Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A "green" Party Trick

I thought I would share a couple of green event "party tricks" with you. One of my green event strategies is to save the coffee grounds from events/conferences/meetings for use as compost. I have a network of friends who are happy to receive the coffee grounds. Note: You can divide them up amongst a number of people. If I am working on an event out of town, I try to partner with a local organization and arrange for them to take the grounds (horticultural society, community garden, etc.)

It isn't a difficult strategy to just need to arrange with your caterer to save the grounds and provide something for them to put the grounds in. I generally line a bin with a strong garbage bag (the wet grounds get heavy) and the caterer positions it beside the coffee maker. Believe me.....when you are serving coffee to 650 attendees, the grounds add up!

It occurred to me that my attendees didn't know what was happening behind the scenes. They didn't know that we were saving the coffee grounds. For some events I began posting a sign by the coffee station that informed the attendees that we were saving coffee grounds and what the grounds were going to be used for (use pictures to help to illustrate, perhaps a photo of a vegetable garden that received some of the rich compost).

You can take this one step further by having a chalk board or white board beside the coffee station where you can record daily, the weight of the coffee grounds going to compost. If your event is only a one day event, you can still do this.....simply post the results from the morning coffee and then the results from the afternoon coffee break. For multi-day events, you can share the impressive numbers via email in an "eco-daily". An "eco-daily" is an newsletter that informs the attendees of what has been accomplished each day.

If you don't inform your attendees, you can't influence them. Share the message, share the strategies, share the successes.

I believe that your attendee's have an inherent wish to "do good" and when you share with them that they are actually playing a part in something positive, they will respond positively.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Gone Fishin'

As a Green Meeting planner, I tend to focus on the question, “what strategies can I implement during my event that will minimize the footprint while balancing the delicate equation considering people, planet and profits”. I admit it….I consider(ed) my actions (the action of the planner) to be omnipotent to the overall success of greening the event.

Recently, I had a gut check which resulted in an epiphany of sorts (don’t worry folks… wasn’t physically painful, just mildly embarrassing). While collaborating with Shawna McKinley, Director of Sustainability with MeetGreen on the gaming component of Event Camp Vancouver, I was tasked with developing the first draft of green action items. I had to consider these actions from an attendee’s point of view. At first, I struggled…..I was a bit discombobulated with the exercise. I am embarrassed to admit it, but as a planner, I never thought of it that way. In the past, it was always about me (my husband will agree with this). Me! Me! Me! What choices can “I” make that will lessen the overall footprint of the event? I was making these choices on behalf of the attendee. I mean….it made sense right…..?


During this exercise, I quickly realized that I need to get over myself (once again, my husband will agree). I need to recognize the tremendous impact of the individual personal actions of my attendees. It is wonderful if everyone uses the refillable water bottle that I have planned for and provided during my events, but it will be even better if they take the bottle home and use it everyday. It is called building a sustainable event “legacy of actions” (not an official term, but catchy nonetheless).

Oopsey daisy….there goes the light bulb and I find myself having an Oprah “ah ha” moment. Maybe I should sit down.

I realized that (in the past) I was not giving my attendee’s the power, the knowledge or the tools necessary to contribute personally to the overall footprint of the event. When they are at the event, I have made the choices for them, but am I negating the impact/importance of their personal choices?

· Travel

· Hotel Accommodation

· Transit

· Meals

The event might last two days, but if I really want to be a change agent, I have to find ways to influence long term behaviour…..daily actions at home and on the road; at work; at play.

How do I do this?

Realize that control and influence are two separate things. Control is what you have (wish you had in some cases) while planning the event. You are in the driver’s seat; you are the one negotiating with vendors, you are making choices. Influence is what you have with your attendee. You have the ability to influence behaviour through education and awareness. They are a captive audience…..don’t miss the opportunity.

Whew…..that was some heavy stuff; maybe I should lay down.

During Event Camp Vancouver, we are trying to influence the behaviour/actions of our attendees by reinforcing that behavior through the game application. We are making a case for a much more holistic approach to sustainable event planning, but trying to do so in a fun and interactive manner.

There is a famous quote by an unknown author that says, “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”. Well…….we are going fishing folks!

See you at EventCamp!