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Being Meeting Green Tip #2 – Carbon Offsets

This is our second posting in our series regarding green meeting tips.  For many of us understanding the concept of carbon offsets seems to be a challenge.  Essentially when we produce a meeting, conference or event the means used to transport the participants, (i.e. airplanes, cars and buses) emit carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Because participants have to travel some distance to the conference, there is currently no way to avoid the carbon emissions.  However, to offset their impact on the environment carbon emission offset programs have been developed.    There are a number of programs that calculate the emissions from transportation and conference energy use and quantify the monetary offset.  A couple of excellent resources are http://denver.org/denver-meetings-conventions/green-meetings/co2-calculator and http://www.sustainabletravelinternational.org/documents/op_carbonoffsets.html.

The offset program typically involves investing in projects such as tree planting, or renewable and energy-efficient projects (i.e. solar panels and wind farms).  There are some funding options as well.  One option is ask the participants to voluntarily offset their own travel by contributing a specific amount based upon the calculated emissions.  A second option is to use the offset program as a sponsorship opportunity, whereby the sponsor would receive featured promotions for their contribution.

Obviously we want to minimize carbon emissions through careful transportation planning and management.  However, while there are steps to do so, carbon emissions can not be eliminated and offset programs are an effective way reduce the environmental impact of meetings, conferences and events.

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Saving Conference Dollars With Sustainability

Diana, our CEO, renewed her commitment to the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) the other day which prompted some thought and discussion about whether we (EDI) are doing enough to support sustainability in the event industry.  The answer was NO!  So we had a green meeting brainstorming session and wow!  We actually discussed a lot of great ideas.  Most of the ideas are recycled (no pun intended), meaning we have observed, read or heard about these tips from other meeting professionals, but they were new ideas for many of us.  Some of the tips we have heard before, such as offering pitchers of water instead of bottled water.  While these tips have been around for a while, they are still effective in reducing the negative environmental impact, and believe it or not, they are still not being implemented at some conferences and meetings.  So we thought we would share all of our green meeting tips we discussed with you.  You can become more greener with us, not only from a sustainability standpoint but from the conference dollars you will save from adopting these tips.  The is one problem; we can not do it in one blog posting.  We could, but that would be breaking a bunch of blogging rules and heaven only knows we have broken plenty already!  So we decided to cover one or two tips each week in a new blog called “Being Meeting Green”, hopefully it will be sustaining! LOL!

Being Meeting Green Tip #1 – QR Codes                                                                                                                                       

The meeting industry has made great strides over the past few years in reducing the amount of paperused at conferences, meetings and events.  By utilizing online conference registration thousands of dollars of cost savings in paper, printing,mailings and postage have been realized.  Another electronic solution for eliminating other printed materials such as on-site handouts is QR codes.

If you are not familiar with QR Codes, they are similar to bar codes, which are used to track inventory and capture pricing information at the point of sale.  You scan a QR code with the camera in your Smartphone.  You can link to digital content on the web, activate a number of phone functions including email, IM and SMS, and/or connect to a web browser. There’s really no limit to how, or even how much, you can share with QR codes.  For those attendees that do not have a smart phone, utilization of text codes that can be punched into your mobile phone will also facilitate the availability of information for attendee review.

The QR codes are displayed in highly visible areas like convention hall entrances, information counters and on vendor booths in exhibition halls.  There is no cost to create the QR codes, which can created by a third party online vendor.  Of course the digital content that the QR code links to has to be created, no different than the effort required for printed content.  However, with digital content you have more flexibility in the content you present.  Your digital content may be a landing page, video and even an entire eBook.

The benefits of using QR codes to disseminate information are significant to minimizing the environmental impact of conferences, meetings and events and can represent a significant cost savings in paper and printing.

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When Excess Is A Good Thing

One key element in planning green meetings is to minimize waste. Obviously the first way to attain this goal is to not create it in the first place. But no matter how careful the planning, inevitably there are leftovers. Instead of throwing catered food away, consider donating it to your local food bank.

