Monday, 31 December 2007

Six Sins of Greenwashing

According to TerraChoice approximately 30% of professional purchasers are subject to green procurement policies (EcoMarkets 2005). This means that it is critically important for approximately one third of us to research and buy products and services for work based on how kind they are to the earth. Yet those of us who do this are often vexed by companies claiming to be green who we inevitably find out are not earth-friendly in practice.

This practice is commonly referred to as green-washing. Destinations promoting themselves as green who are not practicing sustainability are at risk of being exposed by professional planners on the watch for those who manage sustainably what they market as green: namely the cities they represent.

Those destinations interested in avoiding the pitfalls of greenwashing are encouraged to be mindful of what TerraChoice calls the Six Sins of Greenwashing:
  1. The Sin of the Hidden Trade-off. That is fabulous you can provide organic produce but I would really prefer something local that does not need to be shipped 3000 km from farm to plate, thank you very much.
  2. The Sin of No-Proof. So....exactly what environmentally responsible cleaners do you use anyways? Can I see them?
  3. The Sin of Vagueness. I appreciate that you provide a zero-waste conference, but what does that really mean?
  4. The Sin of Irrelevance. Huh. That is a new one - I've never heard of a water conserving light bulb before.
  5. The Sin of Fibbing. But I thought you said you were a Green Seal certified hotel?
  6. The Sin of the Lesser of Two Evils. That is great you planned a carbon neutral conference, but did you actually reduce any emissions?

TerraChoice's report highlights examples of the treacherous ethical ground often navigated by environmental managers when marketing a green product or service. Important to keep in mind in the process of marketing and managing a green destination are the following questions:
  • Are we being truthful in what we are promoting to our market?
  • Is complete and accurate information available to the meeting planner?
  • Is the green attribute we are promoting relevant environmentally, and to the buyer?
  • When highlighting one environmental asset are we mindful of our environmental shortcomings?
What is key is transparency and verification at all times to ensure the client is purchasing what is promised, and does not encounter any unexpected surprises once contracts have been signed.

To view TerraChoice's complete report on Greenwashing please visit their web site.

On the Lighter Side...

Alright. After feeling all gloomy about my carbon confession - a break in the seriousness for a minute.

Cheatneutral exposes the irony and silliness of carbon offsetting.

The golden rule: Reduce whenever possible.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Deadline Approching for Green Meetings Awards

The deadline for the 2008 IMEX/Green Meeting Industry Council Green Meetings Awards is rapidly approaching. January 15 is the final day nominations for the industry's highest green honours will be received. Entries are welcome in the following categories:
  • Commitment to the Community Award
  • Green Meetings Award
  • Green Exhibitor Award
  • Green Supplier Award

Entries for all the awards can be found on the IMEX web site.

2007 Award winners included Marriott Hotels International, The World Urban Forum 3, Sierra Business Summit and Visit London.

MICE Buyers Becoming Greener

A 2007 IMEX poll shows that conference organisers are becoming more receptive to - and in fact prefer - environmental strategies.

Highlights from the annual opinion poll of global meeting professionals include:
  • 73% of buyers would deliberately avoid destinations/venues known to have a poor environmental record. This is up 7% from 2006.
  • 75% of buyers take environmental considerations into account when planning a meeting or incentive program, compared to 67% in 2006.
  • Selecting a location close to attendees, recycling conference material and the availability of public transport were the most important environmental criteria for buyers.
  • 77% of buyers indicated the meetings industry will have to take the environment into serious account in future, up from 67% in 2006.
  • 49% saw merit to introducing an eco-tax on conferences, dropping 5% from 2006.

Buyers surveyed were highly concerned about the impact of transportation, indicating the following priorities in reducing the environmental impact of their events:
  • Picking a location in or around a city with good transportation options.
  • Providing convenient and timely transportation options that are low impact and offset.
  • Picking a city that is close to the majority of attendees.
  • Providing ride share mechanisms.

IMEX summarises the findings from their research:
The overall impression arising from this survey is that MICE specialists are now looking more eagerly for ways to apply environmental strategies. With an eye to the future these top buyers call for more case-studies of successful green programmes, suggest that environmental suppliers should be accredited, and propose that the industry should increasingly reward those destinations that are greenest by using them the most. This report concludes with a perceptive comment from the chairman of a leading business improvement agency. He writes: "I am no eco-warrior, but I think our industry should apply self-determined concern and action today for fear otherwise that it becomes and issue of consumer backlash in the future"

For the complete press release please visit the IMEX web site.

The IMEX Global Data Exchange encourages and facilitates the international dissemination of data and opinions on topics associated with the meetings industry. Material is collated from original surveys, published academic papers, insights derived from trade associations, and from the authorised work of commercial and other relevant professional bodies.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Carbon Confession

Ok - time to start a new tradition. My annual carbon confession. I'm not proud of it, but I'm owning and disclosing it in hopes I can address it better next year.

Air travel is a necessary evil of my job and a significant source of guilt for me. Can I justify the emissions when my goal is reducing the environmental impact of the industry I work in? I commit to asking the question each time I consider flying this year.....and I encourage you to as well.

  • Vancouver - Portland (x5) 4020km / 0.5 tonnes Co2
  • Vancouver - Frankfurt 16126km/1.8 tonnes CO2
  • Vancouver - Newark 7798km / 0.9 tonnes CO2
  • Vancouver - Philadelphia 7738km / 0.9 tonnes CO2
  • Vancouver - Toronto 6688km / 0.7 tonnes CO2
  • Vancouver - Taipei 18158km / 2.1 tonnes of CO2
  • Vancouver - Washington, DC 3088km / 0.4 tonnes CO2*
  • Washington, DC - Chicago 964km / 0.1 tonnes CO2*
  • Chicago - Vancouver 2853km / 0.4 tonnes CO2*
  • Vancouver - Fort Lauderdale 8960km / 1 tonne CO2
  • Vancouver - Ottawa 7104km / 0.8 tonnes CO2 Offset through Zerofootprint
  • Vancouver - Los Angeles 3482km / 0.5 tonnes CO2
  • Vancouver - Nanaimo (x2) 220km / 0.1 tonnes CO2 Offset through

TOTAL: 87,199 km / 10.2 tonnes CO2

* One-way; all flights are return unless indicated one-way.
Calculations based on the flight calculator provided by The CarbonNeutral Company.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

BS 8901 Green Event Standard Launched

The long-awaited BSI Sustainable Event Management System has arrived.

According to the certification web site:

BS 8901 provides requirements for planning and managing sustainable events of all sizes and types.
BS 8901 encompasses the entire range of events ranging from large scale conferences and unique events such as the 2012 Olympics to music festivals and air shows. The standard is applicable throughout the sector supply chain encompassing venues, organizing companies and industry contracting firms and is aimed at the following groups:

  • Event organizers
  • Venues
  • Organizations and/or individuals in the supply chain.

BS 8901 provides guidance in the form of easy to understand practical information designed to assist the user to implement the requirements and those in event management to manage their environmental, financial and social risks and impacts spanning all aspects of event management.
BS 8901 will:

  • Help companies to improve sustainable performance within available budgets
  • Reduce carbon emissions and waste, improving the resource efficiency of the entire event supply chain
  • Present opportunities for more efficient planning and encourage the re-use of equipment and infrastructure. The standard covers:
  • Reduce environmental impacts such as carbon usage, waste management and effects on biodiversity
  • Improve social impacts such as community involvement and fair employment
  • Establish economic impacts such as local investment and long-term viability
Case studies of the standard can be found here.

