Wednesday, April 22, is Earth Day this year and we’re sharing our Greening Your Meeting tips to celebrate. Our focus this year is on how to reduce the amount of waste created at large group events.
Everyone loves a good all-company meeting—one where the inspirational speaker is creative and engaging, where the food is outstanding, where the theme is thoughtful. While many meeting planning companies offer the option to host an event with mindfulness about the abuse of natural resources (recyclable event signage, booking caterers serving local food, holding events at energy-efficient locales), at Docherty we take it a step further.
We started asking our crew of meeting planners: what to do with the leftovers? We’re not just talking food. The post-work of a huge meeting has food waste, yes, but also water, supplies, electronics, uneaten food, disposable service items and more.
Throwing away all the excess just will not fly for our world today. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the US government reports adult Americans generate between 4 and 5 pounds of waste each day. Waste is considered the trash or garbage we create consisting of things we use and then throw away like: product packaging, grass clippings, food, bottles, newspaper, paint, batteries, paper, and on and on.
Even though more and more households are choosing to recycle and compost, many of those good habits are, for lack of a better term, thrown out when on vacation or at a business meeting or event. Research from Greenview, a sustainability-for-business model, suggests when attending offsite events or meetings we produce even more waste than the 4+ pounds we create in an average day at home.
Because we’re in the business of designing inspiring events, yet we’re distinctly aware of the environmental impact of large group meetings, we’ve committed to organizing powerful, inspiring events and annual meetings for businesses that are created with sustainability in mind—before, during and after.
Here are a few of the ways to work at eliminating excess and maintaining environmental sustainability when cleaning up after an event:
A Farmer’s Friend: If you are careful about how waste items are separated you can reserve a container just for food waste. You can organize with local pig or poultry farmers to pick up food waste that would otherwise get dumped in landfills.
Super Compost: More and more big cities are engaging in citywide food waste collection programs. A few phone calls can get a food composting team prepped to pick up food waste after an event.
Donate: Food recovery is the practice of retrieving edible food that would otherwise go to waste and instead supplying it to hungry people. Food being rescued on a grand scale is recovered from grocery stores, restaurants, and farms. If your hotel has a restaurant it doesn’t hurt to find out whether they can participate in food recovery programs. There are even tax breaks for this kind of commitment.
Rethink Bottles: Supplying a company with bottled water is uncreative. According to research by Ban the Bottle, Americans collectively use 50 billion plastic water bottles every year and only 23% of those are recycled. Because of the massive amounts of water bottles filling up landfills, San Francisco banned the sale of water bottles citywide. If you can’t provide water in pitchers or from bulk coolers, make recycling water bottles very easy for your attendees. People are more likely to recycle when they don’t have to think about how to make it happen.
Careful Dumping: It is easy to dump water down the drain because it disappears so fast and it feels like you’ve dealt with it and can move on. Check with the venue and find out how they handle excess water after an event. Some places allow for unused drinking water or vats of ice to be drained outside, directly on the earth.
Virtual: Instead of printing messaging on paper or vinyl signs, consider a mobile event app for event news, messaging, reminders, area maps and itineraries. Most people will bring their phones, smart watches, tablets or laptops with them so excessive use of printed signs might be unnecessary and could save time and paper.
Recycled: If signs are a must, opt for materials made from recycled fibers that can again be recycled after use. And note the efforts on event communications that waste is being managed as thoroughly as possible.
Electronics: From iPads to monitors to digital message boards, some events require high-tech devices. But what to do with them after the meeting is complete? One way to give back to the community where a meeting is held is to donate useful electronics to schools in need.
Supplies: Meetings mean a lot of moving parts, tons of advanced planning and intense work during the event to ensure a good experience for the participants. Supplies from tape to scissors, from items needed to create welcome kits to outfitting each person with the details they need necessitates things, stuff, and supplies. Once the party is over, will usable supplies be dumped in the name of cleaning up? A cache of supplies might be easy to donate especially if planned in advance.
At Docherty we’re experts at creating inspiring and memorable events and meetings around the world. We go beyond just the planning stage…we’re thinking through the experience of our clients during the meeting and the experience of the host community after the meeting. Greening Your Meetings is one of the ways Docherty brings deep value to our customers.