Offset my carbons

Here's a guest blog by Betsy Bair, our editorial director:

It’s not enough to plan a “green meeting” nowadays. It has to be “carbon-neutral.”

Well, of course it doesn’t have to be, but that’s the latest initiative to take hold in the environmental meetings world, a movement that’s been limping along here in the U.S. until Al Gore and “An Inconvenient Truth” burst onto our movie screens in 2006 (and won best documentary at the Academy Awards on Sunday night—yippee!).

According to Marge Anderson, associate director, Energy Center of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis., in regard to the U.S.’s lack of a national carbon policy, “Big business is leading the cause in this country because the government isn’t. In Canada and Europe, there are much stricter regulations on how to extract fossil fuel.”

That’s an understatement if I ever heard one. The efforts put forth at the Professional Convention Management Association’s annual meeting in early January in Toronto, where the host facility—the Metro Toronto Convention Centre--produced a “zero-waste” event, were nothing short of amazing. But it wasn’t just the convention center that impressed me. Recyling bins were placed next to the trash cans in my hotel room and at the airport.

While most states in the U.S. mandate recycling for home trash and waste, it’s not the case in our public facilities. And that puts us to shame. We still see greening efforts as too costly, not taking the longer-term view that environmentally-sensitive initiatives will in fact sustain our businesses (not to mention our earth). Anderson opened my eyes at that session I attended at Meeting Professionals International Professional Education Conference North America in late January in New Orleans: She emphasized that we must look at green initiatives at our meetings as making good business sense, not as moral imperatives.

So while the issues that surround global warming and the sustainability movement beget more meetings, and we therefore increase our carbon footprint as people fly and drive to them, we can offset those carbon emissions by purchasing or investing in “carbon offset” projects around the world that invest in renewable energy and energy-efficient projects.

There’s no time to waste.

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