Green Gift Guide for Meetings

So if Santa worked for a convention and visitor bureau and he wanted to send gifts to the good meeting planners where would he shop, assuming he was wearing his green suit?

Well, locally, of course. After all, the best gifts are home-made. Tap into local artisan collectives, public and farmers' markets, and galleries to find those unique pieces that authentically represent your destination while also supporting local businesses.

Of course, for the times when Green Destination Santa is busy there are some elves out there working hard to help source for sustainably-minded promotional products for your destination. is one such source, providing green, ethical and fairly-traded products for the meeting and incentive market.

Depending on your event or audience gifts from Ten Thousand Villages, which offer fairly traded handcrafts and donation gifts from around the world, may also be appropriate. Oxfam also offers unique "Unwrapped" gifts that provide donations to social projects throughout the world.

When it comes to seasonal cards and paper, source responsibly. Look for papers with post-consumer recycled content and vegetable based inks. Many suppliers of 'seeded' papers are also providing a unique alternative to promotional seasonal gifts where a simple card becomes a gift - the paper it is printed on able to be planted to grow everything from wildflowers to herbs. For further information visit Botanical Paperworks or Of the Earth.

With his reindeer-powered flight Santa's fuel source is greener than most and certainly renewable but for those of us in the travel and tourism industry we have to rely on kerosene and planes to get us there. In light of this, consider the gift of a healthier climate for your clients. Commit to plant trees, purchase renewable energy or invest in energy efficiency as your gift in the coming year to contribute to a healthier planet.

Gifts: What do they say about your Green Destination?

Maybe it is the Christmas consumerism blues or the feeling that my office is bursting at the seams with clutter, but I seem to be obsessed with 'stuff' of late.

A recent visit to a luxury property for a site inspection got me thinking about the challenge of the 'amenity'. It is always a delicate dance to be gracious in accepting - or declining - the gifts that are left by properties and destinations while on a site visit, while being mindful of the fact much of the 'stuff' I get is unneeded, and in some cases, offensive to my values.

In the meeting industry it has become an expectation that planners should be pampered, wooed and left with nice things that give a positive impression of a property and destination. Now don't get me wrong: I am not about to suggest doing away with the practice. After a long, delayed flight there is nothing that I would like more than some chocolate and a soak with a nice bath bomb that a hotel has been kind enough to gift to me. But what I would like to suggest is that amenity providers pay close attention to how their gifts reflect their properties, destinations and values and also be aware of the needs and values of the recipient.

At a recent stay in Portland the CVB was kind enough to leave me an amenity in my room. They had selected a book about Portland, a artistically designed re-usable cotton bag, some local chocolate and a hat made out of recycled pop bottles. I love my hat by the way. I wear it all the time. What impressed me was that the CVB was able to leave an impression, express their thanks I was there, and do it in a way that really fit with my individual values; green values. I felt they knew me - it made it personal.

I will contrast this with my arrival at the not to be named luxury property referred to above. When I arrived I found Belgian truffles, Fiji water, cut exotic fruit and a stream of fresh cut orchids across my bed. The display was beautiful, but very unmindful of my purpose in being on site: to conduct a site inspection for a green meeting. The gift was not local, sustainable or re-usable.

My intent is not to appear ungrateful for a gift, or suggest that amenities to planners should be done away with. My purpose is to encourage properties and destinations to consider how the gifts and amenities you provide positively represent and support your community and consider the needs and values of the recipient.

Shuttlecocks...'n Stuff

We have adopted the idea - particularly in the tradeshow field - that our delegate experience is tied to 'stuff'....bags, food, prizes, handouts, gimmicks, free pens, water bottles, sunglasses, in-room amenities. The list goes on. My recent favourite? A shuttlecock I received at a speed networking session. I don't even own a badminton racket.

A few years ago I rifled through two bags - two very full non-recycled content bags - of 'stuff' that returned to my house from E3, the annual computer and video game industry trade show. Inside the bag was the typical amount of paper and collateral - all glossy, full colour, no noted recycled content paper - along with a bunch of, well, junk: silly putty, Laura Croft desk figures, a Mario hammer and numerous other things that are sitting in a storage locker collecting dust in the basement of my condominium.

I recently attended a PCMA Green Meetings seminar in Ottawa where Geneviève Leclerc, Manager Congress Operations - PCO division - JPdL – Montréal reported on how a she was able to reduce waste at a recent event to 9 ounces per person. The equivalent of 9 Smarties.

How was she able to do it?

Yes, she was able to find a destination and meeting suppliers who were able to recycle and compost waste materials that were produced at her event. But more importantly she paid attention to each opportunity in her decision making process that reduced what her delegates consumed.

What are you doing to reduce the stuff we use?

The Story of Stuff

Think about it. Do your part.

Green Meeting Conference: Helping to Get to Green

Well, silence on the blog should not be taken as a sign that things are not happening in the "Destination: Green" movement! In truth, there has been so much happening that time to maintain my blog has fallen to the bottom of the to do list of late, so time to catch up !

First update that is in order:
The Green Meeting Industry Council has announced the agenda for their annual conference. The GMIC's meeting is the only place where the depth and breadth of professionals in the sustainable meetings arena convene to meet. So if you are looking to get information, connect with leaders, innovators and peers in the industry and get your finger on the pulse of what is happening in this movement now is your chance.

Greening the Hospitality Industry Conference 2008
Four Seasons Hotel, Vancouver, BC Canada
February 19 - 21, 2008

Highlights from the GMIC's 2008 Programme:
  • Keynote speaker Rohit Talwar will discuss the future of green meetings and sustainability and the imperative for us to think outside the "Four Walls" of our meetings.
  • Special optional pre-conference training seminar sponsored by IMEX Future Leaders Forum.
  • One on one mentorship forum with leading green meeting experts.
  • Update on the development of green meeting standards.
  • Educational seminars on sustainable food and beverage, green venues, carbon offsetting, measurement & benchmarking, communications & marketing and community projects.
  • Exhibition of green meetings ideas and products.
For further information visit the GMIC web site.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

MPI to Sign the United Nations Compact on Corporate Social Responsibility

Elevating commitment to sustainability and social responsibility

MONTRÉAL (July 28, 2007) – In a bold leadership statement, Meeting Professionals International (MPI) today announced that it will sign the United Nations (UN)Global Compact on Corporate Social Responsibility. The MPI Board of Directors gave the unanimous approval during the World Education Congress à la Montréal.

The United Nations Global Compact on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the world’s largest corporate responsibility initiative with more than 3,700 participants and stakeholders from more than 100 countries. It provides an unprecedented and powerful platform for participating organizations with respect to advancing their commitment to sustainability and global citizenship. It consists of more than 50 national networks in developed and emerging economies and provides an opportunity for signatories to further their corporate social responsibility objectives.

“This is the first step in making a commitment to this growing global focus,” said Angie Pfeifer, CMM, chairwoman of the MPI board of directors. “By supporting the UN Compact, MPI continues to position itself as an industry leader and elevates the conversation for our members by informing them about Corporate Social Responsibility and the role that meetings and events professionals can play in supporting those principles for employers and clients. As more and more successful organizations focus on CSR, it is the right thing to do at the right time.”

