5 Steps to a Greener Meeting

People behave differently when they travel. The average single hotel guest uses 15 percent more energy than an entire U.S. household, and the same goes for water, waste and carbon generation. Considering there were about 5 million hotel rooms and more than 1 trillion occupied room nights in the United States in 2013, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the impacts can be huge. While hotels are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability, it takes some responsibility on your part to push for greater environmental efforts from your meeting’s host hotels. Here are five steps for working with a hotel to lessen your event’s impact on the environment:

1. Gather information. Each hotel will be at a different level on the sustainability continuum, so you must first gather information specific to your property. Try searching “[your hotel name] sustainability” and see what comes up. Does it have solar panels or a recycling program? What if nothing comes up at all? Start by making two separate lists: one of the things the hotel is already doing, and another of the things you would like to see it do. (Hint: Research other hotels in the area for ideas, and make note of local resources to share with your hotel.) Then, send your list to your hotel contact, thanking him or her for current efforts and asking for a status on the remaining items.

2. Determine what’s important to your group. Once you’ve received feedback from the hotel about your list, pinpoint gaps and identify areas that are most important to you for the hotel to work on. Perhaps it is an energy audit to identify potential energy savings, eliminating bottled water or a linen reuse program. Remember, this isn’t the time to overwhelm—a little effort can go a long way.

3. Give the why and how. Along with your revised list, send a message stressing the importance of these efforts to your group while also making a case for sustainable business. Check out “Green Lodging News” for ideas, or read cost-savings examples outlined in the “Green Hotels & Responsible Tourism Initiative” white paper. Throughout the process with the hotel, kindly suggest deadlines. Check in periodically to gauge progress and offer encouragement.

4. Communicate to your attendees. Once the hotel has new initiatives in place, show them off! Inform your attendees of hotel efforts and show them how to get involved through pre-event communications. Ask the hotel to utilize communication devices such as TV displays, email lists, front-desk signage and personal messages upon check-in to spread the word. Armed with this information, attendees can feel good knowing they’ve made a sustainable hotel choice and can understand how to participate during their stay.

5. Congratulate. Depending on the city and hotel, many of your requests will require a leap into the unknown. Congratulate your partners for their efforts and encourage them to make these new efforts long-term changes.Hotel sustainability doesn’t have to be difficult. It can be rewarding for everyone involved. Remember that small victories can make a big difference, especially when they continue long past your stay.

Aaron Elliott is a project manager at MeetGreen, where he is responsible for implementing sustainability initiatives for conferences and events. Follow him on Twitter or email him at aaron@meetgreen.com.

Photo credit: Bardessono Hotel by Melissa Hincha-Ownby