Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Wattzon? Wattzoff!

So it's year end and in typical fashion I'm looking back over the year and feeling decidedly guilty about my carbon footprint. I'm not sure if anyone has tried this online tool, but I did yesterday and found out - again - that I am living well beyond what is my fair share of energy to consume (thanks to Paul Salinger for the link to this).

Check out, compare and manage your energy footprint at Wattzon.

I like the tool because not only does it show me what my energy footprint is, but it shows me the decision-points where I can change my behavior permanently to reduce it.

My biggest energy sink is of course the flights I take. I'm trying hard to reduce this by:
  • Consolidating my trips
  • Scheduling trips in batches to avoid making multiple ones
  • Being efficient in site-visits to make one rather than many, and
  • Taking most direct routings

Sadly, though, my energy consumption is still much higher than I would like. I know this question is always a tough one for our industry, but any proactive and positive approaches others are taking to make better air travel decisions?

Friday, 24 October 2008

Green Venues at Work: SFO's Hotel Triton

Kimpton Hotels has become know for it's Earth Care Program. Check out the efforts of San Francisco's Hotel Triton in this video from the Sundance Channel.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see

I'm often asked: What city is greenest? Which venues are most sustainable? What hotel properties are strongest in CSR?

I've tried to give perspectives on these questions in different posts on this blog, namely here, here and here, as well as the side bar.

When I answer this question I'm careful to refer to what I know in my own experience. Where I don't have this direct experience I rely on the eyes of people and organisations I trust: certifiers and verifiers such as ISO 14001, Green Seal, LEED and government agencies.

I'm also careful to try and avoid making blanket statements or observations about brands, particularly hotel chains. I recently heard someone say "I'd never hold a green meeting at x hotel company's properties. They're not green." I admit I've caught myself saying the same. More than once. I have heard numerous sales representatives tout the green merits of their chain; and I've left numerous site visits frustrated by individual properties who do not meet the image and promise of corporate policies put forward by sales persons or head office. My lessons to deal with these situations?
  1. Inform myself of the corporate policies of the CVB's, destinations and hotel chains I'm working with.
  2. Mentally prepare to be both surprised....and disappointed. :)
  3. Ask properties how they are working to achieve these policies on the front lines and talk about my expectations during negotiations.
  4. Observe practice on-site. Trust my own eyes, or those of peers who have experienced these cities, venues and hotels.
  5. Contract for specific practices and measurement and be willing to be flexible and honour intention where everything I want may not be in place.
  6. Track performance and give feedback.
  7. Honour leaders who are taking steps forward in sustainability.

Know leading meeting venues, cities or hotels other planners could benefit from in their destination selection processes? Please comment!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Modern Day Slavery?

Dubai: 1990 - 2003

"Down at the base of the pyramid are the labourers, waiters, hotel employees and unskilled workers from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, the Philippines and beyond. They move deferentially around the huge malls, cafes, bars and restaurants, bowing down and calling people sir and madam. In the middle of the day, during the hottest hours, you can see them sleeping in public gardens under trees, or on the marble floors of the Dubai Mosque, on benches or pieces of cardboard on side streets. These are the victims of the racism that is not only flourishing in the UAE but is increasingly being exported to the rest of the Middle East. Sometimes it reminds you of the American south in the 1930s."

For the most part I've kept to issues of environmental concern for destinations. In his article on migrant labour Ghaith Abdul-Ahad provides an eye-opening narrative of life for those workers that should be read by all planning meetings in the Middle East.

We Need Slaves to Build Monuments

Update: Another related editorial on Dubai in the Independent, April 2009:
The Dark Side of Dubai

Update: Vanity Fair March 2011
Dubai Running on Empty

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Finally! Find a City to MeetGreen!

Selecting host cities on the basis of environmental practices just got a whole lot easier thanks to Best Places to MeetGreen.

Looking for a green meeting city? Thanks to Meeting Strategies Worldwide you can now find one that has been verified by meeting planners using a scorecard that inventories city event infrastructure, and CVB, meeting venue and hotel practices.

Looking to meet close? The Best Places to MeetGreen Calculator shows you how. Simply plug in where your attendees are coming from and choose 5 cities you're considering for your meeting. With the click of a button determine which has the smallest air travel footprint.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

A Role for Government

To a large extent sustainable meetings are the direct responsibility of local hospitality communities. Government is a partner, however, and can provide programs that encourage the development of greener meeting destinations. This is particularly the case for cities that have government managed convention facilities.

