Green Meetings: FAQ’s

We continue to see a demand for answers to fundamental questions related to ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ events.  What follows are responses to some of the questions which, while general, may provide some helpful background of the concepts related to this rather complex process and which may help with the growing challenge so many people are facing: “We’re ready to start making our events ‘greener’, but we’re confused how to start”.  Away we go…

Does it cost more to have a sustainable event?

This depends entirely on the event and on what outcomes the organizer has targeted. Many case studies exist where event organizers have saved a great deal of money by implementing sound sustainable practices.  Sustainability is smart business and less waste=less cost.

How can sustainable events save me money?

In the short term, there can be costs in time (educating staff and suppliers, process improvement changes, etc). For single events, certain items may be more expensive (such as organic food, carbon offsetting and/or investment in local community project) .. but a holistic view of the event budget of a well-run, sustainable event will reveal cost savings in reduced transportation costs, reduced printing costs, reduced venue costs and more, depending on the nature and size of the event in question.

How can I get a ‘green stamp’ on my event?

For planners who are really committed to integrating sustainable practices, only a few certification labels will help to communicate a message of “we take sustainability seriously”:  BS8901 offers a pathway to having your event management ‘system’ certified as compliant with sustainable development principles. (Note that, with BS8901, the event itself does not earn a ‘stamp of approval’.  The series of processes and policies which make the event possible are what is certifiable. The event is only an outcome of the good process)  Soon, planners can comply with the ISO 20121 sustainable event management criteria and the APEX green standards for events. Note that planners should avoid simplistic, essentially empty, claims of ‘carbon neutral’ or ‘zero waste’ as they are at present difficult to defend as such.

What does ‘carbon neutral’ mean?

The term ‘Carbon Neutral’ means to balance emissions through an investment in a clean energy or avoided deforestation project which will, over time, avoid emissions equal to those you’ve created.  Note that it is recommended that planners avoid simplistic, essentially empty, claims of ‘carbon neutral’ or ‘zero waste’ as they are at present difficult to defend as such.

Are you saying ‘Carbon offsets’ are bad?

Most committed scientists and professionals see ‘Carbon Neutral’ claims as inappropriate. Carbon offsetting, done carefully and as part of a larger strategic plan, is an important part of a low-carbon future. Claiming ‘carbon neutral’ over-simplifies the issue. For planners who seek to show that they are committed to creating a positive difference through sound sustainable practice, this term should be avoided.

What if the client/ boss isn’t interested?

Leadership can be found at all levels of every organization. Engaged members of the team can help to influence the adoption of better practices over time by providing ideas and practical examples of how small sustainable actions can make a big business difference. Work to show that sustainable actions make good business sense. Identify actions which can help your boss look good. Build on existing examples to create a movement within your organization.

Won’t we get bad press if we try to do only a ‘light green’ event?

No.  Having 3 or 4 goals with targets and measurements along with a plan to improve over time is, at present, a leading practice. Very few organizations show a planned, thoughtful approach. Even if targets are not attained, good documentation and honest, transparent communication can underscore your commitment and build stakeholder trust. It’s about quality and sincere commitment, not quantity and empty claims.

Who are good examples or references?

The European Wind Energy Association

The Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Protocol

Oracle Open World

Green Meetings Industry Council

Meetings Professional International

Didn’t answer your question?  Have something to add?  Don’t be shy, let’s hear them.  It’s an exciting time for sustainability in the meetings and events industry, thanks for being a part of the movement!


  1. Paul Salinger says:


    nice post. let me know if you want to add Oracle OpenWorld to your references list and what you would need,

    • Michael Luehrs says:

      We would love that, Paul, thank you. I’ve just included a link to the site. A comment from you or a short powerpoint slide which reinforces the points made in the post would be fantastic. We could do a follow up post with a special highlight on that presentation, even. Maybe it’s a combination of these two things: A guest blog post from you? I don’t think we’ve done enough to underscore ‘green meeting actions’ with real world results and OpenWorld is among the best examples out there. Just say the word.


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