Go green

Greening your event: practice what you preach

There are important steps that must be considered if you want to green your event. Poonam Sandhu from UNEP highlights a few
green carpet
Cover image of Green Meeting Guide. Credit: UNEP
Environmental protection, climate change and doing 'something' to reduce carbon emissions have become dominant themes of conferences everywhere. I've enjoyed attending a few of these and more often than not, I've left with questions: how come the event organiser didn't execute a green event? Isn't it contradictory to champion the idea of sustainability but then not do what you are preaching?

There are several factors that impact whether an event becomes green or not. An adequate transfer of knowledge is a key component.
Say for example, an event organiser wants to 'go green'. Well that means that his or her green vision needs to be transferred to the planning committee, the venue's staff, the event staff, the event attendees and finally the clean-up crew.
Drop the ball with any of these transfers and your potentially awesome green event just turned a shade of brown.
So how do you maintain the green message during an event?
The United Nations Environment Programme along with Sustainable United Nations and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability put together a "Green Meeting Guide" with lots of useful information on how to host environmentally sound events.
Here are my favorite guiding principles from Green Meetings – what to know:
1. Greening a meeting is a continuous process
Remember what I said about getting the message out from top to bottom and sideways? Well in addition, you have to get the message out continuously so that everyone gets to hear it loud and clear.
2. Greening a meeting is a joint learning process
Imagine running a 100% compostable event but your vendors bring in non-compostable serving utensils. Uh oh! That means you didn't include them in the learning process. Vendors, events staff and clean-up crews all need to learn why and how they can help make the event greener.
3. It can be useful to develop a greening awareness strategy
Now don't get intimidated, this doesn't have to be a lengthy or arduous process. It just means that you have thought through the steps of getting your green messaging out. You've considered key times, audiences and infrastructure needed to get everyone on the same page. Get it right and your event patrons will know how to dispose of their compostable cup, the clean-up staff will know how to measure the compostable waste and your event planning committee will know how to report the success of your very awesome green event.
For more info check out the Green Meeting Guide and "roll out the green carpet for your participants" next time you host an event. I've already attended a few green events that I feel should be mentioned. They include the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival (FLF) and the 2013 North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE). Both events carefully considered the inputs of their event and provided adequate disposal of their waste through recycling and composting. In addition, NAAEE offered conference attendees an option to offset their travel-related carbon foot.
Have you been frustrated by this paradigm before? Do you have an amazing green event in your community? Share your experiences with us!
UNEP, established in 1972, is the voice for the environment within the United Nations system. UNEP acts as a catalyst, advocate, educator and facilitator to promote the wise use and sustainable development of the global environment.
TunzaNA, is the North American chapter of a global youth initiative called Tunza. The word "tunza" means "to treat with care or affection" in Kiswahili (a sub-regional language of Eastern Africa). The intent of Tunza is to develop youth activities in the areas of capacity building, environmental awareness, and information exchange, with a vision to foster a generation of environmentally conscious citizens, capable of positive action.
Poonam Sandhu is the youth fellow for UNEP Rona and is overseeing the Tunza NA outreach across North American colleges and universities. Originally a registered nurse in Vancouver, Canada, she completed a master of public health at The George Washington University. She is delighted to help youth green-up their campuses and their cities.
This content is produced and controlled by Connect4Climate


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