Some tools and examples of best practices I've recently come across:

Purchasing policies: Executive Order 08 -02 requires that all city departments in San Francisco - including the Moscone Convention Center - procure products that enhance recycling and resource conservation. This includes mandating the purchase of 100% post consumer recycled content paper and green products that have been approved by the Mayor's Office.

Product bans: From plastic bags to bottle water and polystyrene, municipalities are experimenting with product bans that reduce environmental impacts. Examples include London, Ontario's recent bottled water ban in city facilities - including the convention centre. A trailblazer of a green city, Portland, Oregon banned polystyrene 18 years ago!

Transit initiatives: Yet another innovative example of sustainable living - Portland's Fareless Square. Fareless Square is a transit initiative that includes the downtown and convention neighbourhoods of the city, where passengers can ride the MAX train line for free!

Green building initiatives: Last year the City of Chicago announced a Green Roof Grant Program, designed to help residents and businesses save energy and maintenance costs by creating green rooftops.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Green SFO



What the heck is up in the first city in the USA to ban plastic shopping bags and reach for a zero waste target by 2020?

To find out check out new Green SF site. The San Francisco CVB has packed the site with information on how to green your trip, your meeting and your business, only in San Francisco.

Photo: San Francisco CVB

Monday, 1 September 2008

It's Official: Green Moves from Fringe to Supertrend

Destination Marketing Association International has officially identified sustainability as one of the most important business opportunities facing destination marketing professionals into the future. The organization has identified green issues as one of eight super trends that can be expected to present opportunities and challenges for destination professionals in the coming years. Other key trends include things such as regulation, technology, the battle for relevance and attention.

Will this mean that we start to see more destination cities embracing green? Probably. I think many CVB's and DMO's will be taking inventory of their sustainability assets to better understand what their communities can offer. This will be packaged and presented in more easily accessible ways to their markets.

Will it lead to new initiatives to support more sustainable experiences that reach beyond recycling? Perhaps. Many destinations will likely discover they have some work to do to understand and create the kind of sustainable infrastructure planners and travelers want. To do this will require some destination professionals to step out of their traditional marketing roles, to become more involved destination management.

Will this help us get greener services? Yes, and no. We will be able to get more information about sustainable destination features. But will we know for sure how green these services are? My take on this is that the number of destinations who hang out their green shingle results in an equal increase in traveler confusion about who is the greenest. Green-washing will emerge as a key challenge, underlining the need for standards.

Will planners be knocking down the doors of cities embracing sustainability? In all honestly, not in droves. For planners I think key considerations will remain things like accessibility, cost, availability and safety. That said where destinations are competitive on these factors sustainable practices will tip the scales in favor of those cities that can claim them. Furthermore, those cities that cannot claim them will be at risk of losing business to those who can.

Press release.

Destination Marketing Association International.

Virgina Beach CVB Green Certified

Kudos to the Virginia Beach Convention & Visitor's Bureau for being named the Commonwealth's first "Virginia Green Destination". I believe the CVB is only the second in the country to be certified independently for its sustainable practices.

The destination has been credited for efforts that include an expanded beach recycling program, the introduction of new hybrid-electric shuttles and a new green event certification program.

To see the innovative programs being created check out Virginia Beach Green. The web site is a good model to look at for examples of how to communicate green services to leisure travelers and the meetings market.

Photo: Virginia Beach CVB.

Kyoto Gets Radical Green

In doing some site selection research recently I came across a pretty revolutionary green hotel in Kyoto!

Get this: Not only do they offer a green guest room program, but if you take part they credit you 500 yen per night (about $5 US)! A great way to help discount your internet access in my opinion, or pay for an afternoon tea (organic of course!). I'm not sure if they do it for meetings, but a pretty radical and innovative idea!

The property is the Kyoto Takaragaike Prince Hotel.

Thanks to James at the Kyoto CVB for this tidbit :)

Thursday, 28 August 2008

New Ad Campaign: Toronto Take 2

Of course, had to share the one with the dog :)

Interesting to see the campaign focusing not only on sustainable aspects of the city but cultivating a personal connection with staff.

