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April 24, 2014

How Event-Related Businesses Are Going Greener

With Earth Day taking place at the tail-end of April, a range of businesses in (and related to) the events industry have announced green and sustainable initiatives throughout the month. 

MeetGreen, the Portland, Ore.–based consultancy that helps organizations plan more sustainable meetings, has unveiled an expanded, user-friendly Resource Kit for event organizers and suppliers. The kit includes best practices checklists for planners and suppliers, surveys to give vendors about their sustainable practices, an interactive “If One Attendee…” infographic that acts as a roadmap, and even recommended contract language.

ABTS Convention Services, a global meetings and convention services company, is researching the feasibility of powering RFID conference badges using environmental sources of energy rather than batteries (which, as the company notes, are expensive and decidedly non-green). Providing onboard power to the tag gets around some of these limitations and makes it better-suited for applications such as Lead Retrieval and Attendance tracking. The project’s design combines multiple energy sources—Solar (for indoor lighting), Electromagnetic (kinetic or movement) and Piezoelectric generators —to provide additional power to the tag.

Germany has made some significant progress on eco-conscious events: Seminars organized by the German Convention Bureau for sustainability advisors in the events sector were recently awarded the title of Project of the UN Decade in "Education for Sustainable Development," recognizing the GCB's efforts to promote green meetings. The distinction is awarded for initiatives that implement the objective of the United Nations' worldwide education campaign, explaining the concept of sustainable thought and action. The requirements for the award include, among other things, that the project must impart knowledge and expertise from the three dimensions of sustainability: economic, social and environmental, be of an innovative character and have a far-reaching impact.

Germany is also taking its green initiatives to IMEX next month. After receiving the “Green Exhibitor Award” at IMEX in Frankfurt last year, the GCB is again planning a green showcase at the Frankfurt show, taking place May 10-22. The sustainability-focused Germany stand will be the largest exhibitor at the show with over 230 stand partners. Together with CO2OL, Forest Finance Service GmbH, the GCB will balance the CO2 emissions for the Germany stand generated by the 230+ exhibitors through travel to and from the venue, energy consumption, overnight stays and waste. The final balance (as well as all measures taken to support a climate-friendly performance) will be displayed at the stand. 

Greening IMEX

IMEX also used Earth Day to launch a short campaign reminding all participants and partners of the essential contribution they make each year towards making both the Frankfurt and Las Vegas events greener.

The new sustainability benchmarking report—compiled and audited by IMEX’s sustainability partners MeetGreen—found that the trade show’s overall compliance with the APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Event Standards improved by 9 percent in 2013, reaching a high of 72 percent (2013 target: 70 percent).

Significant reductions in energy and water usage combined with a 10 percent improvement in waste being sent to landfill, and a marked increase in composting rates, defined the show’s green performance for 2013. In addition 8,590 pounds of show materials were donated to local charities, mostly comprising signage and carpet. Innovative use of all the plastic carpet covers ensured these were donated to a local Las Vegas co-op for reuse as greenhouse enclosures. 

Host partners, Sands Expo, surpassed their 2012 achievements with a waste diversion rate of 90.32 percent which, when combined with the results from IMEX America’s host hotels The Venetian|The Palazzo, resulted in an overall diversion rate of 79.6 percent. This resulted in the 10 percent improvement in waste diversion from landfill compared to 2012. Despite increased attendance figures, overall water use was also reduced by 16 percent.
The Sustainability Report highlights several other notable achievements: 32 percent of all food served met the APEX/ASTM sustainability standard for food and beverage operations, and over $5,000 dollars were donated to three local charities which IMEX America has pledged to support over the long-term - Opportunity Village, the Shade Tree and Clean the World. Donations were raised through the IMEX Badge Back program, which gives $1 for every used visitor badge dropped into a sponsored recycling bin. A donation from MeetGreen also allowed IMEX to invite visitors to create hygiene kits from reusable toiletries, which resulted in over 700 kits being made and donated to the Shade Tree shelter for women, children and their pets.

Of course, not all the news is positive, and there is still a long way to go: According to Digital Journal, Agoda.com (a hotel booking site) launched the results of its Global Earth Day Hotels Survey, showing that while guests are attracted to environmentally attractive hotels, they are unwilling to pay more to stay in them. Over 57,000 Agoda.com customers were polled on their opinions of hotels and their efforts towards sustainability, with 58 percent of travelers saying they prefer environmentally friendly hotels. Despite this, only 39 percent of respondents claim they would pay an extra $10 or more per night to stay in such a hotel. The results were also available based on geography. Travelers from the Netherlands, Denmark and the UK cared the least about eco friendly hotels, with only 35 percent of Danish and Dutch travelers and only 38 percent of UK travelers reporting they prefer them. In addition, 57 percent, 47 percent and 47 percent, respectively, said they would not pay anything more to stay in a sustainable property.

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