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by By Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM | March 01, 2010

Most planners want to do the right thing for the environment when organizing their meetings and events: They hire "green" vendors, use products that are friendly to the environment and book eco-conscious facilities. But are these suppliers, and your events, truly green?

Fortunately, there are some simple actions you can take to promote bona fide green practices at your meetings, trade shows and events. To ensure that your good intentions -- and dollars -- are well-placed, consider the following advice.

Everyday green• Hire a green team. You have a true advantage when you know your vendors are working clean and green, too. The best way to source eco-conscious vendors is via a prequalified national list of certified green companies such as the Green Business League. On the site, planners can find essential vendor partners such as decorators, production firms and transportation companies.

Another terrific resource is thegreenbrideguide.com, which, along with all of the wedding advice, lists green suppliers for special events. For both conventional and unconventional vendor needs, check out theultimategreenlist.com for information on the best, brightest and newest green specialty companies.

• Beware of "greenwashing." This refers to a marketing ploy that positions firms with poor environmental records as ambassadors of green. Some notorious greenwashers are energy firms; in the meetings industry, transportation companies and food suppliers might employ the practice. Thegreenlifeonline.org (formerly Earth Day Resources) lists a number of firms that fall into this category.

• Buy local, seasonal produce and products. By purchasing local produce, you get fresher, more healthful options, and you eliminate wasteful transportation from distant sources. By sourcing in-season products, you avoid wasteful energy used for storage, packaging, handling and temperature control.

• Cut out all bottled water. Instead, supply nontoxic, reusable bottles, or encourage attendees to bring their own reusable bottles.

• Choose a green facility. Meet in a venue that leverages local resources and has a robust recycling program. San Francisco's Moscone Center (moscone.com), for example, is a pioneer in green convention center practices. To find other like-minded facilities, the Environmental Protection Agency lists green meeting venues at epa.gov/oppt/greenmeetings.

• Reduce or eliminate signage. You can certainly do without vinyl banners, in particular. If you do use signage, make sure it is general enough to be reused for future events.

• Rethink site visits. Do you need to travel to inspect a property? If two people were going to go, can the task be handled by one? Find ways to lower your carbon footprint -- the amount of carbon emitted by a person, business or event in a given period. To calculate your footprint, go to calculator.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx.

• Limit printed materials. Do you really need to publish a lengthy program guide or directory of exhibitors? Even if you use soy ink and recycled paper, the documents might not be necessary. Better yet: Allow attendees to download the program from your website before the show or at on-site kiosks.

Another idea: Load the program onto USB flash drives and distribute them at registration. You can even get drives made of bamboo to green the process further. Companies such as Imprint Items or Everything USB carry green thumb drives that can be customized with your company logo or event name.