Meet Green: Tips for Greener Meetings
By Tricia Mirchandani
Whether you’re assembling a dozen people in an office conference room or convening a few hundred at a convention center, your meetings make an impact beyond your company’s bottom line. How can you reduce the impact of meetings on the Earth while still collaborating for your organization’s success?
We’ve got tips to meet green whether you’re going big or talking small.
Meet green everyday
It starts with ten printed copies of an agenda (7 of which will be barely glanced at and left behind). It ends when the last person leaves the room but leaves the lights on. During the 30 – 60 minutes in between, a team might discuss some important topics, make some key decisions, and identify some necessary next steps. But they’ll also make an impact on the environment unless they take a few steps to green that meeting.
To print or not to print
Business still runs on paper and there’s no getting around that. But before each meeting, ask yourself: “Do we really need this?” Use a white board to share your meeting agenda and save dozens of pages per meeting. Share presentations via projection or screen sharing to cut down on the stacks of copies you bring into the room. (If you need a print-out of your presentation to share, bring just one or two to pass around the room or leave with key decision makers). Going paperless at every meeting may seem like an unachievable goal but a little bit of reduction is always possible and makes an impact.
All for one and one for all
Once you reduce the amount of paper you bring into the room, you may notice the number of electronics increases. Without printed agendas on which to take notes, attendees may feel compelled to tote laptops and tablets along with them. But, as with all things, there is a balance to sustainability. If ‘less paper’ equals ‘more electricity’ then we really haven’t made the difference we sought to make. See if assigning note-taking to one member of the group might help. In addition to reducing the environmental impact of that half hour, you may notice each meeting attendee is more engaged!
Relive your school days when the best thing that could happen on a nice spring day was your teacher saying, “Let’s have class outside!” Find a nice spot to sit in the office courtyard or at a nearby park. Having a meeting that doesn’t require materials? Meet while walking. This strategy serves the double goal of reducing the electricity required to power your chat and improving the health of everyone you meet with. And, of course, if you can’t help but meet inside, be sure to turn the conference room lights off when you leave.
Go big and stay green
Small changes in your small meetings can make a big difference. But what about larger meetings and conventions that requires large amounts of paper, travel, and supplies? It’s no surprise that the EPA once deemed the meetings and events industry the 2nd most wasteful in the U.S. Fortunately, every stop along the industry’s supply chain has trended towards sustainability over the past decade, turning even the largest of meetings green.
To travel or not to travel
Need to discuss something and email won’t do? Pick up the phone.
Need to discuss or interact with visuals? With Skype, Google Hangouts, and others, the sky is the limit.
Will you still have to travel, sometimes, across the miles to meet in person? Of course. Even with all of the technology at our fingertips, we still haven’t completely replaced the experience of meeting face-to-face. But thanks to the plethora of virtual meeting options, we can now make smarter decisions and travel only when necessary.
Food adds an important element to even the smallest of events and keeps large meetings energized. But the miles that food has to travel, not to mention the waste created by leftovers, serving materials, and other accessories like linens and flatware, makes a huge impact. Go green by seeking sustainable and local suppliers that serve organic food with locally sourced ingredients on reusable or eco-friendly plates, napkins, etc.
Whether planning a large convention or a smaller conference, finding the perfect location for everyone, that also takes the environment into consideration, can be a daunting task. If this is your daunting task, check out the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Green Meetings Calculator. You input your attendees’ cities of origin and it gives you a list of location options that take into account the aggregate CO2 emissions generated by flights.
What strategies do you use to ensure your meetings make an impact on your work but not on the environment?