Go Green to Save Green

By: Kristin Clarke

Greener meetings can help planners stay in the black.

We all like to save a buck. We also like to "do good"—for ourselves, our organization, and the wider world. Creating more environmentally sustainable meetings can help you achieve all of that.

It's a myth that eco-friendly meetings must be expensive. Increased efficiencies and innovations in the past three years—from compostable sugarcane-based servingware to staff T-shirts created from recycled soda bottles—have made many expenses at least cost-neutral if not cheaper than traditional options.

Many associations already have transitioned hardcopy materials to online-only access, saving money on paper and postage while providing more up-to-date, shareable information. Greater use of online marketing also allows planners to conserve money and the environment.

In some cases, the financial reward isn't in reducing or eliminating something but rather in gaining it. New sponsorship opportunities include carbon offsets for attendees or events, reusable bottles or mugs, mobile-device charging stations, and recycling bins.

Longtime association meeting planner and consultant Bridget Chisholm recommends that dollar-conscious planners emphasize locally sourced, seasonal food and beverages in their menus. "There are definitely cost savings from working with the local farming community," she says.

Here are other tips:

  • Skip tote bags, asking instead that attendees bring an old one.
  • Choose only sustainable meeting sites. With higher operational efficiencies, they reduce costs.
  • Help exhibitors diminish waste. It will shrink your own bill.
  • Keep meeting activities and accommodations close together, so everyone can walk, take mass transit, or rent bicycles.

Contributed by Kristin Clarke, a business journalist and writer for ASAE. Email: [email protected]

Kristin Clarke

Kristin Clarke is books editor for Associations Now and a business journalist and sustainability director for ASAE.