As everyone in the industry knows, meetings can produce a variety of waste, from unused handouts and unnecessary printing to the overuse of plastic and paper products. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency cited meetings and events as the second most wasteful industry, after building and construction. The good news is that meeting planners are continuing to become more and more conscientious about reducing this waste and lessening the carbon footprint of their events. I’m reminded daily of the importance of such initiatives as I gaze from the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa to the pristine and inspirational beauty of the storied Sandia Mountains, which are sacred here in central New Mexico.
With the growing trend of green meetings, many planners associate reducing waste with higher costs. However, as with every aspect of a meeting, the eco-friendly tactics can often be broken down and analyzed so the costs are contained and managed. Meeting planners can consider several small steps that go a long way in reducing waste and provide cost savings through the consumption of fewer resources.
Plan Ahead and Collaborate
The most important thing that planners can do to reduce waste is to plan ahead. I recommend that groups work closely with their venue to find ways to incorporate green practices into their meetings. The venue should be able to provide ideas, best practices, and services to help obtain the eco-friendly goals of the event. I also strongly suggest that groups touch base with their venue to provide the final details of the resources they are planning to use 10 days in advance of the function (or earlier) to help reduce any last-minute costs.
Planners should always ask about eco-friendly practices that are already in place at their destination. For example, with its location on the Santa Ana Native American Pueblo, Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa has several eco-friendly programs that parallel the ancient philosophy of the Tamayame tribe to protect the beauty and overall health of the land. With a robust recycling and composting program onsite, we can help planners best utilize our facility to reduce the carbon footprint of their events.
The Small Things Help
Meeting planners can take quick and easy steps to ensure a more eco-friendly event. For instance, groups should consider printing their meeting materials locally. From signage and collateral to handouts for sessions, local companies are able to accommodate your exact needs given the appropriate amount of planning and time. When groups ship materials for their meetings, it wastes fuel, paper, plastic, energy and water.
We’ve all heard it before, but meeting planners can truly make a big difference by eliminating disposable products such as paper cups, plastic silverware and plastic water bottles. Planners also can get creative in the ways that they eliminate the disposable items and consider providing guests with branded water bottles as gifts and set up refill stations throughout the venue.
Groups also can consider shared transportation. Instead of each attendee taking a separate taxi or private car service, planners can coordinate group shuttles or buses for airport transfers to any off-site activities. This helps to not only cut down on fuel consumption but also provides convenient group transportation option.
As meeting technology continues to become more advanced, it is less necessary to use so much paper. I encourage planners to embrace a digital meeting and utilize the advances to their benefit. Rather than printing handouts, planners can consider providing a digital share file of the documents needed for each session or set up table stations throughout the venue where attendees can take only what they need. Based on budget, planners also can consider renting tablets for each attendee.
Incentivize Green Practices
Meeting planners can help coordinate green initiatives for their meetings, but it really comes down to the attendees to opt for the eco-friendly practices made available to them. I recommend that planners create an incentive program in which they provide a checklist of the green options available for their guests. The attendees who check off and utilize each item such as recycling, accessing meeting documents digitally and using reusable water bottles or other green actions will receive a special incentive such as a complimentary activity while in the meeting destination.
Finally, keep in mind that the new generation of meeting and event planners, the millennials, are much more aware and sensitive to all aspects regarding environmental impact. It is important to seek their input.
Peter Kane is the director of sales and marketing at Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa. He has more than 15 years working in the meeting and event industry.