New Ad Campaign: Toronto Take 1

Noticed a shiny green new image being conveyed in an advertising campaign recently unveiled by Tourism Toronto at MPI's World Education Congress.

Sustainability Shortlist

Seek me a green city!

Wouldn't I love to hear that from a client: We want to hold a green meeting, so find us the most sustainable destination!

Why would I love it? Quite frankly: I'm lazy. I know that if I can find a city with an infrastructure and culture that supports sustainability that it is going to be much easier to plan a green meeting. Odds are vendors will already be sustainability-minded and essential conditions for things like transit and recycling will be in place.

So where would I seek the city? Following is a list of online tools that can help you shortlist cities for sustainable practices. As with any list or index make sure you pay attention to the criteria that are used and that they align with your philosophies.

Best Places to MeetGreen
Grist Magazine's Top 15 Cities and Smartish Cities Lists
Environmental Performance Index (Columbia & Yale Universities)
Ethical Traveler Destinations Report
Mercer Quality of Life Index
America's 50 Greenest Cities

Smarter Travel Top 10 Green Destinations
Sustain Lane
Green Meeting Industry Council
Green Globe

Monday, 21 July 2008

The Power of Two Feet

Being a sustainable event destination means creating and promoting walkable meeting neighbourhoods: places where visitors and residents are encouraged to get out of their cars and use the power of two feet.

Not only does it makes sense to alleviate traffic congestion and parking woes, but it improves local air quality and contributes to an animated sense of place in a city.

For meeting planners walkable cities present bottom line benefits. Hotels that are close to the main convention centre reduce the need for shuttles and other forms of ground transportation.

So what cities are most walkable? Find out at Walkscore.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

The "Other" Green Cities

Grist Magazine recently completed a series on cities that are striving to be greener, although they might not be the first cities to come to mind. Read more on the 'smartish' destinations they feel are making unexpected progress in the drive to be more sustainable.

You can also read more about Grist's Top 15 Green Cities.

And in honour of the winning city, a video from those who call it home:

Destination Marketing Twist on Environment Day

As the host of Environment Day 2008 Tourism New Zealand has produced a brief video outlining how they feel they are working to epitomise the pure, green image their destination is known for worldwide. I'll let you be the judge....

Destination Guardians

VideoAd by Mixpo

Recently took a virtual trip to New Zealand to discover Tourism New Zealand is taking some active measures to address sustainability and also use these measures to entice visitation to the country. Embedding some samples here for others to enjoy, reflect on and critique....

Bang Discovers Kaitiakitanga

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

New Destinations Added

I've posted three new cities to the green destinations list today: Chicago, San Francisco and Albuquerque (please see sidebar).

The addition of Chicago is based on the recent launch of the mayor's "Green Chicago" initiative - to make the city the greenest in America. Co-inciding with the recent hosting of the US Green Building Council's Greenbuild Conference and Expo, this iniative also includes incentives for the hospitality community in the city to pursue green certification. As a result of the mayor's challenge 31 local hotels have undertaken a commitment to pursue green certification in the coming years. The expansion to McCormick Place has also recently received LEED certification, further demonstrating support for green meetings.

San Francisco has been included for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the city's prevailing green culture. More specifically, the Moscone Center has a long-standing commitment to environmental responsibilty. In addition the city operates a Hospitality Non-Profit Collaborative community outreach, re-use and recycling effort. This program has 20 active hotel participants and averages upwards of 10,000 lbs of donated materials per month and a cost savings to hotels of $80-250 per month. For more information on the program please contact Jo Licata, Community Projects Manager, Hilton San Francisco, jo_licata@hilton.com.

Lastly, Albuquerque has been added to reflect the CVB's recent support of the Green Meeting Industry Council. As such the CVB has made a commitment and expressed intent to prioritize green meetings moving forward. Am looking forward to news and updates about their journey.

Monday, 14 January 2008

‘Greener’ meetings challenge for German event organisers

IMEX Global Data Exchange
January 2008

IMEX poll shows conference organisers increasingly take the environment seriously

The opinions of meetings organisers in Germany have strengthened in favour of staging more environmentally-friendly events and in some respects are more pro-green that those of industry colleagues in most European countries.

