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Green Meetings a success in Charlotte, North Carolina

Written by editor

ARLINGTON, VA – The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the trade show industry is second only to the construction industry in producing waste.

ARLINGTON, VA – The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the trade show industry is second only to the construction industry in producing waste. “This was the big ‘ah-ha’ moment for me,” said Mary Tribble, president of Tribble Creative Group, as she spoke at the Convene Green Alliance Focus Forum on November 3, 2008 at the Wardman Park Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC. “I want to do whatever I can to reverse that.”

The forum, entitled “Plant the Seeds on Going Green,” brought together leaders of the Charlotte, North Carolina “Green Team,” which reported on their many initiatives designed to make the city’s convention center, hotels, and other facilities environmentally friendly. The Focus Forum was the latest in an ongoing series of events the Convene Green Alliance is offering to the meetings industry free of charge.

The Charlotte Green Team was co-founded by Tribble and Tim Newman, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. More than 80 organizations across the Charlotte area are now members, sharing a common goal to pave the way for improving the environment through sustainable events and business practices.

“This is just a great example of a regional, public-private partnership that has made real strides in improving the environment,” said Newman, who appeared with Tribble to lead the session. “We have developed many turnkey ways for organizations meeting in Charlotte to provide green programs to their attendees.”

For example, many green programs were implemented in connection with the 2007 North Carolina Conference for Women, an event launched by the Tribble Creative Group, which reduced waste from this conference by 50 percent from the year before. Green initiatives included:

• Using web-based marketing and grassroots support to reduce conference printing by 22,500 sheets of paper
• Eco-friendly printing for the conference program that saved 1,000 pounds of wood and 2,000 gallons of water
• No conference distribution of breakout materials
• Registration bags were made of recycled materials with no chlorine-based compounds
• Review of linen vendors to examine their process for dry cleaning and other sustainable practices
• Recycling stations in the expo hall and outside breakout session rooms
• Non-bottled refreshments to reduce waste
• Use of cups that were made of materials that could decompose in as little as 50 days
• Electronic signage used in place of printed signs in front of breakout sessions
• Use of locally-sourced, organic foods wherever possible and donation of leftover food to a local nonprofit organization or used for composting
• Carpeting was not included in the majority of the expo or at all in the general session area

Tribble offered a six-point formula for success in planning green meetings: set policy, get buy-in, find the right partners, do it, market it, and measure it.

“Research the best practices in your industry,” she said. “Don’t try to do it all the first year – be realistic. Make sure you put your standards in writing.”

Two executives from the Charlotte Convention Center reviewed the programs at their facility designed to support green meetings.

Director of facilities, Wayne Jones, described a long list of green initiatives and displayed several pieces of equipment and supplies used to make the center as environmentally friendly as possible.

The center features “low E” glass that blocks ultraviolet light; regulates the building temperature at 72 degrees; runs lights at 50 percent and turns off heating and air conditioning during move-in and move-out; and recycles aluminum, glass, plastic, paper, and cardboard, as well as 800 pallets per year.

For cleaning, the center uses wall-mounted “blend centers” that maintenance people use to mix combinations of cleaning supplies according to their specific needs. Nearly all cleaning supplies are green-certified and environmentally safe.

Restrooms use environmentallyfriendly, foam soap and auto flushers, and all housekeeping, paper products are made of 100 percent recycled material.

Director of food and beverage, Bill Trippet, reviewed how the food and beverage operation is tailored to support green meetings.

Initiatives include using biodegradable cups; cloth napkins (or paper napkins made from 65 percent recycled content); edible centerpieces at meal functions; purchase of local and organic products; 5-gallon, bulk, water dispensers in place of bottled water; recycled cooking oil; reducing “oversets” at meal functions; and donating leftover food to Second Harvest Food Bank.

Trippet said the convention center also took the lead in developing a poster that explains how to donate food to Second Harvest and distributed the poster to all Charlotte-area hotels and restaurants to build community-wide participation in the program.

“The Alliance offers a means by which like-minded organizations across the association and hospitality/corporate communities can work together to effect real change,” explained Tracey Messina, the executive director of the Alliance.

The organization web site, , offers assessment tools to help associations determine how “green” their meetings are, along with sample association green policies, case studies, news items, checklists, green facts and figures, and links to other helpful resources.