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What Meeting Hosts Should Consider When Helping to Green an Event

Joey O’Brien

Almost every sporting event, wedding, conference, and public gathering has an accommodation partner. Often the accommodation partner is benign and not really part of the organization committee. However, there could be a significant value added for leading facilities to look beyond their own practices and provide leadership and tools for making the hosted event or activity environmentally sustainable. In fact, this could be an important choice decision point in the very competitive accommodation market.

We find most caring leaders want to become more considerate of the environment, but don’t know where to start. Below are listed areas of consideration with the most important first leading to small but visibly significant choices last.

Your Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Footprint

  • Decide your “umbrella” of measurement.
  • Is it the facility spaces only?
  • Could it include hotel room stays?
  • What about the organizing committee’s actions?
  • What about the GHG footprint of participant travel to come to the event?
  • What types of transportation does each participant use?
  • The hardest part is deciding the umbrella of measurement and influence.
  • Once this is done, determining the data collection process could require a more robust registration form and post event surveys.
  • With the correct data, the rest of the process is just math.
  • Each jurisdiction has a GHG footprint for its various activities.
  • We usually round up the number by 10 percent to include things we missed.
  • Next is sourcing a certified GHG accreditor.
  • Last is retiring the certified GHG footprint.

Greening Your Electrical Footprint

  • This is easier as you may have already defined your umbrella of measurement.
  • It is fairly easy to find out the electrical demand for each hotel room, facility, etc.
  • Acquiring green REC’s is easy and there are many suppliers of this service. Solar, wind, geothermal companies often have these.
  • Look to see if the state/province/municipality utilizes certified green power already. If you are in a region where 100 percent of the grid electricity is already green, you are at the finish line already.

Towards Zero Waste (TZW)

  • This is the most visible action taken at events.
  • Again, deciding your umbrella of influence is the first step.
  • What is your target waste diversion percentage?
  • What do your facility, region, and municipality demand for streams of separation?
  • Is there a private sector supplier of these services in the region?
  • We have learned that every TZW station must always be manned. Participant driven TZW stations won’t achieve anything above 60 percent diversion even with secondary separation.

Marketing & Messaging

  • Usually there are several target audiences: participants, media, the sponsors, the organizing committee, the authorities having jurisdiction.
  • Design a campaign for each of these, as their demands are different.
  • This is where you can add to the value of the sponsorship campaign (where appropriate). Greenest in class is a big and important handle.

Small but Visibly Important Steps

  • Transit. Partner with the local transit companies and promote also car-pooling.
  • Lime, Car To Go and other low impact transportation options are good choices.
  • Supply reusable beverage containers. Have them labeled for each participant.
  • Choose compostable (PLA) products at any point where a disposable option may be more common. Look for recognized logos of accreditation.
  • Choose a virtual event bag and eliminate the traditional “swag bags”.
  • Partner with organizations like Trees Canada or your regional equivalent to offer the participants a choice to offset their own GHG footprint.

Joey O’Brien is President, SustainDriven. SustainDriven is an innovative provider of environmental consulting and event operations that integrates world-class front-end and midstream project consulting to execute sustainable water, waste, global greenhouse gas and energy solutions. These actions, when integrated into an overall operations plan, make a facility, business, event or construction project attain “most sustainable in its class” level of accreditation. Businesses are always seeking a competitive advantage. The SustainDriven toolbox allows for staking utmost environmentally sustainable market position while producing a reduction or stabilization of costs.