In my earlier life as a design magazine editor, I was a crusader. I believed that good design could not only be aesthetically pleasing, but it could also help to save the planet.

Back then (more than 25 years ago), I was nearly fired for producing a special issue of my magazine on energy-efficient architecture — it was a rogue move for an interior design trade publication. But the special issue was well received by the readers and didn't lose any advertisers, so my bosses let me be. I got on the speakers' circuit to talk about using photovoltaic (solar) cells, harnessing wind power, building underground, and more in a presentation optimistically titled “Design the Future Now.” (The most memorable event: speaking at the same Future Fair as my hero, Buckminster Fuller.)

But the world didn't change the way I had hoped. In the 80s, greed, not green, became the new American credo and all my passion for saving the planet didn't make a dent.

So I started using canvas bags at the grocery store. I bought summer veggies from a CSA (community-supported agriculture) to foster local organic farmers. I spent big bucks for an on-demand hot water heater that saves energy.

The point is that the seemingly small things we do as individuals — in our business lives and in our personal lives — are what really make a difference.

A Call to Action

Today, the groundswell of support for green meetings means I don't have to get back on the soapbox. In our industry niche, for instance, Financial & Insurance Conference Planners will offer a green meetings webinar this summer and a breakout at the annual conference in November. I'm on the annual's design team. When we first discussed a workshop title of “Mission Possible: A Green Meetings Call to Action,” Michael Burke, CMP, The Hanover, FICP's immediate past president and design team chair, responded: “I like it. But Mission Critical is even stronger.”

Right on, Mike! The mission is critical. And if you approach greening your meetings one step at a time, it won't become overwhelming. There's a wealth of information on the Web to help get you started — here are a few suggestions:

  • The Green Meeting Industry Council, greenmeetings.info, promotes environmentally sound meeting strategies through standards and education. You can download the post-conference report from its 2007 Greening the Hospitality Industry Conference and register for a Green Meetings Discussion Forum with 13 topic threads. The GMIC also sponsors bluegreenmeetings.org. Click on “hosts and planners” for links to tips on how to green your meetings. There's also a “How green is my meeting?” quiz.

  • For another handy checklist of things you can do to green your meetings, go to fairmont.com/en_fa/environment/ecomeet. Long at the forefront of environmentally friendly policies, Fairmont Hotels recently expanded its Eco-Meet program to all of its 50 properties worldwide.

  • To measure the environmental impact of your meetings, Meeting Strategies Worldwide offers the MeetGreen Calculator ($250). They also sell the MeetGreen toolbox ($175), with suggestions for contract language, vendor policies, and more. www.meetgreen.com

  • To help get strategic on aligning your company's environmental mission with your meeting's environmental mission, go to ceres.org, a coalition of companies and organizations that matches business goals with environmental goals. Through the efforts of Ceres, for example, AIG in May 2006 became the first U.S. insurance company to tackle the financial challenges from global warming.

It is our mission at Financial & Insurance Meetings and all of The Meetings Group print and electronic communications to keep you up-to-date on green meetings news, views, and solutions. Watch our pages for ongoing coverage. And to stay ahead of the curve, go to meetingsnet.com and sign up for our weekly e-newsletter, MeetingsNet Extra.