Monday, September 10, 2012

Yoga mats, beeswax candles and patchouli oil.....

 This is the tweet that got me thinking......

Paul Salinger was addressing the delegates of the European Sustainable Events Conference held this past week in Copenhagen.

Paul Salinger is a Vice President of Marketing for Oracle and is a member of the Board of Directors and President-Elect for the global Green Meetings Industry Council. Paul continuously pushes the boundaries of our thought process and I rarely walk away from one of his presentations without thinking a bit differently. 

I did not attend the European Sustainable Events Conference, instead I watched the twitter feed from the comfort of my Northern British Columbia office and I have to say....the above tweet and photo courtesy of Michael Luehrs got me thinking.

I do not know what slide preceded or followed this particular slide and I don't presume to know what Paul spoke about specifically. What I do know, is that the wheels began turning for me and a range of emotions rose to the surface.

When I first began my foray into the world of sustainable events and the challenge of trying to convince stakeholders to make the switch to green events, I tried everything to convince them of its merit. I felt like I needed to dance twice as fast to keep up with my competition.

Going into a pitch meeting situation, I would go in armed with data that I was certain would dazzle them and convince them that my way was a better way. 

"Your attendees will love it"
"The Community will appreciate it"
"Local suppliers will benefit from it"

Let's face it: For some, the idea of "going green" was uncomfortable and foreign. I am certain that some felt that converting to a sustainable model meant:

"We would shiver on yoga mats, in the darkness of a conference room, dimly lit by beeswax candles. Our attendees would be provided half used (but freshly sharpened with the pencil shavings composted) pencils and paper (salvaged from the office recycling bin - one side already had been used). Conference organizers would shuttle attendee's back and forth from their hotels using a Smart Car and during coffee breaks, everyone would go out and plant a tree. Oh.....and the whole venue would smell like pachouli oil".

Never, ever, ever would we dare say that it might cost more. Goodness gracious! That was #7 in the Program! They weren't ready for that yet, we needed to be, "vewy, vewy careful" (insert Elmer Fudd voice here)

Flash forward to today, 2012 and the tweet from Michael Leuhrs that caught my green eye.

"Sustainability creates wealth. Why do green or sustainable meetings have to cost less".

They don't.

And perhaps we need to rethink the premise that "cost" is the most powerful motivator for change because quite simply, it isn't any longer. 

Thank you for reminding us of that.



michael said...

Thank you, Judy! If you're feeling at all sorry you missed Paul's provocative presentation last week, you're justified. The questions he raised were simple but the answers less so.
For the same reason that hotel owners will not invest in an energy efficiency project because the upfront cost is too high (never mind that the ROI is 6 months), there is, for many, a mental barrier to engaging in sustainability.
Savings potential aside, you raise an important point re: perception of quality. People still think it's about giving up something.
As members of the community on a mission to build sustainable practices in events and organizations everywhere, we need to find the messages that can serve the mission. We need new ways to talk about sustainability so people won't see cost, confusion or discomfort, but desired outcomes and better events. When people hear 'sustainability' we need them to hear 'Smart' 'Sexy' 'Innovative' 'Effective' .. my guess is they'll pay for that.

The Green-Eyed Event Planner said...

Thanks Michael,

I agree completely and you said it perfectly, " We need new ways to talk about sustainability so people won't see cost, confusion or discomfort, but desired outcomes and better events".

What would happen if we asked ourselves the question, "If I remove cost and the assumption that the cost is a barrier completely from this equation, would I do things differently? Would the message be different?"


Paul Salinger said...


Thanks for picking up on this theme. I think it is one we need to start pushing back on more. For me sustainability not only creates wealth it creates quality. And, who doesn't want quality in their products, their events, their experiences, their businesses?

That is part of the point I was making with the question. Haven't we moved beyond the issue of price? Lots of examples of saving money by being sustainable, so why do we have to keep addressing the issue. And, if it does indeed create value, quality and wealth, then please tell me why you're willing to pay less for a crappy product but not willing to pay the fair cost for a great, sustainable product?

I believe we've shown the value and now we need to keep showing the quality and value and get off of the cost issue.

The Green-Eyed Event Planner said...


Thanks for the comment and for reinforcing the conversation.

I guess the next step is learning how to clearly articulate to our clients all the great things about being sustainable and finding ways to demonstrate to them that it does create value, quality and wealth. I think it would be a great conversation to have in Chicago.