Get on the sustainability train – it is more than just organic food!

Yes, I know! We are all a bit tired of hearing about sustainability. But it is still important to think about sustainability for your meetings and events – and even more so in the future. And sustainability is more than just serving organic food and not using plastic cutlery.

It is becoming the standard at most major hotel chains and venues to serve organic food – to some degree. In addition, “local” has become a buzzword, and many chefs go above and beyond in order to use only local produce which is in season, or in order to using the whole pig or whole carrot as to avoid food waste. There is nothing new in this (though we probably all could do even more than we already do).

The key word is still WASTE

Although sustainability is not just about food waste, waste is still an important part of a sustainable event – and in this connection, I specifically think about the waste of time and resources.

Many companies have weekly department meetings. But are these meetings really necessary? Will they be canceled if there is nothing important on the agenda? And is there actually an agenda? If the answer to the above is NO, then we are wasting each other’s time.

If you think about the number of hours that are used each week for meetings, it puts things in perspective. A divisional meeting of 1 hour each week held only because “that’s what we have always done”, in a division of 20 people gives 20 wasted hours in a work week – that’s the same as half the time 1 person is on the job per week. That is a lot of wasted resources.

Tooting the hybrid meeting horn

Speaking of the waste of resources, I also think of the many meetings and events where a speaker flies in to give a presentation of 1 hour. Besides the actual costs (the plane ticket, maybe a few taxi rides and a hotel), it also costs a lot of CO2 and time. Why not have the speaker present via video connection? Or why not have a hybrid meeting and save precious time and resources for employees?

There are still many benefits of meeting in real life and not just behind the screen, but it might not be necessary to have face to face meetings every single time. We also save time having online and hybrid meetings, as these usually get a bit shorter.

The reinvention of the tote bag

One of the great sinners in the sustainability equation when it comes to meetings and events are the material and gifts we readily hand out to our participants. Be it tote bags, computer bags, pens, USB sticks, brochures and fun plastic thingamajigs’ to solve problems we didn’t know we had.

Admitted: The tendency to give handouts and gifts has somewhat reclined in recent years. Printed material is almost eliminated and so is the USB with the brochure. Today, it is about creating relationships with people to get their business card – then we can send them the requested material via E-mail.

However, there is still a tendency to want to give the participants something to take back home. This is actually a great thing to hold on to, as a physical object reminds the participants of our event. Just remember to take into consideration that it is the correct thing we hand out.

And is it really necessary with the tote bag? If so, where does it come from? Is it made by Asian child labor and costs 20 cents a piece – or is it made at a factory where employees work under proper conditions and for a proper salary? It costs more, but which one would your participants prefer to support?

Sustainability in a broad perspective will play a greater role in the future. But why wait? Why don’t we just start saving time, food, resources, plastic, child labor, tote bags, etc. immediately?

Get on the sustainability train…it is leaving the station now!

What is sustainability?

Did you know that the definition of sustainability comes from the 1987 Brundtland Report, which stated that “Sustainable development is about creating conditions for ‘a good life’ for all – including future generations.” It is assumed that there is something that must be preserved or continued in the development.

It is not only about ecology and food waste but about seeing development in a large perspective. We need to bring this perspective into meetings and events.

The picture on this blog post is from the Danish street food place called Reffen and the workshop ADP Planet who design resource neutral clothing.

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