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Make your gathering greener

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

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Companies today know the importance of presenting a green face to their customers, but what goes on in the boardroom itself isn’t always so environmentally friendly. Business meetings and events can gobble up a surprising amount of resources and produce mounds of waste. A few simple, eco-conscious changes, however, can make a big difference.

Cynthia Fuhrman, communications manager for the Portland Office of Sustainable Development, and Amy Spatrisano, a principal at Portland-based Meeting Strategies Worldwide and co-author of Simple Steps to Green Meetings and Events, have some suggestions to make your gathering a little greener.

1. Reduce where you can, Spatrisano suggests. Instead of providing handouts to everyone at a meeting, project a PowerPoint presentation on the wall or write important points on a whiteboard. After the meeting, highlights can be e-mailed to attendees to save paper.

2. Where you can’t reduce, reuse. If snacks are on the meeting agenda, forget the disposable plates and utensils. “It takes 10 times more energy and natural resources to produce 1,000 plastic forks than to wash a metal fork 1,000 times,” Spatrisano says. If any food is left over, compost or donate it to charity.

3. “If you are using materials that are not reusable, make sure that they are recyclable,” Fuhrman says. Have separation bins on hand and make sure they’re used. Also, look for products already made from recycled materials.

4. If it’s necessary to go offsite, do some research before committing to a location for your meeting or event. Consider the geographic location of attendees to reduce travel distances, and ask around to see which venues follow environmentally responsible practices. Some hotels, for example, save water by only washing towels and bed linens by guest request.

5. Using local food, labor and products reduces shipping and, therefore, carbon emissions. If products and attendees are coming from out of town, Fuhrman suggests purchasing energy offset credits to reduce the net impact of your event.

JAMIE HARTFORD

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