As advocates for sustainable practices, we are often asked what measures can be taken in routine operations to be more environmentally responsible. When we look at planning meetings or gatherings, there are a few issues we try to address. First, the physical space, and then the materials prepared in advance.

Whether you’re putting together a meeting for a dozen people or for a few hundred, it’s important to make sustainable choices. Also, sharing your green strategies with attendees helps to reduce your meeting’s environmental footprint even more.

A major issue anytime people gather is food: the assortment, the service, and the waste. We like to emphasize fresh food, and make healthy choices available and appealing. Making small (or big) changes in all these areas can have a big impact on the meeting attendees, and on the quantity of resources used. Here are our suggestions for more sustainable gatherings:

Venue

  • Preferred: Windows with views to outdoors (helps concentration!)
  • Keep shades open, if possible
  • If daylight is available, reduce electric light levels inside
  • Maintain comfortable temperature as close as comfortably possible to outdoors (cooler in winter, warmer in summer)

Printing

  • Minimize printing of handouts; use electronic distribution when possible
  • Use double-sided printing for any documents provided
  • Share documents when practical, cut printing in half

Food

  • Provide an open selection of small servings (e.g. half sandwiches)
  • Provide fresh fruit, either cut or whole
  • Provide a large proportion of meatless options
  • Provide a green salad or fresh vegetable option
  • Avoid box lunches or prepackaged foods

Beverages

  • Provide water in a pitcher or urn, with ice
  • Provide unsweetened drink options (e.g. flavored seltzer, iced tea)
  • Avoid plastic water bottles

Service items

  • Provide reusable plates
  • Provide reusable cutlery
  • If disposables must be used, select compostables
  • NO Styrofoam

Waste

  • Have a recycled waste container accessible and visible
  • Provide clear labels as to what can be recycled
  • If feasible, collect compost for appropriate reuse
  • If aluminum cans are provided, be sure they are collected for recycling

 

Betsy del Monte, FAIA, LEED BD+C, is a Principal Consultant at Cameron MacAllister Group. Betsy works with firms to integrate greater sustainability and resiliency outcomes throughout their practices. If you are interested in learning how Betsy can help your firm, contact her directly at 214-850-1248 or via email.