Seven Ways To Make Meetings and Events More Sustainable

Meetings and events are big business in the U.S. They are valued at about $1 trillion and invariably listed as one of the ten largest industries in the country. With so many meetings and events, this can have a significant impact on the environment and the use of natural resources.

Fortunately, hotel properties are already very focused on green and sustainability issues. Guests now expect it, and hotel and lodging facilities are increasingly enjoying one of the many benefits of sustainability—saving money. However, hoteliers can do even more to reduce their environmental footprint when it comes to meetings and events.

Far too often, meetings and events are overlooked when a hotel is establishing sustainability initiatives. But there are many ways to turn this around. Often it requires some “partnering” with the organizations planning to hold an event at the property and, in most cases, those partners will be more than happy to do so.


One way to initiate a partnership and start it off on the right foot is to make sure the prospective client is aware of the sustainability and environmentally preferable initiatives already in place at the hotel. This way, they can plan accordingly and know what to expect should they plan an event at your property.

Below are some of the ways hotels can partner with clients and make meetings greener and more sustainable.

1. Greening travel to the hotel
If attendees are flying to the meeting, provide the client with airlines that offer direct flights to the meeting city. Direct flights tend to use less fuel and contribute fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

If possible, provide group transportation for attendees to get to the hotel. Provide the client with information on how participants can travel to the property using public transportation or arrange for attendees to carpool from the airport to the meeting.

2. Educating attendees on the hotel’s green initiatives
At the start of the meeting, have the meeting host or a hotel representative discuss with participants that the property is very focused on protecting the environment and asks the cooperation of all attendees. This gets everyone in a sustainability frame of mind from the start and can prove very effective.

3. Using recyclable alternatives and adding recycling
Encourage the client to select badges made from recycled materials, which are also recyclable. Offer to order these for the client. Make sure recycling trash cans are strategically placed throughout the meeting area. Trash cans should be labeled “wet trash” and “dry trash.” Dry trash cans do not need plastic liners, which are usually not made from recycled materials.

4. Reducing paper and plastic waste 
Opt for plates, glasses, dinnerware, and linen napkins rather than paper napkins and paper or plastic cups, plates, or utensils. Serve water from pitchers rather than providing individual plastic bottles. Also, consider reusing select decorative items throughout the event.

Another good way to save paper is to make everything digital. Using the hotel’s wireless system, encourage the client to provide all items that would typically be delivered on paper to be delivered electronically to the attendee’s device. Encourage all participants to take notes digitally. If paper materials are supplied, they can be made from recycled materials and use vegetable ink. Also important is noting these attributes on all printed material, which can help encourage attendees to do their part in protecting the environment.

5. Going local
If placing flowers, select flowers that are in season and locally grown so that they do not need to be flown in from somewhere else in the country, consuming fuel and releasing greenhouse gases.

All food should be provided by local suppliers who stress “eating green.” It’s healthier and has a reduced environmental impact when compared to meat.

6. Greening cleaning  
Before and after the meeting, clean the room using green-certified cleaning solutions.

7. Cutting energy usage
Turn on heat or air conditioning and lights about 30 minutes before the event and turn everything off right after the event. If possible, take advantage of daylighting to reduce energy needs–for instance, scheduling a morning meeting in a room facing east to make use of sunlight.


About the Author
Stephen P. Ashkin is the founder of the Green Cleaning Network, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating building owners and suppliers about green cleaning and president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in greening the cleaning industry. He is also on the board of the Green Sports Alliance and has been inducted into the International Green Industry Hall of Fame (IGIHOF).

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  1. 1) Reduce plastic waste by providing jugs of coffee creamer instead of individual serving pods.
    2) Offer attractive plant-based entrees (vegetarian and vegan)

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