There are 10 principles in the UN Global Compact in the areas of human rights, labor, environmental sustainability and anti-corruption. The Compact asks companies to support and enact, within their sphere of influence, these principles as core values.

The global compact is a voluntary initiative to promote good corporate citizenship, a set of values based on universally accepted principles, and a forum for learning and an exchange of experiences.

MPI has retained Wallace Partners to assist them in developing emerging educational and marketplace opportunities related to Corporate Social Responsibility for MPI’s global community. They also have been tasked with accelerating MPI’s commitment to environmental sustainability at its events, including the introduction of a number of new practices at its World Education Congress currently under way in Montréal.

“One of our four strategic imperatives is to elevate the conversation and experience for our members,” said Bruce MacMillan, CA, MPI president and CEO. “Committing to the principles of the UN Compact is a first step in educating our members about a growing global initiative that will impact their professional world. It is also meant to inspire them to take action and make them more strategic to organizations and clients who have or would like to make a similar commitment.”


As part of this recently affirmed commitment MPI has created at Corporate Responsibility site, including a CSR blog and resources.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Green Meetings Act Update

In update to the post last month, Rep. Schwartz' Green Meetings Act was passed by a voice vote as an amendment to H.R. 3221, the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act. As an amendment to the House energy bill (H.R. 3221), this bill must now be negotiated together with the Senate energy bill. After that, the House and Senate most vote on a final energy bill. If it passes both chambers, then it will be sent to the president for his signature. A great first step to support greener meetings, but this proposal still has a ways to go before it can be signed into law.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

First Impressions

It struck me the other day as I sat outside the arrivals hall at Vancouver International that for many of us the first impression we make of a city is based on its taxi cabs. So what do your cabs say about your city?

Sitting in a concrete box on the lower level of the airport I am struck that there is very little smell here. Even with a dozen taxis and shuttles rushing by each minute, there is very little exhaust in the air. My eyes travel down the taxi queue. At least half of the vehicles are hybrids. I've lived here for years and travel monthly from the could I have not noticed this before?

I return home - traveling my usual route green minded route of a scheduled shuttle downtown and public transit the rest of the way to the house - noting along the way the seemingly prolific number of hybrid taxis on the road throughout the city.

I hop online and Google 'hybrid taxis Vancouver'.

I'm surprised to find the city home to the world's first (self-proclaimed) hybrid taxi driver, Andrew Grant. Grant's first Prius cab was purchased in 2000 and his 7 year commitment to the car is chronicled in an interesting article by Brendan Sandbury, originally published in Grist in August 2005. At the time of the article Yellow Cabs - the largest taxi company in Vancouver - was operating a fleet of 40 hybrids, planning to roll over 25-30 in their 210 car fleet over to hybrids each year.

I feel a twinge of pride in the city, wondering how widespread the adoption of hybrid taxis might be in other cities.

Given the benefits outlined in Grant's experience the switch seems a no-brainer:
  • Savings of $900 - 1,100 per month on fuel costs.
  • Reduction in maintenance costs by half.
  • Access to a niche of green customers (Grant estimates 30% of his customer base are green clients, dialing him specifically because of his hybrid vehicle).
  • Silent riding.
Other cities are embracing the hybrid taxi philosophy, including London, New York and San Francisco. New York's move to green the city's taxi fleet is estimated to potentially reduce local greenhouse gas emissions by 50%.

Boston CVB's Green Program

Came across BostonUSA's Green Visitors Program today. Looks like the convention and visitors bureau is stepping up package and market the city's green services as a complete destination product. For more information on the initiative please click here.

Green Lodging Programs provide options for smaller meeting venues

Although often overlooked for city-wide events, smaller meetings and conferences are a market that can be attracted to the green meeting destination. These groups do not look to fill congress centres, but can take advantage of space available at smaller hotels and boutique properties.

So where can a meeting planner find these types of small-scale venues?

Both Fairmont and Kimpton hotels are positioning themselves as 'green meeting' chain, creating company-wide policies for environmental practices that are being rolled at many of their properties. By in large, however, few hotel chains are able to respond as a company to requests for green venues in a number of cities.

State green lodging programs can be a useful source of this information in the United States, and include:
In addition, the following certification and eco-labelling schemes can be helping in locating hotel venues that meet environmental

Information on larger green conference venues can be found here.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Madison's Green Guide

The Greater Madison Convention and Visitors' Bureau has released a new Green Guide to their destination, including information focused at both the business and leisure market. Check it out online.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Green Maps: Tools for Green Event Destinations

Want to inventory and promote your green urban attractions but don't quite know where to start? Well, the good news is you don't need to re-invent the wheel.

The Green Map System is an adaptable framework for charting nature and culture in hometown environments. The system:
  • helps citizens of all ages identify, promote and link their communities’ ecological and cultural resources.
  • builds inclusive networks that extend civic participation and accelerate progress toward sustainability.
  • promotes model greening efforts underway across the globe.
  • uses the info-web (i.e internet) in service of the web-of-life.
Green Map Atlas provides 10 green tourism map-making stories to inspire similar efforts in other communities. Featured cities include Jakarta, Indonesia; Pune, India; Hiroshima, Kyoto, Hakodate and Tokyo, Japan; Robeson County, Milwaulkee and New York, USA; and Toronto, Canada. In addition to the atlas, Green Map provides a searchable directory of cities using this tool to promote sustainable tourism.

Each locally-created Green Map is a fresh perspective encouraging discovery, personal involvement and greener everyday choices in these urban environments. Check it may find a green map project already underway for your city.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Green Tourism in Toronto

Tourism Toronto

The Green Tourism Association is a unique non-profit organization that is committed to establishing an urban green tourism industry in Toronto. The group works collaboratively with a network of businesses, community and environmental groups, government agencies, heritage and cultural organizations.

The Green Tourism Association is the first association to focus specifically on Ecotourism in the City. The organisation was founded on the belief that people want more options when exploring a city and are looking for a wide range of interesting, new, and off-the-beaten-track, cultural, environmental and heritage options in urban travel.

In addition to providing an online TourGreen Directory of Toronto, the organisation also provides ideas on how visitors can Be a Green Tourist.

For further information visit the Green Tourism Association.

Call to Action - Green Meetings Act

A critical and timely opportunity has emerged to support and expand market demand for green meetings within the United States.

On July 13 Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz introduced the Green Meetings Act (H.R. 3037). In the preceeding post please find Congresswoman Schwartz' letter regarding the bill which is being introduced to expand the United States Environmental Protection Agency's recently announced green meetings policy to all federal agencies.

I invite you to consider the content of the proposed Act and contact your local Congress representative to discuss and co-sponsor this bill. Should you choose to express your support in writing you are welcome to consider and raise the points in the following sample letter.


Dear Congressional representative:

Re. Green Meetings Act (H.R. 3037)

I have recently become aware of the introduction of a bill by Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz to help the federal government go green with its meetings.

On May 1, 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency changed its acquisition rules for planning meetings and conferences to give preference for facilities that manage their resources in environmentally positive ways. When the EPA solicits services for conferences and meetings, it uses a 14-point checklist to locate facilities that use good conservation practices such as providing guests with a towel reuse option, having an energy efficiency program, or having easy access to public transit options.

