After focussing on eco-friendly transportation and green catering, let’s attend to the third polluting aspect of meetings – waste. Every conference or event generates tremendous amounts of waste. A lot of time, money and resources is devoted to the collection, transportation, storage and removal of these materials.
The good news is that most waste can be prevented or recycled. This is not only beneficial to the environment but also for your purse since rates for garbage collection are dear money. The key strategy to minimize waste is: plan ahead! Keep waste reduction in your mind when you start organizing your event. Choose a venues and suppliers that support your green ambitions and stick to the three R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle.
Every piece of waste you prevent is one piece less to remove. There are many possibilities to reduce waste. For example, you can save tons of paper if you send all letters, memos and program information electronically instead of using printed hand-outs. Request that your caterer works with reusable plates and glasses. Offer washable towels in the rest rooms instead of the paper version. Identify activities that produce waste and try to find a green(er) alternative.
Many items you buy for your event are perfectly reusable for future events. If you need scrap paper you can simply use the blank side of printed documents. Make sure that name tags are reusable and returned after the event. Cardboard boxes and packaging materials can also be used for your own post or for storage of materials. If your meeting requires additional items such as tableware or linens, try to rent them. Leftovers such as decorative material, pens and floral arrangements are nice gifts for schools, hospitals or other non-profits.
Of course you cannot prevent every little bit of waste. Recycling of these materials is not only space-saving on the landfill but also decreases the use of new, virgin materials, which require more energy and resources to process than the secondhand stuff. Ask your supplier about possibilities to compost food leftovers and organic waste or donate them to a local charity. Provide clearly labelled recycling bins for paper, glass and cans and request your participants to use them.
And last but not least: be proud!
Let everyone know about you efforts to make your event green. Inform your participants about your green ambitions so that they can support your goals.
In Holland we try our very best to make your meeting as green as possible. If you have additional suggestions concerning waste reduction or other environmental issues, I’d love to hear them.