Thursday, 23 February 2012

16 FREE sustainable event tools you can use right now

Believe nothing in life comes for free? There's always a string attached? Think again! Right here, right now you can get free help with your sustainable event. No memberships. No cost.

And you know what that reason to procrastinate!
  1. Save carbon by finding the closest destination to your attendees.
  2. Find out which event destinations are the greenest, (registration required to score your city for its sustainable event offerings).
  3. Measure the benefits of printing your event program - or anything really - using post-consumer recycled content paper.
  4. Estimate the environmental savings of reusing and recycling your exhibit carpet and find a place to recycle it.
  5. Find event venues around the world who have verified sustainable practices.
  6. Write an event sustainability policy.
  7. Create a waste management plan for your event (registration required).
  8. Find out where to recycle any material anywhere in the USA. 
  9. Locate a greener transportation provider for your event.
  10. Use a GRI Reporting template for your event.
  11. Find a food bank to take your left over food in Canada or the USA.
  12. Choose a better type of seafood for your banquets.
  13. Find local growers in North America. 
  14. Recycle your event's e-waste.
  15. Translate your carbon savings into everyday terms that attendees understand.
  16. Calculate your event or event business' carbon footprint here, here, here or here.
Have a free sustainable event tool or know of one? Please comment!

    Saturday, 18 February 2012

    How to Attain Hotel Elite Status, by Shawna McKinley

    The New York Times recently published an informative summary of what it takes to attain hotel elite status.

    In response I'd like to offer my own version.


    Rather than staying a minimum number of nights, how about I agree to help you, my favourite hotel, to cut your costs and you reward me each time I stay?

    My end of the bargain, I'll agree to:
    • Participate in your towel and sheet reuse program that your housekeepers actually follow through on.
    • Never use the bottled water you leave in my room unless I really need to in which case I'll pay for it.
    • Bring and use my own coffee mug so you can stop buying those foam plastic disposable ones.
    • Turn off the lights and the television when I leave my room.
    • Do whatever you need me to do (or not do) to that computer on the wall that controls the HVAC to make sure I'm an energy efficient guest in your climate.
    • Sort my recyclables in my room in whatever means is necessary to make sure they stay out of landfill in your city.
    • Not touch that pad of paper you leave me to write on.
    • Decline newspaper delivery to my room.
    And in return there is one little tiny benefit I'd like, if you don't mind:
    • Free, fast wireless service for any electronic device I might have in my room.
    I figure this is a fair bargain. After all, I imagine the combined financial benefit of reduced water and energy use and not having to buy as much bottled water, disposable cups, newspaper, notepads, replacement bulbs, etc. should add up to roughly what you charge me for the 'net connection.

    What do you say? Maybe we can come up with a point-system I earn each time I'm an Elite Green Guest?

    So please, forget the free bottled water, newspaper, dedicated check-in lines and free tickets to shows. Let me be me when I stay with you. I promise to Twitter in green glee at your reduced footprint options, also happy that I'm not paying for wireless at your property.

    Tuesday, 14 February 2012

    A Love Letter to the Sustainable Event Pro

    Looking for information about greener event destinations and tips to make your conference more sustainable? Well, you might want to skip over today's blog post then. It's about to get decidedly...lovey.

    I don't mean the mushy and cute kind of love you might bestow in a puppy-cuddling CSR session. Or the congratulatory kind of love I might offer a peer I admire for achieving something great. Nor is it a hippy kind of love that just digs those reusable, hand-crafted name tags, man.

    What I want to talk about is the uncomfortable kind of love that puts all the cards on the table in a way that risks a lot, with uncertain reward. The kind of love that I think may be in the heart of many people who struggle to address sustainability challenges in the event industry.

    In a recent Love Note to the Workaholic, Brene Brown discusses the need for today's leaders to be more vulnerable, more authentic and yes, more loving. She talks about the fear and uncertainty we experience at being ourselves and admitting things - life, projects, events - might not be working. She calls out the anxiety that consumes us as we prevent any hole in our armour-of-performing-to-perfection to show. She points out the certain, stoic 'boss face' we put out to the world which enables us to stay busy, appear strong and seem like we've got it all together. The show must go on, after all. Never was the saying truer than in the event industry!

    But must the show really go on?

    Or will it without challenging some of the certainties we hold dear? Could admitting our problems be an opening to innovation? Could transparency about our imperfections be the path to leadership and a competitive advantage? Could it be a great act of love to ask if things could be better and present ideas that enable us to evolve?

    On Valentine's Day, when the pressure is on to share the love, I can't help thinking about moments when I've felt the most loved. And they didn't usually include those times fresh flowers came to the door. Typically it was when I'd done something really stupid. Gotten angry. Felt insecure. Been terribly sad. And in a moment of vulnerability, after all that had gone wrong between myself and whomever I'd wronged, the time I felt the most loved was when one of us gave in and said:  "I understand. It's okay. We'll get through it". And with a few words, and a sincere, understanding look, a door of empathy was opened and things were right with the world again. I felt accepted. And I felt loved. Even in a very less-than-perfect state.

    I have a hunch many sustainability professionals are hamstrung by similar feelings of uncertainty. A desire to not expose themselves to vulnerability. A propensity to dilute a radical idea to change the status quo for fear it will be met with ridicule. A leeriness to measure and share information because it might expose a weakness that a competitor could capitalise on or criticise.

