I am a Certified Meeting Planner. In 2003, I was working in the Corporate Sector and planning events for an Asset Management firm based in Chicago. I had planned events in different parts of the world but was surprised by some clauses added to the contract when planning a conference for the first time in Portland: Part of the contract had stipulations that had to be met based on the sustainability efforts the city had in place.* They were small things, and by today’s standards probably givens, but revolutionary in 2003. Here are a couple that really stood out at the time as gimmicky or just strange:
- No water bottles: There would be water stations and the old fashioned pitcher of waters at every table
- No disposable utensils or plates
- If your group exceeded 25 (ours did) you would be asked to provide a manifest on how you would be handling transportation. In other words they recommended that you use public transportation only and forego taxi’s and corporate bussing in the city
For historical context, carrying a water bottle around in 2003 meant you were one of the” in crowd” that cared about your health as opposed to the Diet Pepsi for breakfast drinkers most of us really were. Water bottles gave you status quo. I was sure this wouldn’t be enforced. It was and they coined it A Green Meeting. Let’s move forward a decade and understand that John’s Hopkins has a Green Event Planning Guide now. It caught on.
Since this blog was aimed at the small things one can do in one’s day to day, this was the trip that made me understand sustainability was beyond putting the blue recycle bin with the trash each week. That I might be able to make a small difference in a simple change of how I conducted my work.
*Here’s a sample contract from a venue space now that has some sustainability clauses, particularly parking: