Move over, green meeting. Enter the carbon-neutral event. When you bring groups together for a meeting, you increase greenhouse gases as people fly and drive to your event. While there, attendees consume many megawatts of electricity and produce enormous amounts of waste. Some meeting organizers and sponsors are offsetting those easily measurable carbon emissions by purchasing or investing in carbon-offset projects, which are renewable energy, energy-efficiency, or reforestation projects in the U.S. and developing countries.

One recent example of a carbon-neutral event was the 2007 Greening the Hospitality Industry Conference, held February 6-8, hosted by the Green Meeting Industry Council in Portland, Ore., at the Doubletree Hotel & Executive Center Portland Lloyd Center, which offset 85 metric tons of meeting-generated CO2 emissions. On March 14 the Green Hospitality Conference was held at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. The conference was organized by Cleveland-based Lodging Hospitality magazine; St. Charles, Mo.-based Pineapple Hospitality; and Boulder, Colo.-based Sustainable Travel International, which sponsored offsets of all carbon emissions produced during the event through STI's partners, Bonneville Environmental Foundation and MyClimate.

Many organizations are embracing sustainability as a stewardship issue and have a “triple bottom line” that includes financial, human, and environmental measurements and impacts, said Marge Anderson, associate director, Energy Center of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis. For meeting planners, that means that you must “think of environmental issues and energy in market terms, such as in operational savings and leadership, not as a moral imperative.”

Anderson added that suppliers in the meetings industry, especially hotels, need to share their environmental initiatives with their customers, and that planners should include requests for green meetings in their RFPs and make those requirements contractual whenever possible. “It's going to be hard to do that for your smaller meetings,” she said, but planners should start to demand recycling initiatives and reward hotels that are green with their business.

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