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Events Get Big Green Game Plan

Events Get Big Green Game Plan

Last month, we showed how high-tech tools are helping event professionals create green events. In Part II, we look at comprehensive green programs.

“Every litter bit hurts,” the 1960s anti-littering campaign used to say, and many event professionals are adding green practices here and there. But others are taking bolder steps, applying green strategies to entire events.

AS GREEN AS YOU WANNA BE

Last year, Joella Hopkins chose Earth Day, April 22, to launch her “Eco-Chic” program, a service of her Los Angeles-based company Simply Mumtaz Events.

For a flat consulting fee ranging from $250 to $500, depending on the scope of the event, Hopkins provides a “green map” recommending ways event planners can “green” their event. The map covers elements including logistics, catering, decor, entertainment and furniture. “A lot of people want to do green on their own and not necessarily have a planner do it for them,” Hopkins says. “That's good news for the environment; we are teaching people great lessons they can use for their events.”

Eco-Chic offers green maps that create 100 percent eco-friendly events for its “dark green” clients as well as green touches for the “barely there green” clients. So far, association and social clients are more eager to go green than corporate clients are, Hopkins says. “Corporate has been slow to ask or be really interested in going green,” she notes. Also, more clients are “barely there” than “dark green.” Having green elements in their events “ends up being something they are proud of,” she notes, “but does not initially set out to be one of the main objectives of the event.”

GREEN GIANT

In September, meeting and incentive management giant Ambassadors, headquartered in Newport Beach, Calif., debuted its PlanIt Green meeting services program. Clients can pick from a menu of options, from overall event strategy to specific elements such as exhibit hall coordination, conference materials, transportation and catering.

Ambassadors used its green expertise at the three-day CB Richard Ellis World Conference in Toronto in August, which drew 3,300 attendees. The commercial real estate giant has committed to become a carbon-neutral company by 2010.

Ambassadors headed up the CBRE Green Conference Team, which reached out to both attendees and vendors to go green in every way they could, from buying carbon off-sets to skipping room service meals in order to cut down on extra packaging.

Leslie Saeta, Ambassadors' founding partner and green meetings specialist, worked on the conference and lists some impressive green improvements over the 2006 event:

  • Eliminating some 250,000 printed items — envelopes, mailers, etc. — saving the equivalent of 30 trees. Rather than bulky on-site programs, the '07 conference used “z-cards” — pocket-size foldouts — printed on 100 percent recycled paper.
  • Diverting 96 percent of waste from landfills.
  • Providing 80 percent organic food, with 30 percent sourced locally.
  • Donating 500 trees to the city of Toronto, “ensuring a long-lasting green impact locally,” Saeta says.

Ambassadors will put its green talents on the U.S. political scene this summer. As part of its own green initiative, the Democratic National Committee, whose national convention runs Aug. 25-28 in Denver, will be using Ambassadors' proprietary “Flagship” housing and registration management system.

The convention is a massive project, requiring as many as 17,000 rooms at 140 hotels on peak nights. In years past, the 60-odd delegations each received “humongous” binders with 30,000 pieces of paper per delegation, explains Todd C. Lambert, senior vice president of operations and purchasing for the Ambassadors office in Atlanta. But in a first this year, each delegation will be able to turn to its own dedicated Web site for housing management. “This is the largest project we have launched [Flagship] on,” Lambert says, “and we are going to use it on all our business.”

MEET GREEN

The Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention center, in Kissimmee, Fla., has engineered eco-friendliness throughout the property. In February, the hotel was named a designated property in Florida's Green Lodging program, which recognizes the property's work to conserve water and energy and to reduce waste.

The 1,406-room Gaylord Palms has identified nearly 50 separate initiatives in what it dubs its “Eco-Logical” program. Highlights include:

  • All guest rooms feature energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs in most fixtures.
  • The in-room “comfort management” system cuts energy use by a third by sensing when guests are present or absent and adjusting temperature accordingly.
  • Low-flow faucets and toilets cut water use in guest rooms.
  • Banquet and restaurant chefs have committed to using local, organic foodstuffs, reducing the miles food must travel before it reaches the kitchen.
  • Conference services staff works with individual event planners to add green components into their meeting plans. According to recent research, 67 percent of meeting and incentive professionals have taken environmental considerations into account when planning a conference or incentive program, notes Keith Salwoski, the hotel's public relations director. “Gaylord Palms is working to increase that average,” he says.

Besides its obvious benefits to the environment, the Green Lodging designation also pays off as a marketing tool for Gaylord.

“Since meetings and conventions are our primary business, we have heard from a lot of meeting planners who appreciate our efforts to provide greener services,” Salwoski says. “Also, some meeting planners are now required to only work with facilities that offer a base level of environmentally sensitive services. One such group was the National Biodiesel Board, which recently met here.”

RESOURCES

Ambassadors
949/759-5900
www.ambassadors.com

Florida Green Lodging Program
www.dep.state.fl.us/greenlodging

Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center
407/586-0000
www.gaylordhotels.com

Simply Mumtaz Events
818/996-1109
www.simplymumtazevents.com

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