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Meeting Planners Spreading the Word: ‘Green Is the New Gold’

When Tina Sanchez-Alvarez, a local marketing executive and a member of Meeting Professionals International, an organization of meeting planners, traveled from San Diego to Houston to attend a conference in February, she was handed a reusable plastic bottle and was shown a water dispenser where she could refill it.

The hot topic of the event was how planners could help to make the world a better place , one plastic bottle, one sheet of paper, one kilowatt of energy and one reusable food item at a time.

All 2,500 people in attendance were given the reusable bottles. So instead of tossing out the disposable kind usually given out at such confabs, reusing the bottles meant that that much less plastic headed for the landfill, she said.

“Think about it,” she added.

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Eliminating disposable event items in favor of reusable ones was on a list she was given itemizing 12 ways to make meetings green.

Heading the list was reducing paper consumption by using online registration versus mail-in. Planners were also advised to ask meeting hotels about their “eco-efficiency,” such as lighting, water use and waste management.

Another suggestion was to send unused and edible foods to local food banks. No. 7 on the list: Reuse whenever possible. Unused toiletries , the little bottles of shampoo and lotions that hotels provide rooms , could be distributed to local shelters, along with trade show giveaways. No. 9: Recycle. Conspicuous recycling bins placed in common areas at conferences would also help.


Not Just A Fad

Such “initiatives” are catching on, said Sanchez-Alvarez, sales director at Riverwalk Golf Club in Mission Valley.

“I get calls from meeting planners that ask about some of these options here,” she said.

They also inquire whether the golf course is maintained in an eco-friendly manner, she added.

Pierre Charmasson, director of meetings and events for Professional Event Solutions and president of the local MPI chapter, said that the green movement is not a fad.

“It’s in the news,” he said. “It’s everywhere you turn and it’s probably the fastest-growing trend in our industry, an industry that brings people together.”

In May, the local chapter plans to hold a conference at the Rancho Bernardo Inn that will focus “on nothing but green meetings,” he said.

In June, at a board of director’s retreat, the local MPI chapter plans to give new members flash drives, otherwise known as thumb drives, to store and retrieve information electronically rather than using paper.

“In the past when the new board members came, we used to give them three-ring binders but this time we said, ‘Why waste the binders?’ Green is the new gold.”

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