The movement to conserve and replenish the earth's resources continues to build momentum, and meeting planners and suppliers are doing their share to advance the cause.
"Planners are asking for green meetings, but they aren't environmental scientists. They might not have the time or resources to research what the best choices are," says Amy Spatrisano, CMP, principal of the industry consultancy MeetGreen. "The more suppliers can be proactive about educating planners, the easier it will be."
Hotel companies have, in fact, jumped on the sustainable bandwagon with a variety of initiatives, including the creation of brandwide standards, carbon calculators for events and outright funding for innovative eco-efforts (e.g., this past February, the InterContinental Hotel Group gave a $500,000 grant to the MPI Foundation to develop a sustainable meeting and event training program, explore new sustainable techniques for meetings and more).
What follows is an in-depth look at the efforts some major chains are making to help planners organize eco-friendly meetings and events.
FairmontToronto-based Fairmont Hotels & Resorts' Eco-Meet program was launched in 2007 as the latest in the company's 20-year history of green initiatives; the effort focuses on four main components at each of its 63 properties.
Eco-accommodation: Information about a hotel's eco-friendly practices is placed in guest rooms to raise awareness. In addition, all rooms are outfitted with recycling bins, energy-efficient lighting and water-conserving plumbing.
Eco-service: Fairmont provides dishes and cutlery instead of disposable paper plates or plastic utensils, as well as linen napkins and centerpieces that either are edible or made from reusable items such as silk flowers. Recycling stations can be found in all meeting rooms, and whiteboards are substituted for paper flip charts.
Eco-cuisine: Local, seasonal and organically grown foods sourced from a 100-mile radius of each property are available at on-site restaurants. Some of the special menus available under the Eco-Meet banner feature a 50 percent reduction in animal proteins, which are replaced by vegetable proteins.
Eco-programming: This initiative offers planners options for green activities and team-building programs, as well as guest speakers offering eco-centric messages and education. Paper-reduction efforts include electronic check-in and checkout and an in-house TV channel dedicated to providing meeting information and updates to attendees. Planners also can offset their event's emissions by purchasing energy certificates, or credits, through the hotels; these go toward
projects that plant trees, promote low-carbon technologies and more.
According to Fairmont, by following the Eco-Meet guidelines, groups can save up to three plastic water bottles, two aluminum cans, one writing pad, one pencil, two paper cups, three paper napkins, three paper plates and two sets of disposable cutlery per person per day. "To be able to add that up across the chain for thousands of meetings per year would be pretty wild," says Sarah Dayboll, the chain's manager of environmental affairs.
Hilton Hilton International has declared that all of its 3,600 properties will be using its carbon calculator program by Dec. 31, 2011. Known as LightStay, the system analyzes 200 operational practices, including housekeeping, paper product usage, food waste and transportation, and determines their environmental impact in terms of energy and water use, waste production and carbon output.
LightStay's dedicated Meeting Impact Calculator estimates the eco-footprint of an event to be held at any of the chain's properties and allows planners to project in detail the amount of consumption and waste the event will engender. Using this data, planners can modify the materials and operating practices they will use and even change elements of the agenda to reduce impact where possible.
During a recent one-year trial of the LightStay program, implemented for both business and leisure stays at some 1,300 properties, Hilton saved enough energy to power 5,700 homes for a year, conserved enough water to fill more than 650 Olympic-size pools and took the equivalent of 34,865 cars off the road through carbon-emission reductions.
Greening Beyond Meetings
Rather than create
separate green meetings policies, some hotel companies simply include meetings in their overall eco-policies.
Hotels & Resorts' environmental stewardship program, for example,
focuses on recycling, reducing energy consumption, decreasing carbon
emissions and implementing water-efficient utilities. The chain uses
recycled paper and sources menu items from local food supplies at all
properties, including the new 1,000-plus-room Omni Dallas Convention
Center, to debut in 2012 with expected LEED Silver certification.
Hotels Group has been rolling out its Green Engage program since 2009
to help the chain's general managers calculate and eventually reduce
energy consumption. Through Green Engage software, each hotel inputs its
consumption data, compares its numbers to other properties across the
brand and fields system-generated suggestions on ways to reduce impact
on the environment.
"We see green meetings and events as part of
running a green hotel," said David Jerome, senior vice president for
corporate responsibility with IHG. "Green Engage provides a simple
checklist to make the hotel sustainable and, in turn, a green option for
meetings and events."
Hotels & Resorts' Meet and Be Green initiative, launched in July,
offers clients a 3 percent rebate on qualifying charges on the final
pretax master bill for following the chain's 10-point green guidelines.
Meetings booked in North American properties by Dec. 30, and held by
March 31, 2011, are eligible for the program; Jack Horne, Hyatt's vice
president of sales, notes that if feedback is positive, the offer will
The core list of green standards includes the following.
