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.