    So to all of you sustainable event risk-takers who make yourselves vulnerable in spite of these pressures, I'd like to offer a love letter of thanks to you for:
    • Having courage to state a problem and ask for a solution, especially when it goes against the norm, including eliminating bottled water for VIPs! 
    • Transparently sharing your successes, failures and sustainable event case studies so we can all learn to tackle problems in more effective ways.
    • Being willing to forgo a short-term benefit for a long-term gain, especially when you see it leaves a window of opportunity to your competitor.
    • Leading sponsors and exhibitors down a more sustainable path by requiring less wasteful practices, even when it risks critical sources of revenue.
    • Admitting when someone may not be treated fairly, whether it be a housekeeper, co-worker or attendee and contributing to making the situation right.
    • Playing in the sandbox of hybrid and virtual events. You are the futurists who see the potential to grow events in carbon-sensitive ways.

    People passionate about event sustainability do courageous work. Loving work. On Valentine's Day and everyday let's take a step to empathise and engage with one another.

    Love ya!


    Wednesday, 8 February 2012

    10 Tips for Sustainable Event Signs

    Peas and carrots. Milk and cookies. Signs and events. Some things just always go together. On-site graphics are a big sustainable event challenge. Reductions have huge benefits, financially and environmentally. But cut back too much and you better hope you're not the one staffing the information desk to bear the brunt of complaints from attendees having no idea how to navigate your venue. Not to mention listen to a disappointed creative department who complains the event doesn't have a strong brand.

    So what to do about making signage more sustainable? A list of ideas to ponder:

    1. Choose a venue that is easy to navigate. We've all been to them: event venues that make you wonder what the architect was thinking. Those places where you always seem lost, everything looks the same, and nothing makes it obvious 'you are here'. Then there are other venues that get it just right, designed in a way that makes it intuitive where to go and how to get there. Save yourself money and your attendees a big headache by choosing a venue that by its inherit design and existing signs minimises the need for temporary directional signs from the outset.

    2. Take advantage of existing digital signage. More and more venues are installing digital signs for session space and concourse areas. Take advantage of it if you can. Onsite digital signage doesn't need to be shipped and can be programmed and corrected more easily than hard signage. It's also a great way to enhance sponsor recognition, especially if available in concourse areas.

    Great use of venue-provided digital signage at EventCamp Vancouver
    3. Consider directional staff. Granted, there is a cost involved and use of staff may still require branded items like shirts, or smaller hand-held signs. But in an age where we have less face-to-face customer service, providing smiling, helpful directional staff instead of directional signage can be a throw-back to the good-old-days of 'I remember when I could talk to a person and not a computer to get the help I need'. Plus, temporary local staffing agencies are becoming an essential employment resource for many people displaced by tougher economic times, helping the economic spin-offs of events to circulate in local host communities.

    Directional staff help JavaOne attendees navigate a complicated event neighbourhood with the aid of floor plan signs printed on cardboard at the entrance to the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco
    4. Divide, and conquer. I tend to think of event signs as coming in two types: one-time and multiple use. When planning for signage it can help to think of things this way in order to navigate the trade-offs involved in selecting substrates. Because one-time use signage is disposable it makes sense to make it out of most sustainable materials. Switching to paper board from plastic or foamcore is a great example of this and is something that can typically be done on a cost-neutral or cost-saving basis. In order to enable reuse other graphics may need to be made out of more durable options. For example, many large-scale banners are made of PVC, a less environmentally desirable material than recycled content fabric or compostable substrates which can be used for banners, but are typically more expensive and may not hold up well to multiple uses. However, if designed for reuse the durability of PVC banners or boards could be justifiable. On the flip side, banners that include temporary sponsor logos may be better produced using a recyclable or compostable substrate.

    Non-dated reusable polyester banners made of recycled content grace the hallways to Cisco Live US 2011
    5. If you can marry it, don't date it. Many events produce large branded installations, banners and kiosks. Many of these materials have high reuse potential, especially if venues are the same year to year or installations can be built according to standard specifications. So if you can reuse it, don't date it. Eliminating dates and locations is the easiest way to maximise your investment in branded event items you can't avoid.

    The Canadian Tourism Commission uses generic, non-dated signage for Canada Media Marketplace
    6. Print direct to substrate. Some printing processes use films that create waste in the printing process. Asking your graphics company to print direct to substrates like cardboard eliminate this step and therefore waste, while improving the ability to recycle signs.

    7. Avoid grommets and adhesives that can limit recycling. Says it all really. Many of us are familiar with the need to sort recyclables, either at home or at the recycling plant. Mixing materials introduces one more un-necessary barrier to recycling, so avoid it if you can.

    8. Substrate matters. Prioritise renewable materials and recycled content. Use as much post-consumer content as possible. This applies to paper, plastics and fabrics.

    Fully recyclable cardboard substrates are a staple for temporary event signs at Oracle OpenWorld
    9. Just say no to adhesives. There are some options that are emerging that are better for the planet, but adhesive graphics should be left out of your on-site branding if you can avoid them. New options exist on the market that are paper-based and include recycled content, which helps. However, glues used to adhere films make adhesive signage non-recyclable so if you're trying to eliminate landfill take it off your graphics list.

    10. Donate and re-purpose. Sometimes you're stuck with a sign that is non-recyclable that you can't reuse. Over the years I've been amazed what artists, students, actors and farmers can do with event signage. So if you're stuck with a sign you'd hate to landfill ask your venue or the convention and visitors bureau if they know of any resource centres that could re-purpose your sign to a community group. Alternatively businesses exist that may be willing to take your banners to create bags, wallets and laptop cases.

    Intel Developer Forum re-purposes event banners as stylish messenger bags that are used at other Intel events
    Moscone Center donates vinyl event banners to local schools for murals and drama productions
    These are just a few ideas that have helped event organisers maximise the impact of their event brand while minimising the impact on the planet. Welcome other ideas and examples!

    Friday, 3 February 2012

    Playing Hooky

    At three or thirty, I still can't keep up.

    Christie Falls, Winter

    Hoping to capture a successful crossing, I'm sure