Image shows two characters in the form of grass to illustrate green meetingThe pressure is on to go-green. Meetings are no exception, from small council meetings to large conferences. Waste is generated, pollution is caused, and natural resources are consumed. Think about all the activities and resources used in a meeting – from transportation to the facility to all the material supplied. And multiply that by the number of attendees – that’s a lot of potential waste.

Taking the initiative to have green friendly meetings by applying environmentally sustainable practices is the first step to raising awareness and encouraging organizational change. Going green doesn’t just benefit the environment, but also the organization by saving on costly expenses and building a socially responsible reputation.

What is a “Green Meeting”?

“A green meeting ensure that all aspects of an event, including location, food services, transportation, and the provision of materials are approached with pollution prevention in mind in order to reduce its environmental impact.”
– Environment Canada, Environmental Affairs Division

Benefits of Green Friendly Meetings

  • Energy conservation and waste reduction saves money.
  • Environmental technology innovations save time and increases business opportunities.
  • Organizations going green have a positive public image
  • Green meetings stimulate broader organizational change achieving greater environmental, social, and economic benefits. (1)

7 Ways To Go-Green:

1. Set environmental priorities as part of your mission

To have a sustainable impact on the environment it requires a continued effort. Meeting planners should set environmental priorities, get important parties onboard, and incorporate them into as many aspects of the meeting as possible. The immediate impact on the environment might be difficult to see, but setting these priorities is important for raising awareness and encouraging organizational change. Going green can become standard practice.

2. Go paperless

The growing use of technology would suggest a migration away from paper, but paper waste is still a problem. According to Environment Canada, Canada creates 6 million tons of paper waste of which only ¼ is recycled. What’s more, in the public sector, meetings continue to rely on paper production and its manual movement through the meeting system. A typical board or council can consume 1.5-2.0 tons of paper per year. Technology presents a sustainable alternative to the enormous amounts of paper used in meetings – from reports, agendas, minute books, and note taking that can amount in thousands of pages. Implementing paperless meeting software saves trees, reduces paper waste, but also saves lots of time and money! It automates the meeting making all information available online.

3. Minimize materials

It might not be possible to go 100% material free. When materials need to be supplied chose reusable and recyclable. Use recycled paper and print doubled-sided when paper is a necessity. Use reusable cups and containers for beverages and food. Ensure appropriate containers are available to dispose of materials correctly.

4. Meet close by

Location and transportation are major sources of waste and pollution for meetings. Transportation produces green house gases and facilities rely on energy and water consumption for its maintenance. Chose a central location to reduce travel emissions. Encourage use of public transportation or carpooling. If people have to travel long distances see if teleconferencing is an option.

If the meeting will be hosted at a venue look for providers with sustainability policies like energy efficient lighting, eco-friendly cleaning products, and waste management programs. If held in your own building shift practices to improve energy and water consumption.

5. Buy local

Food and beverages can be a large source of waste. Buying or catering with local businesses sourcing food from local farms promotes social and economic development. Arrange to have left over food donated to local charities.

6. Provide advice on green behaviour

Send out a priorities email. Advise attendees of the green friendly initiatives and encourage participation and show how to contribute. A successful green meeting requires the participation of all attendees. Without their support, reducing the environmental footprint will be tough. Communication is key to raising awareness and rallying support.

7. Track your progress and thanks participants

Monitoring and evaluating your organizations progress on how well the meeting met your environmental priorities is a great way to make future improvements. Celebrate your successes and thank participates for their support in going green.

The pressure is on to go-green, but with these 7 steps going green is a little bit easier.

(1) Environment Canada’s Green Meeting Guide, Environment Canada, Environmental Affairs Division, 2007.