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The Green Piece: Strides in Sustainability Matter

by Haley Wilson Freeman

On October 8, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a comprehensive report warning that world governments must make “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” to prevent irreversible consequences related to global warming.

The report identifies the year 2030 as a crucial benchmark, when global temperatures are expected to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. Experts warn that at this level and beyond, we can expect increased heatwaves, sea level rise, droughts, devastating storms and for coral reefs to all but disappear—conditions we are already beginning to experience at current temperatures (1 degree C above pre-industrial levels).

This sobering news signals the absolute necessity for all industries, governments, institutions and communities to pull together to save our planet. This is everyone’s problem, and no one has the privilege of conducting business as usual while others make the sacrifices necessary to ensure that future generations have a future.

This is a good time for us, as an industry, to review where we have made strides in sustainability and why it is important that we renew our commitment to the environment.

Logistics and Shipping

There is no getting around the fact that the shipping of freight, sometimes over long distances, is necessary to staging a large meeting or convention. Logistics companies have been proactive about evaluating environmental performance and implementing creative strategies to green the supply chain. From energy-efficient warehouse facilities, to cleaner burning vehicles, to logistical tactics that minimize shipping distances, emphasize two-way truck moves and facilitate recycling efforts, these companies are minimizing the industry’s carbon footprint in significant ways.

Travel and Transportation

People also have to be transported to event locations. With the environment in mind, more organizations and meeting planners are, when possible, localizing event venues, using technology to link participants and speakers in lieu of in-person attendance, and using eco-conscious travel strategies like carpooling or buying carbon offsets. Major convention cities are effectively creating alternative transportation options for business travelers, with accessible and desirable public transportation connecting airports and hotel-convention corridors.

Convention Centers and Meeting Venues

Convention centers and other meeting venues have taken deliberate steps to make facilities greener while creating a higher quality experience for visitors. The public and private sectors have joined forces across the nation to plan for and build infrastructure that helps to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions and increase recycling and composting initiatives. Bold innovations in green building have yielded beautiful structures that bring technology and nature together in new ways. From green roofs that are havens to bee communities, to buildings powered by geothermal and solar energy, these monuments to the future—many of which are LEED certified—are sources of pride to local communities and a draw to green-minded event hosts.

Green Meetings

Trade organizations, corporate leaders and event planning professionals have responded to the call for a cleaner, greener industry by collaborating to define and implement sustainable meetings practices. Technology is replacing paper, and disposable water bottles are going the way of the dinosaur. Virtually every show floor boasts recycling bins, and kitchens are engineering clever ways to reduce food and service ware waste. I recently visited a venue where landfill-clogging coffee stirrers were replaced by sticks of linguini—ingenious!

In May 2018, the Events Industry Council (EIC) hosted the first Global Sustainable Event Standards Forum at IMEX Frankfurt, where sustainability leaders from around the world drafted a definition for event sustainability and four guiding principles for sustainable event standards. The EIC and other organizations are continuing to remake the industry through ongoing education and collaboration, resulting in actions that have transformed our profession from one of the biggest environmental offenders, to one of the greatest environmental leaders.

We must press on, blazing a trail for other industries that would be greener, while sending the message to political leaders at home and abroad that our planet is in crisis. They need to know that we are willing to give up the old ways, and we are eager to innovate and collaborate. We can be the heroes of the new millennium, the champions who stood for change, or we can be the generation that destroyed the world. Who would you rather be?

Haley Freeman is a writer and a passionate advocate for the environment and sustainable business practices. Connect with her at www.linkedin.com/in/haley-freeman.

This story originally appeared in the November/December issue of Exhibit City News, p. 14. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_flipbook_novdec2018


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