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Greening Events, Trade Shows, Festivals, and Fairs

Photo: Henderson, Nevada

As the garden grows so does the gardener.
– Garden Notebook

Events offer opportunities to make new friends and acquaintances, tackle serious topics and walk the talk. Here are our guidelines in creating effective, green events. The following recommendations have been collected from good practices around the globe:

Community Relations
How well locals are included — from preparation to post event continuity — should be used in evaluating the success of the event. When locals are treated with respect, everyone wins.

Parallel Conferencing
Please, no more closed door meetings that do not include an opportunity for a virtual dialogue among interested parties before, during and after the event. As proposed in theWish List for Responsible, Sustainable Ecotourism, interested constituencies without the money or time to attend in person should have the opportunity to participate.

Accommodation
When practical, use small hotels and local B&Bs. If the facility has environmental conservation programs, point out the details to guests.

Registration
Use less paper and offer online registration.

Energy
Lighting and energy efficient measures should be incorporated wherever feasible. Conference centers that maximize energy efficiency should communicate the details to their guests.

Culture
Feature local culture and entertainment.

Food
Serve locally grown products and organic food when possible. Point out such items on a menu. Food can be served in a buffet style in which participants can choose what they do and do not wish to eat. Additionally, many conference centers and restaurants support community food drives. Eco kitchens also find ways to compost.

Paper
Far too much paper is wasted at events. The good news — more conferences are going paperless!

Recycling
Recycle and explain the process to conference participants.

Information
Like food, information is best served self-service. Otherwise, brochures end up in the garbage. If you are distributing a conference program or background reading, distribute two-sided copies.

Tours
Schedule a heritage walk. Local tours promote where the conference takes place and gives visitors a feeling for the neighborhood and a locals a chance to interact with conference participants.

International Transportation
For those concerned about the environmental impact of international transportation, review the pros and cons of Carbon Emission Offsetting.

Local Transportation
Use shuttle services to and from the conference. Bonus points for using local public transportation and double bonus points for making it clear how to use beyond the event.

Water
Serve water from pitchers. If using plastic, make sure there is a receptacle for recycling and a means to refill the bottles.

Red Flags
What are the red flags of an eco- or people-unfriendly event?

Water is served in individual plastic bottles.

Recycling is not evident.

Locals are treated poorly or even excluded from the meetings.

The event is announced online, but no follow-up or summaries are posted.

Name badge holders are not reused.

Meals are served via paper or plastic disposable containers.

Sadly, such events are common. An academic ecotourism conference housed speakers at a chain hotel and served meals in cardboard boxes. A friend complains that an organic trade expo created mountains of trash.

Wish List
We would like to see events that weave the stories of the participants. An interactive event is more engaging than a series of monologues or speakers reading at their audience. One solution would be the unconference approach. Evolving from Open Space Technology, events could abandon the traditional agenda and ask participants to self-organize a schedule, goals, and work. Participating in events where opinions matter matters more than ever.

Planeta.com

How is your conference green?

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