This analysis follows a survey (December 2007) involving over 100 German corporate and association buyers from sectors as diverse as food manufacture and engineering, pharmaceuticals and the automobile sector, telecommunications and medical services. The job titles of those replying typically include: event manager; outbound sales manager; director, conventions; p.r. manager; events consultant; and travel advisor. For benchmarking purposes IMEX used a survey of comparable pan-European attitudes to the environment that was undertaken in September/October 2007.

A higher proportion of German compared to European MICE buyers (81% to 72%) say that they ‘would deliberately avoid destinations/venues known to have a poor environmental record’. A similarly high proportion (76%) admit to having ‘taken environmental considerations into account in their work’, a percentage again higher than the wider European average of 72%. Characteristic green-minded comments are: ‘a sustainability approach matters in this new age’; ‘we now favour destinations reachable by train’; ‘we always compensate for and offset emissions caused by travelling delegates’; and ‘we always arrange local transfers by bus rather than encourage the use of taxis’. The most frequently mentioned suppliers in the country used by organisers to ensure the staging of more environmentally-friendly meetings are Deutsche Bahn and the Star Alliance airline grouping. The City of Frankfurt was also highlighted for its environmentally-conscious approach.

Asked to specify and rank those green practices that they have applied to their events, the German buyers replied as follows (with comparable European ranking):

* Recycled conference material 1st / 1st
* Selected an hotel for its environmental programmes 2nd / 2nd
* Selected a transportation supplier for its green credentials 3rd / 6th
* Undertaken fundraising for a green cause 4th / 5th
* Viewed wilderness or animal conservation areas 5th / 3rd
* Involved an inspirational speaker on the environment 6th / 4th

The degree to which the German specialists specifically try to use environmentally-friendly transportation can be noted.

German buyers are also significantly more in favour of applying an eco-tax on conferences (whether on travel, venue hire, registration fees etc.) than is the average across Europe, namely 65% in contrast to around 50% generally. Their arguments in favour include: ‘this would underline just how important the issue is’; and ‘it is time to face reality and invest in our future’; whilst those against said: ‘we already pay enough in fuel taxes’; ‘there is no guarantee that the money will be used to help the environment’; and ‘there is no real measure of what sustainability means or involves’.

As with fellow buyers across Europe the German respondents are unanimous in anticipating that the environment will matter more in coming years.

They also expect to take the issue ‘more seriously’ into account in their work (79% compared to the Europe-wide figure of 74%). Characteristic (verbatim) comments of German buyers supporting such pro-green views include:
  • ‘because large groups and opinion leaders are involved in meetings and can therefore influence change’
  • ‘because the greenhouse gas emissions arising from delegate travel are so obvious to the public’
  • ‘because our industry clearly depends on the natural environment for its success’
  • ‘because if we continue to do nothing but talk we will leave our industry wide open to competition from video-conferences’
  • ‘because soon it will become unthinkable to stage a conference without sustainability fees’
  • ‘because the problem is becoming so fundamental to the future of mankind’

However, there is still a minority who deny the seriousness of climate change and doubt whether it is being made worse by carbon emissions. Their (verbatim) comments include:
  • ‘this is all just a media bubble that is going to burst and quickly be forgotten’
  • ‘this is an issue where people are responding with emotion, not logic, and the seriousness of the situation is much exaggerated’
  • ‘we must learn to adapt to climate change and not fight it’

Nevertheless, and irrespective of such views, a significantly high proportion of event organisers (74%) believe that their delegates are becoming more concerned about the environment and how the meetings that they attend seem to impact on global warming. Typical comments include: ‘our attendees are becoming better informed all the time’ … ‘we are beginning to see resistance to participation if our conference doesn’t look sufficiently green’.

Finally, and turning to the future, German conference organisers want industry leaders to provide them with more and better information to help make their events greener (e.g. benchmarking criteria; sustainability tips; case-studies of eco-friendly conferences); and they also call on the German government to do much more. Their suggestions for such official intervention include: ‘legislate to make sustainability more fashionable’ … ‘undertake more accurate research and monitor more’ … ‘make it clear that the conference sector is seriously contributing to travel-related emissions’ … and ‘to set an example with politicians travelling less and video-conferencing more’. Above all, many suggested that ‘the German government should be investing more in environmental sciences in order to improve our technological response to the changing climate’.

The prevailing view seems to be that sustainability is no longer a fad, nor merely an excuse for cost-saving, but is now an essential justification for investing in the future.