Sustainable Event Planning Yields Surprising Economic Benefits

By Myung Ji

I recently attended the American Hotel and Lodging Association 2011 fall conference held in New York. This is an annual conference held by the International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show. As a student who majors in hospitality, it was my second time participating in this conference. My internship at EPA motivated me to attend one of the sessions talking about Hotel Green Programs with the Return on Investment.

Three panelists discussed the positive impacts of adopting energy efficiency into hotels, green innovative practices and products, and green certifications in the market. Some hotels that implement energy efficiency programs, such as the replacement of incandescent bulbs to LEDs were informed of rebates from the related organizations and the reductions of the energy expenses as well as actual labor costs for replacing bulbs. The panel introduced 10 innovative products or practices including LED technologies. Also, it was explained that over 431 eco-labels were tracking throughout 271 countries these days, and this number keeps going up.

The pursuit of the green initiatives is one of the today’s trends. It applies to the hospitality industry and also includes the meeting industry. Recently, I discovered that EPA provides information about green meetings as well. There are 10 easy tips to plan a green meeting through EPA’s EPP Program (Environmentally Preferable Purchasing).

Actually, in the past, I’d been skeptical about green meetings. A few years ago, when I worked as a meeting planner for a green meeting, I had to use recycled paper, which was more expensive than regular paper and I had to hire more staff to take care of water stations for participants and speakers instead of serving bottled water. Also, I had to build a website with an on-line registration system instead of relying on fax or mail. All this meant for me was an increase in the meeting cost. But, it was also a strategy to show that the event host cared about environmental issues and served to attract people’s interest with a favorable image.

Now I have changed my attitude towards environmental issues. As mentioned at the conference and at EPA, there are many positive results from making conferences environmentally friendly. My goal is to practice green concepts for planning a meeting while simultaneously planning conferences in a more effective way. 

About the Author: Myung Ji joined the Public Affairs Division of EPA region 2 as an event intern. Myung Ji earned an MBA degree in hospitality with a focus on Event Leadership at Johnson and Wales University, Rhode Island this fall. Before moving to the US, Myung worked as a convention coordinator in her county, Korea.

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