More from Matt Harper, Henry V
What got you committed to going "green" in your business operations? (Was it the release of the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" in 2006, or where you always eco-aware?)
Our vice president, Patrick Eckford, has always had the philosophy of nurturing the environment, which has been a strong influence throughout the development and growth of Henry V over the past 30 years. In 2003, when an opportunity to purchase and convert an old derelict building in Portland came about, it became a priority of Henry V and our staff that the property should be renovated with the highest practical level of green building practices and sustainably produced materials. Henry V took the initiative to develop it into a state-of-the-art Silver LEED certified building, creating a healthy and green environment for the staff, our clients and the community. We also have specific internal programs that encourage sustainable practices, including:
- The V Card--punched for riding a bike, mass transit or carpooling to work (and thus earning rewards)
- Community Garden – growing flowers, herbs and rhubarb on the south side of our building
- Extensive Recycling - for paper, plastics, batteries, cartridges, cell phones, aerosols, metals, computer components and packing materials; employees encouraged to bring items from home, as well.
- Community Bulletin Board – highlighting local environmental needs, opportunities and activities.
Henry V is always searching for new innovative and sustainable ideas.
What is the scope of your green initiatives? What have you changed about the way you do business to go greener?
In addition to our internal business practices we strive to deliver greener events to our clients by focusing on four specific touchpoints: attendee habits, meeting planning, venue practices and production process. Some of our common solutions include:
- Sharing “green checklists” with meeting planners and attendees to help reduce carbon footprints
- Collaborating with venues pre- and post-event to measure and reduce their footprint and to limit waste
- Insisting that recycling programs are in place in venues where we work
- Composting of food waste or donating to local charities
- Including a Sustainability Coordinator on the Henry V event team
- Using virtual (LCD) signage whenever possible to eliminate printing and waste
- Printing with non-toxic soy-based inks
- Printing with alternative materials for all applications – 100% recycled, corn/plant based, fully biodegradable, etc.
- Projecting on virtual sets (fabric, screens, other recycled materials) instead of building hard wall sets
- Finding renewable energy sources where available
- Using low-power/LED lighting to substantially cut energy usage
- Reusing/recycling stage flats
I can see the program pays off for the environment-how about for your P&L? Does going green cost more or can it be cost-effective? Can you measure its cost-effectiveness?
Cost-effectiveness can be achieved by going green. Examples include:
- Providing digital/virtual staging that reduces cost of shipping equipment
- Digital/interactive name badges reduce printing costs of conference materials
- Discontinuing the use of water bottles and individual packaging while utilizing bulk packaging and containers reduces costs on materials
While there is an initial investment needed for the new technologies and practices, the re-use and recycling of these solutions over time provides cost savings and efficiencies.
What are clients' reactions to your green efforts? Are clients concerned about going green, or do they make exceptions for their events?
The way in which people are doing business is being transformed with the rapidly growing demand for environmentally sustainable services and products. We have several exceptional clients, such as KEEN and The North Face, who have made the commitment to uphold high standards of sustainability and look to us for greener solutions. Many other clients appreciate and value our green practices, but will only adopt certain sustainable practices for their events at the price and commitment they’re comfortable with.
I know many hotels are bashed for "greenwashing"--that is, taking credit for going green when they are accused of being wasteful in many areas. Do you think this is true or is it unfair?
Any effort to be sustainable is better than no effort at all, although hotels should be upfront about their green practices in order to meet the needs of their clients. We consider it our responsibility to investigate the venue and hold them to the green practices and expectations. We also encourage hotel guests to play their part and exhibit green behaviors through the judicious use of supplies and resources.
Are there any green initiatives you tried that just didn't work out?
Our office kitchen compost bucket attracted fruit flies. Still working on a solution for that.
What do you say to people in the event industry who complain that truly going green is too expensive and too time-consuming?
We are realistic in our efforts and recognize that some clients may need to take baby steps in the right direction. We try not to come across as preachy and consider any step in the right direction as positive.