The mission of your local food bank is to provide food and services, create stability and further self-reliance for people in crisis. Every year in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Freestore Food Bank serves over 160,000 low-income people. Approximately 28,500 different people receive assistance in any given week. The services of The Food Bank extend beyond Cincinnati, reaching people in 20 counties of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. The Food Bank’s assistance reaches 450 agencies throughout the Tri-state including soup kitchens and food pantries.

To dispel general myths regarding those that are served, please consider the following statistics:
57% of those served have at least a high school diploma
34% of those served are under the age of 18
40% live in the suburbs
30% live in a household with at least one working family member

Jamie Rosskopf, Resource Development Manager for the Cincinnati Free Store Food Bank, recently stated that the Prepared & Perishables Program at the Food Bank is currently expanding its efforts. What can your business do to help?

There often seems to be unspoken assumption that business and environmentalism do not mix. The business world is known for its showy displays of excess, but this should not be the case when planning your next business meeting. Now more than ever, it is important to plan your event in an environmentally friendly manner.

Rosskopf explains the guidelines for donations. “Only food that has not been set up for consumption is accepted. If businesses could notify us 24-48 hours prior to the their event we would appreciate it. We can usually pick up your donation within one day of your event.”

Food Donors are protected by the “Good Samaritan Act” of 1996, which prevents people or organizations to be held liable for their donations. Ask your recipient organization or attorney for details.

Hunger is a social issue that affects the entire community. In a constant struggle with an ever-rising poverty level, the community food bank is known as the place to go for help. In Cincinnati, the Freestore Food Bank is one of the Tri-state’s most highly respected and effective human services organizations.

Little changes can have a huge impact! Set an example! Donate leftover food from conferences and events to your local food bank. It not only reduces waste but it is an important aspect of our social responsibility.

Food Pantries Shortage

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Is Your Brand Green?

Welcome to our initial post to EDI’s blog, “Brand Builder”. We hope this page will stimulate thought and discussion regarding the building of your brand through inspiring meetings and events, (i.e. event marketing). According to “EventView 2008″, a survey of 1,000 senior marketing and sales executives from North America, Europe and Asia Pacific, Event Marketing provides the greatest return on investment among the various marketing elements (i.e. print advertising, broadcast advertising, sales promotions, public relations, web marketing, direct mail). In her book, The Event Marketing Handbook, Allison Saget states …”event marketing provides the forum to continue to build and deepen relationships with customers, prospects, partners, analysts, press, and fellow employees from around the world. This one-on-one forum allows your company to penetrate the market, build consistent brand recognition, solicit input and feedback, demo products, as well as educate and build awareness among your desired target audience.” In the coming weeks Brand Builder will introduce a variety of branded meeting and event topics including being green, virtual, and experiential, the latter being an evolved form of event marketing. We will share with you our experiences and how the brand benefited from the event or meeting strategy adopted. Hopefully this dialogue will be a benefit in your next brand building application.

Our immediate focus is green events and how “going green” can not only establish a platform for environmental responsibility but create significant economic benefits and, from an event marketing perspective, create a competitive advantage for your brand. Producing green meetings and events creates good public relations. Green events raise satisfaction levels among attendees. Minimizing the event’s ecological isyourbrandgreenpicfootprint gets people excited about your brand. Corporations around the world are adopting new green initiatives as evidenced by General Electric’s Chair and CEO, Jeffrey Immelt who stated “It is no longer a zero sum game – things that are good for the environment are also good for business. General Electric is embarking on this initiative not because it is trendy or moral, but because it will accelerate economic growth.”

The economic benefits can be significant. For example, in the case of meetings and events, use electronic technology to reduce paper use. Create a website to disseminate event information and facilitate registration. Utilize email to promote the event. Distribute handout information using USB flash drives. If you feel it necessary to distribute printed material utilize double sided sheets to cut waste. These steps can potentially represent savings in the thousands of dollars. You don’t have to start with a 100% conservation program but instead start small and build on each success. Every effort toward sustainability has an impact.

As a member of the Green Meetings Industry Council and it’s 2009 Annual Conference planning committee I will share with you in the coming weeks innovative green meeting and event practices that will assist you in establishing a sustainability program that will reap long range environmental, economic and competitive benefits.

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