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by Casey Cote | November 5, 2014

casey coteAfter 20 years in the meetings industry, I’m proud to say I’m always learning — especially about the technology side of events management. This year, a colleague “schooled” me on a related topic: sustainable meetings.
 
Allyson Wagner, who assists our clients with event planning, site logistics and sustainability initiatives, is an expert in green meeting practices. Allyson serves on the board for the Atlanta chapter of the Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC) and is GMIC’s immediate past president.
 
GMIC, along with the Convention Industry Council’s Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) and ASTM International (a standards-making body), helped build environmental standards for sustainable meetings. The result, published last year, is the ASTM Standards for Green Meetings.
 
Allyson, in a webinar on best practices for sustainable meetings, uses a personal experience to explain how practical the new standards are: “At a San Francisco sustainability conference, we worked with all of the event’s suppliers, and we were shocked at how open they were and how excited they got. They were surprised at how much they were already doing.”
 
Thanks to Allyson, now I know that the average conference attendee generates more than 20 pounds of waste per day, four times what the same person would generate at home. And now I know that an attendee’s water usage, on average, is triple that of a home resident.
 
The biggest surprise for me: Green meeting standards aren’t platitudes for tree-huggers — the standards can actually cut costs and magnify profits for event sponsors and venues. Hotels, for example, are saving thousands of dollars per event just by providing water in pitchers instead of plastic bottles. And you already know that mobile apps can virtually eliminate paper at events.
 
I confess that last year, if I heard the word sustainability, it was a cue to tune out. Now I’m convinced that our entire industry needs to get involved in sustainability initiatives and efforts to benchmark our progress.  We need to be champions of how they create value for our careers, our industry, our organizations and our environment.
 
Even planners have tremendous power to drive implementation of the standards. The majority of the thinking in setting up a green meeting is already done for you. Here are a few resources I’ve discovered:
 
• M&C senior editor Sarah Braley’s excellent Green Standard blog posts and her article, “Cheap and Green: 20 Tips”
Green meetings best practices from GMIC — and more great tips!
GMIC’s  green meetings infographic
• Business Today article, “Making Room for Sustainability: Greening the C-Suite”

Don’t stop there. A few minutes of Internet searching will uncover plenty of tools, checklists and scorecards available to help planners, venues and suppliers make sure their events are good for the planet — and profitability.
 
Casey Cote is chief executive officer of Omnience, which provides marketing event management and technology solutions. Casey shares his thoughts on popular topics in the meetings industry on the company’s ROI Blog.