Green your life at home, work & play

10 ways to make your next event an eco-conscious occasion March 3, 2012

Business meetings, events and office parties can create a large amount of waste and drive up your utility bill in a small amount of time. Holding an eco-friendly event can be both a creative process as well as a learning experience for everybody attending. Set a green example for not only your own upcoming events but for other attendees that may become inspired by the eco-consciousness of your business.

  1. Choose e-invites: Choose electronic methods such as social media outlets (Facebook,Twitter, etc.) to spread the word about your event. E-vitePunchbowl, or Smilebox are all great sources for free electronic invitations. If it is important for your business to mail invitations, consider sending seed paper cards. Through services such as Botanical Paperworks and Green Field Paper, you can send cards that people can plant in their gardens to grow beautiful flowers instead of creating waste. It is important to really consider the amount of people attending your event for the sake of cutting back consumption. All successful eco-friendly events are carefully planned ahead of time, and asking people to reply to invitations is key to knowing how much food, tableware and other such items to supply.
  2. Hold a Zero Waste Event: A Zero Waste event only uses items that are biodegradable, reusable or recyclable. Services such as Eco-Cycle can provide your event with a Zero Waste party kit. This kit includes things like compostable tableware and compost containers (which you can also pull off on your own, right?) It’s good to let your guests know ahead of time by including in their invitations an outline of the goals of your Zero Waste Event, and suggestions about what to bring or not bring.
  3. Assign the event planning to a “green committee”: Having either a leader or committee organize your event will help sustain your green goals and hopefully give way to the creation of a “green force” in your company. Awareness is contagious!
  4. Choose biodegradable tableware and decorations: Thankfully, there are plenty of sources to choose from when it comes to selecting planet friendly products. Normal partyware is full of toxic dyes and plastic, and a goal of any eco-friendly event should be to decrease our dependency on petroleum. Online stores like Green Party Goods and Eco Party Time are places that you can find everything from beautiful bamboo plates to recyclable paper tablecloths.
  5. Set up clearly marked recycle and compost stations: Plenty of times people get lazy, or simply miss these containers and end up throwing away a lot of sustainable materials. Setting up these stations can save you the hassle of having to sort through garbage later. Here are other ways to cut down on your waste stream at work.
  6. Be creative when it comes to food: Besides choosing local and organic, think outside the box! A fun idea is setting out planters filled with basil leaves and dill that guests can pick themselves to garnish their dishes. To cut down tableware waste, consider serving more finger foods than entrees. Having local and seasonal foods supports the agricultural ecology of your community.
  7. Consider eco-gifts Here are 12 great alternatives to the usual office holiday gifts.
  8. Encourage smart transportation to and from the event: Organizing carpools and even shuttles can rid your guests of the hassle of parking and traffic, and of course, further cut down the carbon footprint of your event.
  9. Use porta-potties if it’s outdoors: Porta potties are already considered a more environmentally friendly option because they don’t use the large amount of water that a permanent septic tank requires. If there is a vendor in your area,  you can order eco-friendly porta-potties that don’t use that toxic blue deodorizing liquid but instead use biodegradable chemicals and recycled toilet paper. You can search through Mesa Waste Service or Johnny on the Spot to find eco-friendly portable toilets for your event.
  10. Be mindful of the energy and water consumption of your occasion: If your event requires sound and staging, consider other energy alternatives to power the required electronics. Bike powered generators and solar panels are great solutions. One example – one company, Sustainable Waves, specializes in providing sound and staging completely powered by solar energy. It takes a lot of energy to power any kind of large space, and making simple choices such as using LED or CFL light bulbs can be an easy way to cut down the energy consumption of your event.

If your event requires booking a conference center, choose an eco-friendly center. Remember, there is a bounty of eco-friendly alternatives and solutions for all the details of your event. It all just depends on your creativity and commitment to being environmentally conscious. Holding a green event is not only a fun way to educate and enlighten your business community but it’s also a wonderful way to attract others to your eco-friendly business practice!


Federal Government is Becoming Greener October 8, 2010

A year ago, President Obama signed an executive order that set out guidelines for reducing federal government greenhouse gas emissions, decreasing energy and water consumption, reducing waste and engaging in environmentally preferable procurement.

This year, the White House organized the first external Green Gov symposium, hosted at George Washington University. The conference highlighted changes that the Federal Government and government contractors have been making and could be making to meet Executive Order  13514 requirements. At the symposium, it was announced that the White House will install solar panels on its roof, along with solar water heating, to show its commitment to environmental sustainability and the Executive Order.

It is clear from attendance at the three-day conference, which was larger than expected, and totaled over 1,200 people, over 60% of which were from Federal government agencies, that there is wide-ranging interest.  I was fortunate enough to be on a panel at the symposium with some accomplished government and non-government individuals who are very passionate about the environment and making a change at their respective organizations.  Participating in the panel as well as attending some of the sessions made it clear that, although the Federal government has had a tougher time gaining momentum on green initiatives because of its size, it is well on its way.

While many companies were represented, some are better known outside Washington circles than others. One of these is Verizon. James Gowen, Verizon’s Chief Sustainability Officer, described some of the changes Verizon has made to its supply chain, including improving its fleet management practices, increasing the amount of recycled content in its packaging, and asking its vendors (Motorola was discussed in this particular example) to conduct a life cycle assessment of their products. These changes have resulted in significant cost savings that have enabled Mr. Gowen to add more staff to focus on the sustainability initiatives. The message is clear – environmental sustainability brings cost savings, which is one of the messages that we at Eco-Coach have for our clients as well.

I could talk about quite a few other great case studies, but I will highlight one more here, and you can review some others at Planet Forward. One example within the Federal government that shows that ‘green’ is a security and risk management issue and can be bipartisan, is the US Army’s initiatives. The Army was the first Federal agency to issue a GRI, in 2007. The Global Reporting Initiative reporting standards are used by many large and medium-sized companies to report on their corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. One of the benefits of the report that was stated at the session was that those who prepared it could then better engage senior leadership in the effort.  Reporting also enables the organization to benchmark and track progress on specific initiatives, which is very useful from a cost perspective as well as for tracking greenhouse gas emission reductions.

While various government agencies are at different points on the path to sustainability, most of them have started and are making strides. As was stated by many at the conference, this will inevitably trickle down to government contractors, who will be asked what actions they are taking to make their organizations more eco-friendly and environmentally sustainable, if they have not been asked already. This is significant since the Federal government is a large employer, and the changes could cause a positive ripple effect of sustainability throughout the local if not the national economy.


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