• Provide venues with event orders at least 10 days in advance to reduce last-minute resource shopping;
• The group commits to use recycling bins in all function space and guest rooms;
• The group commits to using local printing services and recycled paper if electronic options are not applicable;
Event organizers will allow no more than one pallet of materials to be
shipped per 100 rooms occupied, and no more than half a pallet going
home, in order to reduce transportation emissions;
materials including pens and note pads will be placed in a central
location rather than being distributed to all attendees;
• The group will use recycled products such as paper, pens and menus;
• The event will use reusable bottles and supply filtered water stations;
Meals will be ordered from Hyatt's seasonal and local banquet menus,
which are updated quarterly and feature regional fare from farmers and
• China and cutlery will be used instead of disposable utensils and plating where possible, and
• Meeting room temperatures will be set "conservatively."
this is an evolving program, says Horne, the standards are flexible,
with several options to swap out as needed. The idea, he says, isn't to
be onerously regulatory, but to ease planners into the habit of applying
green practices and realizing that it might be easier than expected.
simple actions like these add up, and our customers appreciate being
able to make these kinds of choices," says Brigitta Witt, Hyatt's vice
president of corporate social responsibility. "We are giving them an
opportunity to be part of the process."
In addition, Hyatt provides on-site Green Teams available to consult with planners on sustainable practices.
In 2005, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants became one of the first hotel
chains to offer a dedicated green meetings package brandwide,
attracting immediate interest from corporate clients such as Microsoft
EarthCare Meetings is a nine-point standard applied
to every meeting held at all 55 Kimpton properties and includes the
• All printed materials use 100 percent recycled paper;
• All meeting correspondence is sent electronically, including sales proposals, catering menus and banquet orders;
• Catering ingredients are locally sourced and seasonal;
• Environmentally friendly cleaning products are used in meeting areas;
• Organic tea is available at all coffee stations;
• Plasticware, napkins and lunch boxes are made from 100 percent recycled materials;
• Styrofoam, disposable cups, wooden stir sticks and individually packaged condiments are never used;
• Motion-controlled lighting is used in all meeting space, and recycling bins are available in all meeting and guest
• Where possible, unused food is donated, and leftover food is composted.
program is a win-win, says Steve Pinetti, Kimpton's senior vice
president of sales and marketing: "It doesn't cost the meeting planner
anything extra, and my hotel saves money. There's no downside to this."
Since 2008, Marriott has offered green meetings standards across its JW
Marriott, Marriott, Renaissance Hotels & Resorts and Courtyard by
Marriott brands. In addition to the propertywide use of energy-efficient
bulbs, low-flow bathroom facilities, an energy-saving linens program
and Energy Star appliances, the chain outfits meetings with 100 percent
postconsumer fiber notepads, pitchers of water (instead of plastic
bottles) and recycling bins. Marriott also offers recyclable box-lunch
programs using biodegradable utensils and napkins, and all properties
engage in paperless billing.
No item is deemed insignificant in
Marriott's eco-efforts. The chain, which goes through 47 million pens
per year, now only purchases Bic Ecolutions, which are made from
recycled content and are biodegradable. The company also is working to
supply special banquet tables -- which do not require linens, are 99
percent recyclable and made from 49 percent recycled aluminum -- to all
properties in the near future.
Marriott enables planners to cut
waste by donating extras to food banks through Feeding America; they
also can contribute to the protection of the Brazilian Amazonas
rainforest via a special program in which participating hotels donate
funds equal to 5 percent of the total cost of a meeting group's guest
rooms booked by Dec. 31, 2010, for an event held by Dec. 31, 2012.
Marriott's employees are some 3,600 certified Marriott Green Planners
who have been trained and tested on green standards, vocabulary, and
meetings products and services.
Hotels & Resorts Worldwide recently announced it would implement
its new Sustainable Meeting Practices (SMPs) across all of its North
American brands, including St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, W, Westin,
Le Méridien, Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton, Aloft and Element.
chain's SMPs are expected to roll out in 2011 and will focus on
paperless meeting planning, sustainable meeting services, sustainable
F&B practices, impact assessment tools and socially conscious
Practices to be implemented in all North American
hotels for all on-property meetings and events include using electronic
sales tools, recyclable flip charts and paper products, sustainable
(nonpaper) supplies such as whiteboards and LED signage, green printing
practices such as recyclable ink and double-sided printing,
transportation initiatives including the use of hybrid or electric
vehicles to and from off-site meeting venues, sustainable menu items in
hotel restaurants and the use of potted plants instead of fresh-cut
Starwood also has launched its Meeting Impact Report,
which allows clients to track water usage, energy consumption, waste
levels and recycling.
On the Web Go to mcmag.com/webexclusives for a roundup of eco-efforts being made by Four Seasons, Loews and other chains.