Green Meetings: 4 Ways To Host an Eco-friendly Function

Making your next office meeting or event more sustainable isn’t as difficult as it might seem. It’s simply a matter of taking a look at current practices and transitioning to better ones. What’s more, many times being eco-friendly also means saving money, as well as benefiting the community around you and developing a better image for your business.

What’s most important to remember? “That’s simple,” said Melinda Glasgow, recycling coordinator for the city of Little Rock. “Make it easy and fun. Being green does not have to be difficult.”

Why You Should

Even smaller events can have considerable environmental impact. With multiple printouts, out-of-town travel or disposable items used in eating, making more eco-friendly choices at your next event can make a noticeable difference. What’s more, the green movement’s emphasis on conservation and efficiency gains are right in line with a business’ bottom line.

In addition to being environmentally good and possibly saving money, there’s opportunity for forging a reputation for being responsible and forward-thinking, a quality more and more customers are paying attention to. “Consumers are seeking out businesses who are more sustainable,” said Nancy Landrum, professor of business management at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. “There are also businesses who are seeking out suppliers or partners who are operating more sustainably.”

How You Can

1. Select a Site Thoughtfully

Choose a location that’s nearest the majority of attendees to reduce the travel required. If the gathering will require some shuffling between sites, choose venues that are near each other or served by public transportation. Glasgow recommends offering bike storage and incentives for carpooling, or even free or discounted public transport passes. Consider Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified venues like the Clinton Presidential Center. That way, energy will be used conservatively and your hosts will share a like mind.

2. Go Local

Besides meaning fewer resources were used in getting the product to you, choosing local invests in the economy and community around you. “It’s just more of a family type of atmosphere when you’re working with people who are close by,” said Robyn Madden, sustainability coordinator at Arkansas Convention and Event Marketing. “We want to support something that’s happening here.” Consider working with companies in the Sustainable Business Network of Central Arkansas.

3. Do Things Virtually

Sending necessary material electronically and ahead of time allows attendees who want a hardcopy to print one and prevents wasting material on people who aren’t interested. Use projectors for presentations rather than handouts, or consider using flash drives, which not only save paper but are convenient, reusable and offer marketing and branding opportunities. Madden suggests using Quick Response (QR) codes in place of business cards — the barcode-like images can be created to hold an Internet address or contact information and are easily decoded by a smartphone. If you have to use paper, Glasgow suggests using seed paper, which, when planted, grows wildflowers and other plants. It’s engaging, eco-friendly and is sure to remind attendees of an event long after it’s over.

4. Have a Plan for Eating and Drinking

Disposable products offer convenience at the price of more waste and wasted resources. Instead, work with your event’s venue to offer reusable options. Cabot-based CynerGreen offers reusable stainless steel water bottles available in bulk. For the waste you do have, coordinate event recycling with a local company such as Goldman Recycling. For meals, consider working with restaurants that are part of the Arkansas Green Restaurant Alliance — many use locally grown organic food and biodegradable containers. “The most sustainable thing you can do is use actual plates and glasses and cutlery,” Madden said. As much as possible, eliminate food-packing material. Individually boxed lunches are unnecessary.

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