We are the authority on everything Meetings- and Events-related because we know how to get the most out of bringing people together. We have people in mind all the time, but there is unending list of things and objects that go into gathering those people. From name badges to paper handouts and beyond, so much material waste can be involved! It’s an aspect of our industry that we tackle head on, making it part of our identity to be environmentally mindful and to keep those things in check.
Here are our easy guideposts—each with huge impact—that’ll ensure you make your meeting or event as green as possible! All it takes is remembering the big three R’s to lessen your gathering’s carbon footprint.
REDUCE: Meetings and events can burn through a lot of paper and plastic products before you’ve even thought of it. Copies, handouts, invoices, disposable plates, plastic-ware, coffee cups – it all adds up. While reducing your footprint to zero may take some extra legwork, there are certainly steps you can take that make a sizable difference. For example, in planning your meeting, think about how much you can do digitally.
Is that physical handout really necessary?
Most presenters today cast their presentations to our projectors, and they often keep the meeting agenda on screen at all breaks. This eliminates printed agendas being passed out and eventually discarded. We’ve also seen presenters ready with an accessible Bitly web address that leads to their stack of slides, which they project at the top of the meeting so attendees can follow along digitally, or at the end of the day so that attendees can refer back to it after they’ve adjourned. For large-scale meetings and conferences, we’ve also seen a trend in issuing electronic swag bags, where instead of handing out a physical tote-bag filled with odds and ends no one will use, organizers pass out a simple postcard with a web address where they can redeem e-swag such as discounts towards services, free meals, or tickets to popular events!
At Catalyst Ranch, we always REDUCE our material consumption by using an all-digital invoicing; serving our triple-filtered drinking water from family-style serving pitchers instead of offering single-serving, plastic bottles of water; and never using disposable plates or cutlery, opting instead to use our in-house ceramic dishes, eclectic glassware and stainless steel silverware—no styrofoam, no plastic.
Not only is it environmentally conscious, but it’s cost effective too.
We also reduce our food waste by donating surplus food; the catered meals that come through the Ranch feed as many people as possible, as we donate leftovers to the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago’s South Loop, the oldest, continuously-operating rescue mission in the country serving the homeless and hungry. Did you know there’s even an app you can use like Lyft or Uber to get a pickup for your gathering’s food leftovers straight to your local food pantry? Check out Atlanta-based food rescue app Goodr!
REUSE: There is so much about today’s culture that caters to our reliance on disposable objects, and for meeting planners, it might be really tempting to purchase items you think will only serve your event and then chuck them in the bin. It’s easier to toss a mostly-used flip-chart than to lug it back to the storeroom and devote the mindspace to remembering that you’ve got it. It’s worthwhile, though, to take that extra step and earmark items you can save to use again. Flip-charts are one thing, but this can encompass flip-chart markers, post-it note pads, and more. What’s great about having your meeting offsite is you can rely on the venue to keep tabs on all the supplies and fixtures you depend on—though we’d be happy to claim ownership of that concept, we’re just as happy knowing that we share that aspect with other meeting spaces. It’s the venue who puts in the effort to use supplies to their fullest.
You can easily check in with your venue rep to make sure those practices are in place.
Additionally, check in with your other vendors: Do they follow similar green practices? For example, our in-house caterer Big Delicious Planet is the first caterer in the country to receive 4-Star-Certified Green Restaurant status. We love that they “re-used” two city lots and turned them into Urban Farms where they grow their own delicious vegetables.
In addition to washing and reusing our dishware, this RE-USE sensibility extends to the entire Catalyst Ranch environment. We have signature dry-erase boards and flip-chart easels which are continuously repaired and reused, and they’ve been indispensable tools at Catalyst Ranch for all of our almost 16 years. All of our furniture is vintage Americana that has been rehabbed and re-purposed—that’s hundreds of chairs and dozens of tables all given brand new life instead of sitting in a landfill. (*Speaking of avoiding furniture waste, check out our feature on the buzzed about Chicago Furniture Bank!) And the same goes for all the toys, games and wall decorations that you’ll find around the Ranch.
RECYCLE: You’ve heard it many times before but you truly can’t hear it enough. Recycle, recycle, recycle! An important box to check is the box itself—or, rather, the bin. Making sure that Recycling Bins and receptacles are readily visible and usable is a step that’s often missed. At the tip-top of your meeting when you’re noting the location of restrooms and breakrooms, it takes just ten precious seconds more to announce the location and availability of the recycling bins and reinforce the importance of recycling to your attendees.
Further than that, there are more ways to recycle than throwing paper in that blue bin; you can recycle a whole lot more than just paper. Look into local recycling services for your plastic, cardboard, electronics, batteries, ink cartridges, and even fluorescent lights! At Catalyst Ranch, we advocate with our dollars when we purchase supply options that are made from recycled material such as flip-chart and copy paper.
These are just a few of the many steps that Catalyst Ranch implements, and which you can easily do, in the hopes of making Meetings and Events greener on the whole.