This Act would expand existing EPA policy on green meetings to all federal agencies, an action that as a meeting professional I would support for the following reasons:

  • Meetings and conventions consume large quantities of water and energy, and produce significant amounts of waste. For example the average conference delegate produces over four times the amount of trash at a meeting than when they are at home (USEPA, 2000 & 2003). This Act would help us to reduce our impact by positively influencing suppliers such as hotels and conference centers to provide greener services.
  • The US federal government is able to exercise significant influence in catalyzing market demand in support of providing greener meeting and travel products, thereby bolstering the green economy and providing meeting professionals with improved access to green meetings related products and services.
Further opportunity does exist beyond adoption of this Act to establish national criteria for green meetings and events to better enable measurement and enforcement of green meeting practices. I feel, however, that this is an important continuing step in the process of transforming the meetings industry into a more sustainable economic sector. For these reasons I respectfully request that you contact John Sherry at 202.225.611 or for more information on, or to co-sponsor this bill.

Help Federal Government Meetings Go Green

Expand Existing EPA Policy on Green Meetings to All Federal Agencies

July 13, 2007

Dear Colleague:

Conferences and meetings consume large quantities of environmental resources. For instance, a typical five-day conference for 2,500 attendees will use 90,000 cans or bottles, 75,000 cups and 87,500 napkins. By adopting environmentally-conscious policies hotels and conference facilities can significantly improve the environmental strain and reduce energy consumption of large meetings. If one hotel initiates a linen and towel reuse program it can conserve 200 barrels of oil - enough to run a family car 180,000 miles.

On May 1, 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency changed its acquisition rules for planning meetings and conferences to give preference for facilities that manage their resources in environmentally positive ways. When the EPA solicits services for conferences and meetings, it uses a 14-point checklist to locate facilities that use good conservation practices such as providing guests with a towel reuse option, having an energy efficiency program, or having easy access to public transit options.

The federal government spends billions each year on travel and meetings. These funds should be used wisely to encourage businesses to take responsible actions that reduce their energy consumption and environmental footprint. That's why I have introduced the Green Meetings Act (H.R. 3037), which would expand EPA's green meeting policy to all federal government agencies. If you would like additional information, or would like to co-sponsor my bill, please contact John Sherry of my staff 225-6111 or

Member of Congress

MCI: Building Community for a Better World

Ripples of inspiration to address climate change as a result of the release of Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth are being felt throughout the globe. The film has inspired MCI - a global association, communications and event management group - to take action within the meetings industry to build community for a better world.

Check out their compelling slideshow and newly launched CSR program.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Paris launches new, eco-friendly bike service

PARIS, France (AP) -- It was a perfect Paris moment: The rain cleared, the sky filled with blue, and I was flying across town on a bicycle, past the Louvre, along the Seine River, through a public garden and up a cobblestone market street.

A passerby asks information of a Velib' employee, left, at a Velib' station in Paris.

As a tourist in Paris, it's easy to spend at least an hour every day in the Metro, but sometimes you need to come up for air. After taking a test run of Paris City Hall's inexpensive, easy-to-use new bike service, I pledged to spend less time this summer in Paris' underworld and more time out joyriding.

Starting July 15, more than 10,600 bikes will be posted all over town at 750 stations, and the numbers of both will nearly double by the year's end. The great news for tourists is that City Hall has made sure the service is convenient for tourists, not just Parisians, by offering short-term passes and access in eight languages.

Velib', as the service is called, is a word made up by blending together "velo" (bike) and "liberte" (liberty). The idea is flexibility: You grab a bike from any station around town -- they pop up every 330 yards or so -- and park it at any other station. That means you don't have to haul the bike back to your hotel if your feet hurt or it starts raining.

Velib' is Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe's latest effort to make Paris more green and bike-friendly, after ripping up car lanes to install bike paths -- much to the angst of some drivers, who complain there are more bottlenecks now.
If you go ...

Practical information: Check to see a list of bike stations. (The Web site is expected to offer English translations by mid-July.)

No kids: Riders need to be 14 or up, and 5 feet tall. For now, there are no baby seats available.

Helmets: The program doesn't offer helmets. Bring one from home, or pick one up at a bike shop. Try sporting shop Decathlon, 17 boulevard de la Madeleine, 011-33-1-5535-9755, or Les Velos parisiens, 3,4 and 5 rue de l'Abbe Gregoire, 011-33-1-4544-7297.

Safety tips: One confusing aspect of riding or driving in France is who gets priority at intersections. If you're cruising along a street and there's no indication to the contrary, you have to yield to drivers who are coming from streets on your right. Be sure to keep an eye out -- cars tend to leap out of nowhere.

On many big boulevards, bikes are authorized to ride in the bus lanes. But buses tend to whiz by just inches away from you. If you try it, be very careful.

Stolen bikes: If the bike is stolen, you have to call 011-33-1-3079-7930 to let Velib' know within 24 hours, then file a police report. In that case, $48 is deducted from your card, not the full $205.

Routes to try: Every Sunday the quays of the Seine from the Bastille to the Eiffel Tower are open to walkers, inline-skaters and bikers, and closed to cars. On Friday nights at 10 p.m., a parade of bikes departs from Avenue Victoria for a ride around the city. For more information (in French) on that ride, try

Renting a bike: If you're planning a longer ride, Velib' will be expensive. Try Paris Velo-Rent a Bike, at 2 rue du Fer a Moulin, 011-33-1-4337-5922.

Today, there are 230 miles of bike lanes in Paris, and Paris City Hall says the amount of bike traffic has increased nearly 50 percent since 2001. Paris isn't a paradise for bikers yet -- there's still a lot of car traffic and confusing one-way streets -- but a ride is no longer the obstacle course it once was.

By launching the bike program, Paris is following in the footsteps of European cities including Stockholm, Vienna, Barcelona, Brussels and Copenhagen. The German railway system has a bicycle rental program, where you unlock rental bikes at rail stations using your cell phone. In New York's trendy Soho neighborhood, a five-day experiment began July 7 offering free use of bikes for 30 minutes; cyclists provide credit card information to make sure they bring the bikes back. A service in Lyon, France, has also been a hit, inspiring Paris to try it too. In Lyon, every bike is used seven to 15 times a day, and the average number of rides a day is upward of 15,000.

The Paris plan already has more than 6,000 annual subscribers, though it hasn't started yet. A yearlong pass is $39.50, while a one-day pass costs a euro -- about $1.36 -- and a seven-day ticket goes for five euros -- about $6.80.

Still, you'll wind up paying slightly more than that, if ever you keep the bike for more than half an hour at a time.

The first half-hour after you pick up a bike is always free, with an extra euro tacked on for the first additional half-hour, two euros for the second and four euros for every extra half-hour from then on.

The sliding price scale, conceived to keep the bikes in rotation, means that if you want to spend a leisurely day riding through the gardens of the Bois de Boulogne, it would be cheaper to rent a bike from a shop.

But if you want to stop at the Louvre, then head to the boutiques of the Saint Germain neighborhood for some shopping, then crash at your hotel in eastern Paris -- with the flexibility to take a bus or the Metro instead if you're tired -- then Velib' is your best bet.

The bikes, themselves, however, are rather utilitarian - three-speed touring bikes, weighing nearly 50 pounds each.

Here's how the program works:

Stop in at any station around town with your credit card. They accept American Express, Visa and MasterCard, among others.

Each station comes with an electronic vending machine with instructions in eight languages. Select "English," and the machine will walk you through the instructions. Along the way, you must authorize Velib' to deduct $205 from your card if the bike is not returned within 24 hours. (For a one-year subscription, you have to sign up online or by mail to use the service, but for a one- or seven-day pass, you can do it at the machine.)

