reusable serving utensils, table linens, and food and beverage containers whenever possible.
Reusable serving dishes and utensils eliminate a great amount of waste. Polystyrene serving items are made from petroleum, are not easily recycled, and are a common source of marine debris. Some paper cups can be composted, but more often they end up in the waste stream. By using ceramic food and beverage containers and reusable utensils and table linens, planners can reduce the amount of waste their events generate.

9. Buy food from local vendors who use locally grown food whenever possible.
Purchasing locally grown food decreases greenhouse gas emissions because the food is transported over a shorter distance. Sourcing local food for events also supports the local economy. In order to reduce waste, donate untouched leftovers to a local shelter or food pantry.

10. Share your green practices with attendees.
Not only does sharing this information demonstrate your commitment to greening your events, but it also serves to raise awareness. Attendees will share this information with others as well and become aware of the green choices they have the next time they travel or attend an event.

Reprinted with permission by the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive