Meetings are an essential part of doing business because they often are the most time-efficient and effective means for communicating face-to-face — exchanging ideas, and focusing on strategic planning and collaborative decision-making. However, they often leave a significant environmental footprint by consuming energy, water, and other natural resources; generating waste; and contributing to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions.
As climate change gains more attention around the world, there is a growing movement toward going green. Meetings are no exception, from small gatherings and retreats to large conferences. Going green for your meetings does more than benefit the environment; it also benefits your organization by saving on costly expenses and building a socially responsible culture.
Deciding to make your meetings or retreats as eco-friendly as possible is the first step — and here are some simple ways to “green” your next offsite meeting or retreat:
- Choose eco-friendly hotels and meeting venues. Search for hotel properties and venues that hold third-party sustainability certifications such as LEED, Green Key, APEX/ASTM, or Green Leaders. Choosing the right site that cares about the environment as much as you and your attendees do is so important.
- Ban water bottles and single-use plastics and styrofoam. Not only does this eliminate waste going into landfills, it is wise from a cost perspective. Bottles of water can be expensive, especially at a hotel. In place of them, ask the site to provide water stations and glasses. And to go one step further, ban soda cans and offer fruit-infused water and lemonade instead.
- Contract with local and organic caterers. If you host your meeting or retreat at a hotel, work with the chef to design a menu that can be sourced from local suppliers. Offer a broader choice of plant-based food options and seasonal food and beverages.
- Eliminate the use of virgin paper. Ask your meeting presenters to minimize paper handouts and to print necessary documents on high post-consumer recycled paper as well. Also, be sure the meeting room has a clearly labeled recycling bin. You’ll be surprised how many venues fail to provide them unless you ask. Consider emailing meeting agendas and presentation handouts rather than providing them on paper. If it’s not possible to go 100% paper-free, be sure to print your meeting materials on high post-consumer recycled, FSC Certified paper. Ask your meeting presenters to minimize paper handouts and print any necessary documents on high post-consumer recycled, FSC Certified paper as well. Also, be sure the meeting room has a clearly labeled recycling bin. You’ll be surprised how many venues fail to provide one unless you ask.
- Create name badges out of biodegradable materials. If your meeting or retreat requires name badges, you have lots of options, including biodegradable products, available from most promotional products companies. If you’re not sure where to order them, we recommend Fairware, a B Corp certified company.
- Cut down on the swag. If you choose to give out some swag, take an eco-friendly and fair trade route by selecting items that are useful and actively promote health, such as reusable stainless steel or glass water bottles. Certified B Corp Klean Kanteen has a great selection of stainless steel water bottles to choose from. Fairware also offers a great selection of zero-waste promotional products as well.
- Encourage the use of public transportation and carpooling. The available transportation to your meeting can offer significant opportunities to cut down on your carbon footprint. If feasible, provide an incentive to your attendees to encourage them to take public transit, bike/walk, or carpool to your meeting.
- Use reusable signage. If appropriate, we recommend using reusable signs that can be stored for future meetings and retreats.
- Offset carbon footprint. Purchasing carbon offsets can counter the impact of greenhouse gas emissions that cannot be eliminated. Carbon offsetting enables anyone to reduce their carbon footprint by supporting projects, typically energy- efficiency, renewable energy, tree planting, to name a few, that either reduce or offset carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. Companies like Native Energy and TripZero, both certified B Corporations, offer a variety of carbon offsetting options.
I hope you find these tips helpful in planning and hosting your next offsite meeting or retreat as well as supporting your organization’s sustainability goals. If you need help planning your next offsite meeting or retreat, check out our Meeting & Retreat Facilitation Services, or contact me directly.