Thursday, June 2, 2011


“Squrrel!”, a word that became part of our vernacular following the release of the movie “Up” when Doug, the dog couldn’t focus on one thing for very long.

Do you use the “Squirrel” approach to your green meeting planning? Let’s face it…..there are so many products and services in the market place to support sustainable event planning that it can be easy to abandon the boring “less flashy” strategies from days of yore (that word has been sitting on my desktop BEGGING for a place to use it).

Badges made out of corn plastic, lanyards made from pop bottles, plates made from wood fiber, biodegradable pens, eco friendly bags and totes, bird friendly, fair trade, rapidly renewable, energy star……so many choices out there. Don’t get me wrong. I think it is wonderful that industry is recognizing that there is a market for these products and that the market itself is driving industry to come up with better alternatives. What I am concerned with, is that some will abandon their decision making process (good, better, best) because they are distracted by shiny things (aka the next big thing) “Squirrel”!

How can you continue to focus when everything is moving so quickly around you?

Here are some tips:

Keep a portfolio of products you trust – When you find a great product or service and you have taken the time to research it thoroughly, put it in a portfolio. These products and services are now in the “Circle of trust” (Meet the Focker's movie reference). You have done your homework and can call upon these products and/or services at a moments notice.

Proceed with caution – When a colleague sends you a link to the next best/greenest thing… your homework and check it out thoroughly.

Embrace the boring stuff – All the newest and greatest products in the world won’t green your event or label it “sustainable”. It is the decision making process up to the point of the purchase that helps to minimize the environmental impact that you are making. You need to employ the same process as you always have:

· ReDUCE our willy-nilly purchase of unnecessary “stuff” – will it enhance the attendee experience?

· ReUSE all the “stuff” that we got before we didn’t know we could live without it

· ReCYCLE as much as we can and if we can’t recycle it – know that we probably shouldn’t have purchased it

· ReTHINK everything that we use which includes our suppliers



Shawna McKinley said...

Amen! Sometimes I feel like I'm in sustainability shiny bauble overload. And couldn't agree more about the 'boring' stuff Judy. It really is the consistent focus on the basic process that is the most important, even if sometimes it doesn't sound as sexy as what Squirrel might be chasing!

michael said...

Brilliant. Another lesson from 'Up': life is what's happening when we're busy dreaming.. appreciate a bit more the 'boring' stuff..
You describe what I think is a real phenomena.. planners learn about--and get excited about-- the idea of 'greening' an event. This simple, but powerful, discovery seems to open a firehose of options they didn't see before. It can supplant the fundamental question of 'why are we having an event again?'
With more experience (or from exasperation) comes a return to a discipline of solid process but (hopefully) now with a filter of sustainable practices.
Integrate sustainable actions--and measurements-into a process which is designed to deliver on the clients need for results but in a cost effective way which brings reward to the community.

The Green-Eyed Event Planner said...

Thanks Michael,

I think that the secret to success is to be connected with these planners when they first are inspired and excited about the the idea of greening an event. It is at this point that the groundwork, the "sustainable scaffolding" can be provided to help support them.


Andrew Walker said...

Love this post, Judy! I definitely agree that a 'back to basics' approach is needed for those planners just starting on their sustainability journey, including reviewing the 4Rs. I also loved the squirrel reference, since I feel like I too am often pulled in different directions as the discussion around what is a green/sustainable meeting becomes increasingly complex. Some 'words to live by' that I first heard over a decade ago and am now trying to re-incorporate into my personal and professional lives to help maintain my sanity: Less is More...Simplify.

The Green-Eyed Event Planner said...

Thanks Andrew

I have the word "simplify" on my wall above my desk :)