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Guide to holding green and sustainable meetings

According to the United Nations Environment Program, more than 80 million people around the world attend a meeting, conference or trade show every year. The average meeting produces 20 pounds of garbage per person each day. The average conference delegate produces 61 pounds of solid waste and produces 1,418 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions – about the same as operating a car for one year – all during the course of a three-day conference.

The Co-operators says it has been focusing on holding more sustainable meetings. “It has been our experience that regardless of the size of the meeting, there is always an opportunity to incorporate more sustainable practices into the planning of events,” it said.

At IMPACT!, the Co-operators Youth Conference for Sustainability Leadership 2009 event, the company put sustainability factors into play, including purchasing carbon offsets to minimize the ecological footprint.

Now, The Co-operators has publically released its Guide to Sustainable Meetings to help other organizations and individuals hold ecologically-sound meetings.

Sustainable meetings aren’t all about the environment, either, says The Co-operators. Benefits of these meetings can include:

  • Cost savings: By using fewer resources (e.g. paper), you can reduce the costs of your meeting.
  • Enhance your reputation: Your green meeting practices will be a visible demonstration of your sustainability commitment. By greening your meeting, you can avoid the reputational risks of being out of step with your participants’ values
  • Increase staff and participant engagement: Sustainable meetings can inspire and motivate staff and other participants who are often sources of good ideas and process improvements.
  • Foster innovation: A focus on reducing the negative impacts of your meetings can result in new ways of doing business for your organization.
  • Help achieve your sustainability goals: For those with a sustainability policy or strategy, you can further advance your progress by implementing a sustainable meeting program.

The Co-operators guide is designed to be a resource for conscientious organizers of all types of gathering. From everyday staff meetings to large conferences, sustainability should be taken into account at every stage of planning. The 34-page guide is full of tips, case studies and resources and is designed to be as interactive as possible. Checklists and questionnaires are available on a fillable PDF format that can be saved separately on your computer, reducing the need for printing.

“Embedding sustainability principles into the everyday operations of an organization starts with a new way of thinking about the things we all do every day. Documents like this guide remind us to do the little things that, we hope, will become second nature over time,” said Kathy Bardswick, president and CEO of The Co-operators. “This is information that applies to everyone, and our hope is that others interested in making a difference will make use of it.”


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