by Laura D'Elsa | September 24, 2013

Europeans like to talk about green. In the meetings industry, we all talk about green, but Europeans REALLY like to talk about it. It's one of the main selling points for most European countries, including, of course, my homeland of Germany. However, whenever I travel on business around the United States and emphasize the importance of green meetings and sustainability, I have noticed that the eyes of most planners still glaze over. Why? Because, they tell me, green meetings are expensive. Holding an event in a green hotel or convention center, using a green caterer, and/or implementing a sustainability strategy for an event are all going to cost more, both in time and actual money.

Why do they think that? When green meetings are all about decreasing waste and cost (through the increase of efficiency), why do meeting planners think the exact opposite? Because they believe green suppliers are more expensive than others (which is true in some cases). They also are worried that implementing "new" green strategies can be risky and will take more time than the tried and tested (also likely true). But what about the overall money saved through printing less, buying in bulk or reusing materials? What about the time saved through streamlining processes?

It seems that green meetings are not the problem; we are. We, as an industry, need to focus less on short-term, cost-cutting measures and more on long-term, sustainable strategies that might require a larger initial investment -- yes, in time and money -- at the outset, but will offer much larger savings in the long run.  

It's time to talk less and take more action. Let's put less emphasis on the ethical and moral arguments for green, and more on the business case for being green. As an industry, we should focus on tangible measures that can be easily implemented (very important!).  

As planners and suppliers, let's agree to stop talking about green, and just do it! There's no reason not to; you ultimately will save time and money, and you will get that warm and fuzzy feeling from not only knowing you are doing something good and adding real business value but also leading by example.

Ultimately, green should (yes, should) become the norm. It should become internalized, something that is nothing special, something you do automatically without even thinking about it.

Laura D'Elsa is regional director for the U.S. and Canadian office of the German Convention Bureau, based in New York City.