Once you've picked a bike, you have 60 seconds to push a button on the stand and pull the bike free. Adjust the seat, and you're ready to go. The bike has a basket and a built-in lock, so you can secure it if you need to run into a shop or make a quick stop. For longer stops, you'll save money if you return the bike to a station.

To put the bike back, you slide it into the stand, and you'll hear a beep and see a blinking light if it's attached right. Be sure to push it in firmly.

One drawback for the tourist: Since the stations are not manned, there's no one to ask for help with directions, so bring a map and be prepared to stop a passer-by if you get lost.

On my test ride, I did a reconnaissance mission for what I would consider the perfect summer afternoon-into-evening, when the sun stays out until after 10 p.m.

The itinerary: Pick up a bike near your hotel and head to the Palais Royal gardens, a quiet rose-filled square in the middle of town, for a coffee or a stroll. From there, head by foot to nearby rue Montorgueil, a market street where you can buy cheese, baguettes and a bottle of wine. Grab a bike at the rue des Petits Carreaux station and park it at the Pont Saint Louis station near the Seine, and look for a spot on the quays for your picnic blanket.

Original article

Friday, 13 July 2007

Message in a Bottle

At the 2004 Greenbuild Conference and Expo the United States Green Building Council saved an estimated $25,000 US by making one simple decision:

Rather than providing bottled water they used bulk water coolers and compostable cups. Not only did this avoid costs, but it prevented the introduction of an estimated 48,000 plastic bottles into the recycling stream in the city of Portland, Oregon. The cups provided could be mixed with organics collected as part of the composting program operated by the Oregon Convention Center and provided to local farms as fertilizer.

I shared this story at a presentation I recently gave to a group of meeting professionals. To me, the cost savings and waste reduction seemed to make it a 'no-brainer' practice for planners and convention centres to consider.

Agreed, there are revenue considerations for meeting venues to evaluate: a bottle of water can be a substantial source of food and beverage profit, particularly considering that in 2006 Americans spent more money on bottled water than movie tickets. Bottled water sales in the United States amounted to $15 billion last year.

Yet the question I received from an audience member took me by surprise. A woman at the session had attempted to introduce bulk water coolers as an option for her meeting, but received resistance from the meeting venue who did not want to assume the responsibility for the water becoming, or being, contaminated.

The question has since given me pause to consider our psychology about water. Why do we view tap water and fountains with distain? How is it bottled water - virtually non-existent 30 years ago - is now a seeming imperative, particularly when it comes to meetings and events?

In his recent article "Message in a Bottle" Charles Fishman explores many of these questions and presents some staggering facts about our obsession with bottled water:
  • Fiji Water produces more than a million bottles a day, while more than half the people of Fiji do not have reliable drinking water.
  • 24% of the bottled water we buy is tap water repackaged by Coke and Pepsi.
  • 38 billion water bottles are disposed of into landfills each year - an excess of $1 billion worth of plastic.
Have a read of his article, and the next time you plan on how to water your conference delegates think about it:

"In the array of styles, choices, moods, and messages available today, water has come to signify how we think of ourselves. We want to brand ourselves--as Madonna did--even with something as ordinary as a drink of water. We imagine there is a difference between showing up at the weekly staff meeting with Aquafina, or Fiji, or a small glass bottle of Pellegrino. Which is, of course, a little silly.

Bottled water is not a sin. But it is a choice.

Packing bottled water in lunch boxes, grabbing a half-liter from the fridge as we dash out the door, piling up half-finished bottles in the car cup holders--that happens because of a fundamental thoughtlessness. It's only marginally more trouble to have reusable water bottles, cleaned and filled and tucked in the lunch box or the fridge. We just can't be bothered. And in a world in which 1 billion people have no reliable source of drinking water, and 3,000 children a day die from diseases caught from tainted water, that conspicuous consumption of bottled water that we don't need seems wasteful, and perhaps cavalier.

That is the sense in which Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, and Singer, the Princeton philosopher, are both right. Mackey is right that buying bottled water is a choice, and Singer is right that given the impact it has, the easy substitutes, and the thoughtless spending involved, it's fair to ask whether it's always a good choice.

Once you understand the resources mustered to deliver the bottle of water, it's reasonable to ask as you reach for the next bottle, not just "Does the value to me equal the 99 cents I'm about to spend?" but "Does the value equal the impact I'm about to leave behind?"

Simply asking the question takes the carelessness out of the transaction. And once you understand where the water comes from, and how it got here, it's hard to look at that bottle in the same way again."

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Sea Change

To fight global warming, companies need to re-think how and where they meet....

Corporate Meetings and Incentives Magazine this month features a wealth of information on green meetings, including latest trends in green venues, sustainable food and beverage, and what the magazine coins "Meeting Clean".

CMIM is the latest in a string of publications to feature meeting greening, showing the surge of interest in this issue. Previous issues of interest to green destination professionals include:

Hastings NE America's Greenest City

Yahoo! and Global Green USA have had their say in which are the most eco-friendly cities in America, having announced the results for their "America's Greenest City Challenge".

Congratulations to Hastings, NE and to all the citizens of the 350 participating cities who rose to the occassion in meeting this challenge.

Communities were encouraged to take eco-friendly actions to earn "green" credits for their city. The winner received a prize of $250,000 dedicated to further environmental projects.

Press release.

Monday, 9 July 2007

More cities with more green venues !

Green convention centres continue to pop up all over the globe, so I have undertaken an update to the list originally posted in April of cities that are home to meeting venues with green building construction features or operating practices.

Updated post is archived here.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Toronto among 16 cities in the world to get a green makeover

Sara Kugler, Canadian Press
Published: Thursday, May 17, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) - Toronto is one of 16 cities around the world getting financing to "go green" by renovating buildings they own to cut carbon emissions, former U.S. president Bill Clinton announced Wednesday.

Clinton's foundation has created an arrangement among four energy service companies and five global banking institutions that will result in major environmental upgrades in the cities, which also include New York, Chicago, Houston, Mexico City, London, Berlin, Tokyo and Rome.

"If all buildings were as efficient as they could be, we'd be saving an enormous amount of energy and significantly reducing carbon emissions. Also, we'd be saving a ton of money," Clinton said.

The planned projects include replacing heating, cooling and lighting systems with energy-efficient networks; making roofs white or reflective to deflect more of the sun's heat; sealing windows and installing new models that let more light in and keep the elements out; and setting up sensors to control more efficient use of lights and air conditioning.

The former president said Citi, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, UBS and ABN Amro have each committed US$1 billion to finance the upgrades.

Clinton announced the partnership Wednesday, joined by mayors of several of the cities, as part of an international climate summit he is hosting this week in New York City with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It is the second meeting of the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit, which was created so mayors and local governments could share strategies for reversing the trends of climate change.

"It really is groundbreaking; it really is going to make a difference," Bloomberg said.

Retrofitted buildings could see a 20 to 50 per cent reduction in energy use, Clinton said.

Buildings are among a city's worst contributors to emissions totals, accounting for 50 per cent of energy use in newer cities and more than 70 per cent in older urban areas. In New York, for example, electricity, natural gas, fuel oil and steam consumed by buildings make up 79 per cent of the city's total count of heat-trapping gases, a recent study found.

