Environmentally Responsible Conferences, Meetings & Events

Conferences, meetings, and events can generate a vast amount of waste. For an environmentally responsible group, this can be embarrassing to the conference sponsors and organizers, and can have a negative impact on an otherwise exciting event. Sustainability-minded groups will appreciate a facility’s commitment to the environment and its willingness to provide extraordinary customer service. Advertising of these services could prove to be a significant market edge for your facility! Best of all, many of these things are easy and will save you and the conference facility money.

Before the event ...

  • Have your event at a Virginia Green facility or other facility that is environmentally-conscious and willing to accommodate your Green Meeting.
  • Conference information should be provided electronically via email or website.
  • All printed materials should be on recycled-content paper that contains at least 30% post consumer material and is not bleached.  Double-side copying is a must.
  • Contract with printers who utilize pollution prevention techniques (e.g., soy-based and other less hazardous inks, energy-efficient equipment, and waste reducing practices).
  • Request that paper products used by the supplier (writing paper, toilet paper, and tissues) have not been bleached with chlorine and contain at least 30% post-consumer content.
  • Accurate attendance projections to service providers will reduce food and other conference wastes.
  • Electronic registration and check-out by the hotel saves paper and energy.
  • Choose facilities that reduce transportation requirements due to proximity to airport, local and public transit, or activities associated with conference.
  • Provide participants with information on public transportation; or provide participants with “public transportation tokens” as part of their registration package to encourage the use of public transportation.
  • Incorporate requirements for environmentally preferable products into contracts with suppliers of conference materials.
  • Green the Exhibitors & Vendors by encouraging vendors to minimize wasteful giveaways wherever possible.
  • Utilize reusable crates or cartons when transporting supplies to reduce packaging materials.
  • Hotel information can be provided to guests electronically or using double-sided copying.
  • Consider purchasing “Green Tags” or “Renewable Energy Certificates” to offset the carbon resulting from your conference.  See http://www.green-e.org/.
  • Ensure that a training program is in place to inform the facility staff of the “greening” policies. Your green event needs to “walk the green walk.
  • Talk the Green Talk.  Let your participants know that you have made an effort to minimize the environmental impacts of your event.

The facility ...

  • Optional towel and linen service should be offered by hotel and staff should be properly instructed.
  • The hotel's laundry service delivers dry cleaning in reusable bags made with recycled material.
  • Encourage the use of bulk/refillable dispensers for toiletries (e.g., hand and shower soap, shampoo, conditioner, hand lotion); or if facility provides toiletries in small quantities, encourage the facility to replace the containers only when they are empty or for a new guest.
  • Encourage energy efficiency by promoting the use of energy efficient lighting & sensors. The use of compact fluorescent bulbs in rooms and in recessed “can-lights” is a good sign that your facility is doing what is practical to reduce energy costs. Also, facilities should be recycling all fluorescent lamps.
  • Energy efficient and electronically controlled heating & air conditioning saves energy and money.
  • Publicly available copiers should have double-side copying option.
  • Recycling should be available and collected in meeting and guest rooms. Determine if containers are provided in rooms to collect recyclable materials, including paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum. Collection bins conveniently located for other, less common materials.
  • Information should be available to guests to explain what is collected and recycled.
  • Promote water conservation. Low-flow toilets and water fixtures save water and there are many opportunities in landscaping, food service, and laundry.
  • Public restrooms are equipped with air dryers to reduce the use of paper towels.

During the event ...

  • Clean-up crews should be trained to recycle all recyclable materials from conferences, receptions, etc.
  • Ensure recycling areas are well marked and displayed throughout the facility and are easily accessible.
  • Reusable serving containers and tablecloths should be used.
  • Use reusable coffee mugs, but otherwise use paper or biodegradable materials for disposable cups and take-out containers.
  • Ensure reusable dishes, silverware, and napkins are provided for conference participants. If not practical, encourage use of bio-degradable disposables, which are now readily available and comparable in cost.
  • Avoid use of boxed lunches to reduce generation of waste materials.
  • Provide water and other beverages in pitchers or other bulk dispensers.
  • Do not plan a balloon release.  Balloon debris often ends up in streams, rivers, and the ocean, even when released inland.  Marine animals can ingest the balloons or become entangled by their attachments, causing great injury and even death. 

After the event ...

  • Assess program and identify potential improvements and suggestions.
  • Provide conference proceedings electronically via email or website.

For additional ideas, go to EPA's Green Meetings website.

For more information on green conferences & events or Virginia Green Lodging, contact:

Office of Pollution Prevention
1111 E. Main St., Suite 1400
Richmond, VA 23219

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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