Q&A: How can my company reduce our impact as we plan large staff meetings and conferences?

Spring conference season is nearly upon us. According to a profile of the convention and meeting industry in the San Francisco Chronicle, U.S. meetings are a $107 billion industry serving 136.5 million people attending 1.2 million business events annually.

It comes as no surprise then that such events have a large impact on the environment. In fact, the trade show industry is second only to the construction industry in the amount of waste generated, according to GreenBiz.com.

Here are some ways to promote sustainability as you plan your conferences:

1. Ask hotels and caterers about their recycling and composting policies. Request local and organic food when possible.

2. Remember, the larger the event, the lower the heating needs to be to keep the environment at a comfortable temperature. In warmer weather, keep the A/C to a reasonable temperature.

3. Request paperless signage such as LCD screens or design your signage to be reusable. For instance, create arrows that can be removed from the sign so when room assignments change, simply reverse the direction of the arrows.

4. Provide a location for attendees to turn in their name badges for reuse.

5. Serve bulk water rather than plastic water bottles.

6. Talk to your vendors, suppliers, and exhibitors about reducing their environmental impact.

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