Many cities have already taken steps to "green" their municipal buildings, but the foundation said less than one per cent of the potential market is being tapped in the United States and the efforts are less common elsewhere.

One city doing such work is Chicago. Retrofitting the lighting systems in city buildings there over the past six years has resulted in about $4 million in annual savings, said Sadhu Johnston, commissioner of the Chicago Department of the Environment.

The exact nature of the financing will be determined in coming months, the foundation said, and some details will likely differ from city to city. With the money from the banks, cities will get the green technology at no cost. The program assumes that cities already have money set aside for building operations and will pay back the bank loans, plus interest, through the energy savings that the projects achieve over several years.

To ensure those savings, Honeywell, Johnson Controls Inc., Siemens and Trane will conduct energy audits of the buildings, complete the makeovers and guarantee the energy savings. If the expected savings are not realized, those companies will pay the difference or make the changes in the buildings, the foundation said.

Warren Karlenzig, author of "How Green Is Your City?", applauded the plan and said many of these retrofits have been "crying out to happen."

"The technology is there; it's just that the financing has been missing," Karlenzig said.

The other cities taking part in the building plan are Mumbai, India; Karachi, Pakistan; Seoul, South Korea; Bangkok, Thailand; Melbourne, Australia; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Johannesburg, South Africa. The foundation expects the partnership to expand to more cities and companies after the first round.

© The Canadian Press 2007

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

A Radical Suggestion?

In 2003 the Canadian Medical Association put Canadian cities on notice that those which fail to ban smoking in indoor public places will be banned from seeking CMA’s convention business. Butt Out or Lose our business, CMA Tells Cities

In June 2004 the Canadian Nurses Association followed suit, requiring 100% smoke free indoor venues for host cities of future CNA events. (Annual Meeting Resolution 2004).

Both moves were sparked as an express commitment for these organizations to put their money where their mouth is – by supporting municipalities who support public health for all Canadians.

Resolutions by these agencies were somewhat controversial and radical at the time, but also ultimately transformational. Smoke-free cities are becoming mainstream practice across the country, with all Canadians able to breathe a little easier as a result of the efforts of CMA and CNA.

What were to happen if these agencies took similar action to broadly support green event cities? What kind of resolution might be formulated by medical associations seeking to meet in ‘healthy’ cities? What would be required? What would be optional? Some ideas…..
  • Municipal plans to ensure the maintenance and improvement of water and air quality.
  • Smoke-free public places.
  • “Get active” initiatives to encourage physical fitness.
  • Buy local and organic initiatives.
  • Accessible and convenient public transit.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

The Business Case for a Green Event Destination

Do event planners care if the cities they meet in are sustainable?

I believe that they do. The real question, however, is do planners care to the degree they are willing to integrate it into their process for selecting host cities?

I am hunting for evidence daily to answer this question.

Anecdotally, there is proof of environmental criteria slipping into destination selection for both events and conferences.
  • The United States Green Building Council has selected several cities – Portland, Pittsburgh and Denver –to host their 13,000 delegate Greenbuild Expo in consideration of the LEED-certified green building projects present in these communities.
  • Other organizations such as the Ecological Society of America, National Recycling Coalition, Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies and United Universalist Association of Congregations have developed and include environmental information in their requests for proposals. UUA states “The General Assembly Planning Committee seeks to plan our meeting in concert with our shared values of responsibility, inclusivity, and equality. We demonstrate our institutional commitment to these values by actively working toward making our meeting more environmentally sustainable, by practicing care and concern for the issues related to accessibility, and by acting consistently within our constituency.”
  • Government agencies, including the Government of Canada and the United States Environmental Protection Agency have standing policies and rules to support green purchasing of event and meeting services. Although this does not expressly require the selection of ‘green’ destinations, those destinations that can claim a diversity and depth of sustainable services are well positioned to earn business from the government sector.
  • Since 1994 Olympic bid cities have been evaluated on their ability to achieve the Three Pillars of the Olympic movement: sport, culture and environment.
  • The development of green event standards in the United Kingdom indicate a need and desire by event professionals to create market-based programs to affirm and assess their environmental practice.
Some statistical evidence is also emerging to support the business case for green event destinations:
  • 67% of planners indicate they take environmental considerations into account when planning a meeting or incentive program (IMEX, 2006)
  • 62% of planners think they or a colleague would avoid a destination or venue known to have a poor record of environmental issues (IMEX, 2006)
  • 60% of planners have selected a hotel for its known environmental program (IMEX, 2006)
  • 80% of planners feel the environment will become a bigger issue in the coming years (IMEX, 2006)
  • One in five Australians is considering abandoning travel due to its impact on global warming (
The reality is destination selection is a complex process. Issues as diverse as costs, accessibility, venue and room availability, natural and cultural attractions and local volunteer support for an event or meeting are all considerations that factor into the process, each with varying importance for each meeting host.

Numerous reports and studies support the observation that accessibility, cost and safety remain the most critical destination selection criteria for planners (Crouch & Louviere, 2004; Watkins Research Group, 2004; McKinley, 2006). However, evidence also exists that factors such as sustainability can help to tip the scales in favour of a particular city were other competitive destinations criteria are being met (McKinley, 2006).

So do planners care? Of course – they are mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. I believe their personal values are such that they want to pass on an earth that is intact to future generations. Do they care to the degree they are willing to decide in favour of a city that aligns with these sustainable values? There is increasing evidence that they do.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Sustainable events? BSI invites organisers, venues and suppliers to trial new standard


Thursday, 3 May 2007

The British Standards Institution (BSI) today invited event organisers, venues and suppliers to trial the world’s first national standard in sustainable event management.

Designed to provide good practice requirements for planning and managing sustainable events of all sizes and types BS 8901 Sustainable events management system - Specification with guidance for use is now available as a Draft for Public Comment (DPC) prior to its publication in the autumn. During this final development stage BSI is inviting the events industry to test the standard by applying the draft to their own activities and by participating in pilots.

BS 8901 will encompass the complete range of events from large-scale business conferences and one-off events such as the 2012 Olympics, to music festivals, air shows and amateur fundraising events. BS 8901 will help the industry to publicly demonstrate its commitment to sustainability and will provide a route map that explains sustainability in event management as well as how to develop and benchmark this capability in organisations.

As Mike Low, Director of BSI British Standards explained: “With an estimated worth of at least £3 billion, a predicted continued rise in costs, the challenges of climate change and a demand for social responsibility, there is increasing pressure on the event industry to demonstrate good practice in sustainability. Those that are first to use BS 8901 are likely to gain a healthy competitive advantage and those that trial it will help make sure that the standard becomes an invaluable addition to the event management toolkit.”

To download a copy of the draft visit To register interest in trialling the standard contact by Monday 4 June 2007.

