Prior to Covid-19, our industry had made significant progress in decreasing waste, reducing single-use plastics, eliminating water bottles, and increasing recycling, but now it seems like Groundhog’s Day!
Over the last 15 months, very valid safety concerns and sanitization protocols have steered us back to individual condiments, individually wrapped plastic service items, and individual bottled waters. In hotel rooms, chains that were moving to bulk soaps, shampoos, and conditioners are bringing back single-use bottles. It is hard to watch and experience, but I am confident that these protocols will return to more sustainable practices and our pre-pandemic successes in the short to mid-term.
As a refresher, I thought it would be helpful to provide ideas for sustainable meeting practices to keep top of mind. I culled these from resources as diverse as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Events Industry Council, MeetGreen, and the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council.
- Eliminating waste may be more challenging in our current Covid-19 environment with individually packaged items. At a minimum, use earth-friendly materials such as bamboo and paper rather than plastic whenever possible.
- Co-ordinate with the chef to use locally sourced and seasonal products for food and beverage.
- If printing materials, use a printer local to the venue rather than shipping printed materials.
- Minimize the use of printed signage, and use digital signage at the venue when possible.
- Ask the venue if it has tables that do not need linens to reduce laundry resource use.
- Reduce the amount of carpet used on the expo floor.
- Strive to design minimal- or zero-waste events.
- Donate leftover goods to local schools and charities.
- Buy your swag (and other giveaways) from sustainable resources and ensure products are made with certified child-free labor.
- Stop using plastic badge holders.
Good news! For those who want to develop expertise in creating and delivering sustainable meetings and events, on Thursday, 3 June, the Events Industry Council Centre for Sustainability and Social Impact released a new online version of the Sustainable Event Professional Certificate program. The course was previously taught in-person and has been reimagined to support EIC’s commitment to rebuilding our industry with a focus on resilience, sustainability, and social impact.
Betsy Bondurant, CMM, CTE, is president of Bondurant Consulting.