There’s no denying virtual meetings have their advantages. You can circumvent travel restrictions and social distancing requirements, save money and create a smaller carbon footprint – all while sitting in your pajamas. And while they will likely remain a big part of how we do business moving forward, what’s become abundantly clear over the past year is that they aren’t a perfect substitute for face-to-face interactions.
As countries make progress with their vaccination campaigns and governments look at gradually easing restrictions, we’re seeing a lot of pent-up demand for in-person gatherings. In some places like Australia and Singapore, face-to-face meetings and events have already restarted, albeit with various safety measures still in place.
As we start to meet in person again, it’s important that we do so in a way that’s mindful of the environment. While meetings and events are an indispensable tool to drive business success, they can also result in large amounts of waste and carbon emissions.
The good news is that research suggests the pandemic has made consumers more eco-conscious, as lockdowns, travel restrictions, and reduced industrial activity have been linked with clearer skies, cleaner rivers, and better air quality in cities around the world. Meanwhile, in some instances, government bailouts for businesses—including airlines—have come with green strings attached.
When it comes to meetings and events, organizers and attendees alike have a role to play in promoting sustainable practices that will limit their environmental impact, while maximizing the lasting social benefits that they can leave on local communities.
Here are 10 easy steps that we should try and make part our “routine” when we attend meetings and events:
- Try to avoid printouts.
- Avoid all disposables, especially plastic: water bottles, coffee stirrers, etc.
- Recycle any trash you might produce.
- Do not over-heat or over-cool your hotel or meeting room.
- Remember to turn off lights, air conditioning, and heating when leaving your hotel or meeting room.
- Use tap or filtered water, instead of bottled water.
- Only accept goodies, flyers, etc. that you will truly use.
- Select vegetable, poultry, or plant-based alternatives over red meat dishes.
- Tell your hotel you wish to reuse bed linen and towels during your stay.
- Suggest a responsible team-building activity.
And of course, because change in an industry is fueled by customer demand, voice your preference for environmentally and socially responsible meetings and events whenever you are asked for feedback.