- Ends -

For further information, please contact:

Jonathan Mason
Public Relations Officer
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8996 7248

Notes to Editors:

1. The Draft for Public Comment period of the new sustainable event management standard BS 8901 runs until 30 June 2007. This is a formal part of the development of a British Standard and preceeds the final publication but the invitation to participate in organised trails is unique to this standard. All comments will be reviewed by BSI and taken into account when publishing the standard in the autumn.
2. BSI British Standards is the UK’s National Standards Body, working with government, businesses and consumers to represent UK interests and facilitate the production of British, European and international standards to meet economic and social needs. For further information please go to
3. BS 8901 is the first sector specific specification to follow on from the generic sustainable management standard, BS 8900, that was published in June 2006. BS 8901 will assist those involved in event management to manage their environmental, financial and social risks and impacts spanning all aspects of event management including venue selection, supplier selection and partnerships, procurement, communications, employment, operating procedures linked to hosting the event, transport and ‘end of life’ issues linked to post event management (e.g. waste collection, recycling and re-use/disposal of materials).
4. The standard has been drafted for BSI by a team of consultants from Arup and the Events Industry Association (EIA) with input from representatives of a wide network of event industry companies including: ACE, Association of Festival Organisers, Bournemouth International Centre, DEFRA, Event Management Communication, Eventia, ExCeL, F2F Events, Faverhsam House Group, Grimaldi Forum Monaco, Harrogate International Centre, Health, Safety and Welfare at Events, IMEX, Interface Europe Ltd, ISS Facility Services Ltd, Leeds Metropolitan University, National Entertainments Agents Council, National Outdoor Events Association, NCB Exhibitions, NEC Group, Neil Stewart Associates, Nimlok Ltd, Olympia, Production Services Association (PSA), QMJ Publishing Ltd Reeds Carpeting Contractors, RTH Group, Silver Knight Exhibitions, The Big Green Gathering, The Event Services Association (TESA), The Royal Parks, UK Centre for Events Management, Wilde Ones (and NOEA)

Friday, 4 May 2007

Skepticism....and Hope

The USEPA’s recent announcement of acquision rules to give preference to conference facilities which consume less and manage their resources in environmentally responsible ways is good news.

With this new rule my hope is buoyed that perhaps the USEPA may resurrect their Green Meetings Initiative. For those new to green meetings, the USEPA exhibited much foresight through the work of Russell Clarke to create an online resource centre for Green Meetings early in the decade. Russ was a champion for the cause and successfully convened and coordinated many of the individuals and organizations conducting great work in the field of sustainable meetings.

Russ left the USEPA a few years ago, and with him much of the drive to maintain the green meetings movement within the EPA appeared to fade. Efforts by several of the EPA’s initiative partners to update the EPA’s online resource centre have not been responded to. The emergence of new organizations such as the Green Meetings Industry Council and initiatives such as the Convention Industry Councils Green Meetings Task Force and IMEX Awards have not been integrated into the site. In truth, drilling down through the site linked on this week’s press release reveals Russ’ name as the current contact at EPA about green meetings, despite the fact he left the EPA 3 years ago.

The EPA has set an expectation of environmentally responsible practice for their meeting venues. To prepare meeting suppliers to meet this demand there is a need to re-invigorate their green meetings initiative, or at a minimum update their resource centre. Major meeting industry trade publications are clamoring for research and case studies to support green meetings. There is an increasing demand for educational resources from both meeting planners and suppliers. The EPA has and can play a role in transforming the meetings industry from brown to green by engaging not only as a consumer, but educator, researcher and policy maker.

Don’t get me wrong, the USEPA’s new rule is a critical step in catalyzing market transformation to support greener conferences. However providing suppliers with up to date information and resources to help prepare them to respond to this demand by developing environmentally credible initiatives is equally important.

EPA Gives Green Meaning to Its Meetings

Release date: 05/02/2007

Contact Information: (Media only) Dale Kemery, (202) 564-4355 / (Other inquiries) Tiffany Schermerhorn, (202) 564-9902 /

(Washington, D.C. - May 2, 2007) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is erecting a new milestone in the march toward a greener government. Now the agency plans to turn its meetings green. EPA is changing its acquisition rules to give preference to facilities which consume less and manage their resources in environmentally positive ways. The rule change was effective May 1.

For the first time, EPA will consider environmental achievement along with such factors as price and past performance when buying meeting and conference space. The new regulation is a step toward giving priority to hotels and conference centers that demonstrate green progress.

"As our nation shifts to a 'green culture,' EPA is making environmental responsibility a common business practice," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "By promoting green meetings, EPA is helping our partners in government see the environmental and financial benefits of going green."

The program is unique within the federal government, which spends $14 billion a year on travel. Much of that figure pays for hotel and other meeting spaces. EPA alone spends about $50 million on travel annually. The EPA program is seen as a template that eventually may be emulated government wide.

When considering meeting space, EPA intends to evaluate the responses to a 14-point checklist, asking whether a facility has:
  • A recycling program
  • A linen/towel reuse option that is communicated to guests
  • Easy access to public transportation or shuttle services
  • A policy to turn off lighting and air conditioning when rooms are not in use
  • Bulk dispensers or reusable containers for beverages, food and condiments
  • Reusable serving utensils, napkins and tablecloths when food and beverages are served
  • An energy efficiency program
  • A water-conservation program
  • Paperless check-in & check-out for guests
  • Use of recycled or recyclable products
  • Employee training on these green activities
  • Other "green" environmental initiatives such as receiving environment-related certifications, participating in EPA voluntary partnerships, supporting a green suppliers network, etc.
  • Food sources from local growers or a policy to consider the growing practices of farmers who provide the food
  • A policy to use biobased or biodegradable products, including biobased cafeteriaware

EPA anticipates that its Green Meetings Program will have a positive impact on the meeting and hospitality industry. Experience has shown that the cost to many facilities in green upgrades is more than offset by long-term savings.

For further information on EPA Green Meetings or to review the acquisition rule please visit the USEPA online.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

The Carbon Bandaid

Vancouver – Portland: 807km / 0.237t CO2

Vancouver – Newark: 7809km / 1.759t CO2

Vancouver – Frankfurt: 16145km / 3.713t CO2

Vancouver – Pittsburgh: 6992km / 1.583t CO2

Total: 31753km / 7.292t CO2

So it is only 4 months into 2007 and already I have clocked 31,753km in air travel and produced well above my allotment of carbon emissions for a year: 7.3 tonnes.

How depressing.

I am faced with a challenge of how to spread the word about green meetings and event destinations while recognizing that the travel burden associated with the work I do borders on the irresponsible.

So, Plan A for the coming year is to work to reduce my emissions in all aspects of living and working, and sincerely evaluate the necessity of my travel when opportunities arise to do it.

Plan B is to offset the emissions associated with my travel when it is unavoidable.

My purpose in sharing this is because I see I am in danger of using carbon offsetting as a ‘guilt tax’: something I pay to compensate for my contribution to climate change, while I avoid addressing the real problem. The problem being that I am contributing to global warming at a rate far exceeding what is reasonable.

Destination marketers face a similar problem given the high degree of travel involved in the work that they do. Destinations are beginning to adopt carbon offsetting as a way to mitigate the climate impact of their travel. This is an important and necessary strategy to promote improved sustainability, but does not eliminate the need to address how emissions can be reduced.

With this in mind, some ideas about how destinations can reduce their carbon footprint:
  • Consider ways in which staff may be encouraged to use pubic transit, or greener forms of transportation, such as car-pooling or biking.
  • Promote the use of public transit and biking to visitors, and communicate ways in which your destination is ‘walkable’.
  • When replacing or purchasing new office equipment select models that are EnergyStar certified and have energy conserving features.
  • Practice ‘lights out & equipment off’ when you leave the office.
  • Contact your power utility to see if there are options for you to purchase green power.
  • When purchasing incentive gifts, supplies and food and beverage try to give preference to local options, which require less transportation to deliver to you.

