Any time hundreds or thousands of people gather in one place to share ideas and make connections, there's a big opportunity to make a big impact, and not always the kind we'd like. According to Nancy Wilson, co-founder of the Green Meeting Industry Council, over a 5-day meeting, 2,500 people can use as many as 62,500 plates, 87,500 napkins, 75,000 cups or glasses, and 90,000 cans or bottles.

Luckily, there are steps meeting planners can take to ensure less impact on the earth. Here are five ways to green your next meeting:

  1. Use caterers who utilize local and organic ingredients in the menu offerings
  2. Choose venues in "walkable" areas so attendees can get around without relying on cars or buses.
  3. Reduce or eliminate paper waste by encouraging recycling and emailing materials (rather than relying on physical handouts.)
  4. Rethink "swag." Pens, notepads, mugs and other marketing materials and attendee gifts are often left behind and create significant waste, so use sparingly. Instead of a printed handout, consider creating an iPhone app or mobile-friendly, interactive website.
  5. Choose eco-friendly hotels and meeting venues. You can start your search at I Stay Green, or check the US Green Building Council to find out which venues in your chosen destination are LEED-certified.

Did you know that Grand Rapids leads the nation in the number of LEED-certified buildings per capita? Find out why else Grand Rapids has been called "America's Greenest City."


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