About four months ago I started receiving CM&E (Corporate Meetings and Events) Magazine – a Canadian magazine for event organizers. I was humorously shocked that they had managed to target me with this free subscription, even though as a marketing major I really shouldn’t have been surprised. I still leafed through each magazine though, ogling elaborate, and out of province banquet halls that will never be relevant to Sustainable Waterloo Region. It seemed that although fitting in the “Events Manager” category, the fact that I plan local, not-for-profit events put me a bit outside of their target market.This week though, I received the latest issue and had my attention caught by a subtitle on the front cover: “Green Planning” – now this is more like it! Flipping to page 8, I wasn’t sure whether to expect green washing or valuable advice. The first thing that I read though was a six step process to putting on a sustainable event:
  1. Create a plan: Include sustainable objectives, activities and tracking
  2. Engage internal stakeholders: Create a sustainable meeting policy
  3. Engage venders: Use an RFP process that requires vendors to provide performance tracking data
  4. Track your performance: Create reports to build on in future years
  5. Communicate the results, celebrate the success: Share the outcomes with attendees
  6. Be innovative and have fun: A general characteristic of all event planning 🙂
This brought me to reflect on our events and the measures that we take to ensure that they have a minimal environmental impact. I know that we’ve covered steps 1, 2, 4 and 6, with 3 currently being completed by our Sustainability Coordinator, but I wonder if we do enough of step 5. Many of our attendees are aware of the activities we engage in (outlined below), but do they know the actual impact that these initiatives are having? Do they think of implementing them for their own meetings?Here are some of the ways Sustainable Waterloo Region seeks to ensure our events have a minimal environmental impact:
  • Local Foods: We aim to support local farmers, co-ops, and markets to maintain regional agricultural production while reducing our carbon footprint.
  • Vegetarian Foods: We don’t include meat in our breakfast menus as livestock activities have significant impacts on many aspects of the environment.
  • Decreased Packaging: We ensure that the beverages and foods that are served use minimal packaging.
  • Public Transportation: We host our events at venues that are located on major bus routes, and are often accessible by bike or foot for many organizations.
  • Carbon Offsets: We collect individual attendee commuting data, and have these emissions offset.
  • Renewable Electricity: We use renewable electricity for all of our events.
  • Nametag Reuse: We reuse attendees’ printed nametags and their holders from one event to the next.
Better communication of these initiatives and their outcomes is definitely something that we’ll be looking into improving on for our 2010/2011 event season. In the meantime, I encourage you to read the article “Turning over a new leaf” and see what you can get your company to do for your next meeting. And, of course, we’re more than happy to share with you some of what we’ve learned on our quest to hold low-impact events, so don’t hesitate to ask!Lisa