Planning business meetings and conferences can take a lot of time, planning, and money, and they are also highly demanding on the environment. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, U.S. meetings are a $107 billion industry with 136.5 million attendees annually. All of these costs contribute to detrimental effects on the environment like carbon emissions, excessive energy consumption, and waste that could have been recycled. To make meetings, conventions, and conferences more eco-friendly, The Convention Industry Council began the APEX Initiative with nine areas of improvement to make meetings environmentally friendly.
Make sure meetings or conferences are held in an eco-friendly town or city. More cities around the country take the initiative to become eco-friendly each year, so holding an event in one of these locations is an important way to save natural resources as well as business resources. Eco-friendly cities are equipped with energy-efficient transportation, green-operating businesses, and convenient recycling opportunities all of which visitors can use to their advantage.
The meeting venue is where it all happens, so it holds the obligation of providing eco-friendly facilities. Starting with the building itself, make sure it has energy-efficient lighting, heating, and other systems that eliminate excess damage to the environment. Eco-friendly facilities should have proper waste management and recycling techniques and cleaning methods that are safe for the environment.
For any exhibits that will be displayed, make eco-friendly production a requirement. Reusable, durable displays have been designed with the environment in mind to make conference exhibits attractive, eye-catching, and effective. Choose LED signage or another kind that can be reused at a later time. Instead of printing every handout for attendees, make a digital copy available to save the time, money, and resources that go into printing. Whenever printing is absolutely necessary, use recycled paper and eco-friendly inks to make the lasting efforts green as well.
If the conference or meeting is not held somewhere with meals available, wisely make a decision among local caterers that serve healthy, eco-friendly foods. See that the ingredients come from the local area and are raised or grown organically with no harsh treatment or hazardous chemicals. Offer a vegetarian option for meals to cut down on consumption of meat, which has one of the most detrimental production processes on the environment. Serve bulk water rather than individual servings to eliminate plastic waste, and serve meals and beverages using china and glass or biodegradable items.
If the meeting will be held in a convenient location for all those who attend, encourage everyone to carpool going to and from the event. In unfamiliar locations, attendees may be better off if they take public transportation. In that case, bring to their attention shuttle providers that use clean energy sources or have a ìno-idleî policy. Give everyone a map and directions to the venue so they can make clear plans for transportation.
Perhaps the most important part of planning a conference or meeting a significant distance from home is accommodations. During a great portion of the time in a different city, conference participants will stay in their reserved guest rooms to unwind after long days of meetings. Choose a hotel for them that is recognized as eco-friendly while it provides kind service at the same time. Green hotels show efforts to conserve water and energy, reduce waste, recycle, and furnish with eco-friendly items. As they reduce their costs while helping the environment, accommodation rates also decrease so guests can relax and maintain focus on their affairs in the city.
The remaining criteria of the APEX Initiative for environmentally friendly conferences and meetings are improved audio and visual production, communication, and on-site offices. While these are equally as important, they may require greater efforts to establish. Audio and visual production are mostly likely provided as a part of the meeting venue, so these can be considerations in choosing a meeting location. Communication can be coordinated to limit use of mail services and paper so that all contact between individuals is conveniently transmitted on the Internet. This, however, requires one or a few individuals to regulate and track all plans, attendance, and arrangements for the event. As a result, it may be difficult to keep everyone informed of the most recent status or situation. On-site offices can be a convenience but may be more of a hassle than they are worth. By making everything about a conference green, the need for offices may virtually be eliminated by the use of technology and interactive exhibits. The greatest concern for organizers should be an easy, flowing meeting that includes healthy meals, interesting presentations, and comfortable accommodations for participants in an eco-friendly manner.
Virtual Meetings and Eco-Friendly Teleconferences
Perhaps the easiest and most cost effective way to hold a meeting is online via chat, video conference, or other Internet applications. Virtual meetings are practically waste-free and eliminate the costs, carbon emissions, and planning obligations of traveling. They can provide communication for a distant member in an important meeting or create elaborate lessons between groups sharing ideas for future business. Meetings online enable more interaction between members and easy use of video, audio, and visual references. Not only does this keep everyone’s attention, it may also encourage them to become more involved and make more contributions to the discussions.
Whether it is a small office meeting or an international gathering of colleagues, start planning the ideal meeting or conference that is low-cost and eco-friendly. Share with everyone the green initiatives that are being accomplished and promote environmentally friendly ideas amongst each other. Make the event a success and plan a greener meeting for the future.