Incorporating sustainability into meetings and events has been around long enough that its a given for many organizations, but not all. According to the 2015 Meetings Focus Trends Survey, only one-third of respondents said they expected to plan a sustainable meeting this year.

For the two-thirds who are not, studies indicate that they probably should be: reports that companies with sustainable practices were seen as especially attractive to job seekers. It also can help with cost savings and overall reputation, according to

And there is no shortage of resources for information on how to make it happen, including from the Green Meeting Industry Council, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and ASTM International.

Nichole Steele, national sales director for Experience Grand Rapids, said she has noticed that groups she works with are starting to refocus and stand by their mission to support sustainability as well as watch the bottom line.

This has even more environmental groups looking to Grand Rapids rather than well known destinations like Orlando, Las Vegas or Chicago, Steele said.

Nichole Steele- National Sales Manager at Experience Grand Rapids, 2019.

Nichole Steele- National Sales Manager at Experience Grand Rapids, 2019.

Photo by Experience Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids has a lot to offer to those groups, including the DeVos Place convention center, which is certified as a Green Venue by the State of Michigan, several eco-friendly lodging and dining options and many other features.

Groups are impressed when they come to Grand Rapids and see how walkable the city is, cutting out transportation costs while they're here, Steele said. They also love that we have the first and only LEED certified art museum, and many groups are interested in the status of putting the rapids back in the Grand River.

Are you starting from scratch when it comes to sustainable meetings? Here is a list from the GMIC on some simple ways to get started:

  • Establish an environmental statement or policy for the meeting and share it with suppliers, attendees and speakers.
  • Use technology to cut down on paper.
  • Reduce travel by choosing a host city that's close to as many attendees as possible and aim for walkability in venue selection.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle.
  • Have your vendors use bulk dispensers for sugar, salt, pepper, cream and other condiments.
  • Choose a hotel that offers a linen reuse program.
  • Include vegetarian meals with seasonal produce and source locally.
  • Have all printed materials published on both sides of recycled paper with vegetable-based inks.
  • Coordinate with the meeting venue to reduce energy use when rooms are not in use.

And finally, don't forget to spread the word. Share your success with your speakers, vendors, attendees and the media. The more you share your story, the further it will go and the more people will know that your company cares about sustainability.

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