When all efforts have been made to reduce emissions, then consider offsetting those that are not avoidable. Organisations that can help you do this include:
When selecting a partner organisation be sure to ask questions about:
  • how they collect and calculate emissions.
  • what projects are supported by offsetting funds and where these projects are located.
  • what percentage of funds are used to support climate projects and what percentage is taken for administration.

If you are interested in identifying ways in which you can reduce your individual emissions and the energy savings associated with them visit As an above average producer of emissions I’ve registered and committed to a reduction of 3.26 tonnes in the coming year, amounting to an estimated energy savings of $290. For those emissions that are unavoidable I have commited to offset my trips through Trees Canada.

Want to see the carbon footprint of your flight? Visit MyClimate.

For further thought Adam Ma’anit writes:
Climate change is an issue we shouldn’t be ‘neutral’ on. Carbon offsets are at best a distraction and at worst a grandiose carbon laundering scheme. We need to grab hold of our responsibility for climate change and take action now. There is absolutely nothing wrong with funding renewables and even some well-designed and appropriate tree-planting projects. Just don’t equate them with a ‘license to pollute’. A ‘carbon positive’ agenda sees through the offset industry’s gambit and relies on a more fundamental commitment to solving climate change.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Hydrogen fleet World's First for Whistler

Convenient, accessible, affordable and clean public transit is a component of a sustainable event destination. This week the province of British Columbia announced Whistler, Canada as the home of the world's first fleet of hydrogen fuel cell powered buses, to be in operation in time for the Olympic Winter Games in 2010.

Hydrogen bus fleet to debut in Whistler
B.C. government announces $45-million for fuel-cell-powered vehicles, expected to hit the road by 2009


From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

May 1, 2007 at 2:50 AM EDT

VANCOUVER — Forget those noisy, diesel-belching dinosaurs you might think of as the standard for public transit.

By 2009 in Whistler, you should be able to hop on a whisper-quiet hydrogen-powered bus that leaves nothing in its wake but water vapour.

The mountain city, a host venue with Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympic games, has been chosen as home base for a fuel-cell powered bus fleet that's expected to showcase hydrogen technology — including, potentially, B.C.-designed systems — to a global audience.

“Our goal is to see the world's first fleet of fuel-cell buses on B.C. roads by the end of 2009 to showcase B.C.'s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the potential of hydrogen technology as an energy solution,” B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell said Monday.

Speaking at a hydrogen and fuel-cell conference in Vancouver, Mr. Campbell also announced the latest infusion of $45-million in funding for the bus program, which is being paid for through an $89-million federal-provincial partnership.

Small numbers of fuel-cell- powered buses have been used in demonstration projects in cities in Europe and the United States over the past decade.

But the Whistler project, which is forecast to have 20 of the city's 30 or so buses running on hydrogen power, will be the largest fuel-cell-powered fleet in the world and the first project to make such vehicles the backbone of a public transit system.

The buses were one of numerous green initiatives outlined in February's Throne Speech, which committed the province to slashing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 33 per cent from current levels by 2020.

Transportation accounts for about 40 per cent of B.C.'s total greenhouse gas emissions.

The size of the fleet is expected to help generate valuable information on technology that remains “pre-commercial,” Ron Harmer, vice-president of B.C. Transit, said.

The Crown corporation handles public transit throughout the province except in Greater Vancouver and will be running the Whistler fleet.

“Part of the objective of the program was to keep the buses together, to gain some experience around issues of operating and fuelling them,” Mr. Harmer said.

A March report on California's Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District's fuel-cell bus program found that the three fuel-cell powered transit buses in the project had an average fuel economy of 56 per cent higher than the fleet's standard diesel buses.

A fuel cell is an “electrochemical device” that combines hydrogen fuel with oxygen to produce electrical energy. The only byproducts are heat and water. Manufacturers are working on numerous vehicle applications, including fuel-cell hybrids. Common concerns about the technology are cost and safety issues around hydrogen fuel storage and handling.

The March report for Alameda-Contra Costa Transit found there had been no safety incidents since the buses were deployed in 2000. But several minor operating issues cropped up: fuel-cell buses were “significantly taller” than the diesel fleet, resulting in more need for tree trimming. In addition, because there was no audible signal that the fuel-cell system was turned on, drivers would sometimes run the buses without turning it on, draining onboard batteries and causing the buses to stall. That has been addressed with a software change that automatically starts the fuel-cell power system when the battery pack is low.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Virtual Green Meetings Marketplace Launched

Finding environmentally and socially responsible tourism businesses just got a little easier for meeting and incentive professionals with the launch of a “one stop shop” virtual marketplace for green meetings.

Thanks to the hard work of Karen Hay and Green Global Village the first online Green Meetings Directory has recently been launched, enabling meeting professionals to more easily seek out suppliers of green meetings products and services.

Meeting suppliers – including green event destinations – can register on the site for free and receive a basic listing of their environmentally and socially responsible products and services. Meeting planners can browse for suppliers by country, category or certification scheme.

Partners in the Green Meetings Directory include Green Global Village, IMEX, the Green Meeting Industry Council, the MCI Group and eTurboNews.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Green Venues: Foundation for Green Destinations (Updated January 2012)

David H. Lawrence Convention Center

Event venues are the corner-stone of a destination’s product. Whether expanding, renovating or undertaking new builds, event venues worldwide are being constructed with "green" principles in mind. But what makes a venue sustainable? Although it always pays to do your own research, certifications, standards and eco-labels can help you learn how "green" is "green" when it comes the event venues. The following post itemizes specific event venues for sustainability according to the following credentials:
  • LEED certification
  • Green Seal certification
  • Green Key eco-label
  • ISO 14000 certification
  • EarthCheck certification
  • Other national and regional programs

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ is an internationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. Destinations with completed LEED-certified venues include:

Centre Des Congres de Quebec
Constructed features are not the only aspect of a sustainable venue, however. Attention should also be paid to how facilities are operated on an on-going basis. Key questions for planners to ask venue managers include:
  • Is there an sustainability policy in place that is signed by upper management and implemented consistently throughout the facility?
  • Are staff trained to practice sustainability daily?
  • Can environmental management practices be measured and substantiated on an on-going basis? 

Green Seal also certifies hotel and lodging properties for environmental practices. Where the property also provides meeting space this standard may help give an indication of how prepared a hotel is to host a more sustainable event. An up-to-date list of properties meeting Green Seal's standard for hotel and lodging can be found here. Most properties as USA-based.

Green Key Global provides a similar international program that recognizes accommodation providers for sustainable practices. In addition to identifying lodging criteria, Green Key also operates a Green Meetings program. Specific properties participating in Green Key can be found here.

A key difference between these two programs is that Green Seal certification requires an onsite verification by an independent auditor. Conversely approximately 20% of Green Key Global hotels experience onsite audits.

ISO 14000 offers frameworks to certify venues for the presence of environmental management systems. The following destinations offer facilities that are ISO 14000 certified:
Edinburgh International Conference Centre

EarthCheck has also certified venues in the following destinations for environmental practices:

Other centres participating in regional, local or other green initiatives include:

Hotel venues in the USA may also participate in EnergyStar for Hospitality, a program designed to reduce energy use and cost. Hospitality venues participating in this program can be queried here.

Note to venues: If you would like to be included in this list please submit a comment below including your email address. To be considered for inclusion your venue must possess a recognizable and reputable accreditation, certification or eco-label.