Earlier this month, several of my peers gathered in San Francisco for the Sustainable Meetings Conference hosted by the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC). The focus of this conference was: 

  • Shorter presentations with audience interaction
  • Visitation of sustainable locations in San Fran – from a green hotel to a farmer’s market and
  • Providing a more flexible event format to meet attendee needs.

This conference got me thinking about sustainability. What is it? How is it different or the same as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? And with Earth Day just passing a couple of days ago, what does it mean to be green?

It can all be so confusing when event planning. So here are the three definitions, along with seven simple ways to integrate “greenness” into your meeting.


According to GMIC, sustainability is the avoidance of burning fossil fuels, the mining of rare metals and the use of chemicals. Sustainability requires that we source the raw materials which fuel our society in ways which are both ecologically and socially responsible. 

How does this definition relate to the meeting industry? 

  1. Since transportation is often the biggest burner of fossil fuels, look at all the alternatives for your meeting, including: No meeting – make sure your purpose and goals are well defined
    Virtual meeting
    Hybrid meeting – when planning this, consider your event WiFi solution as bandwidth can be a problem
    Regional meeting
    Alternative transportation including train, bus, subway and carpooling
    Choose a meeting that is highly walkable – Walk Score is a great resource for this.
  2. In addition, think about all the energy involved in tree milling to produce your paper, oil to produce your water bottles and chemicals to produce your signage.Look for paperless and sustainable alternatives – such as tablets to replace paper, pitchers to replace water bottles and digital signage to replace posters.


Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is when an organization furthers social good, beyond the interests of the firm. CSR encourages positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, and stakeholders.

How does this definition relate to the meeting industry? 

  1. With regards to the environment, planners can start to look at the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle).
  2. Often times, you are in a destination several miles from your office.
    Work with the local United Way to identify community projects attendees can contribute to for a half-day. 
  3. Find out what cause your attendees and employees are passionate about and work toward a monetary and/or labor contribution to that cause. 


Eco-friendly or green practices refer to goods and services, guidelines and policies that inflict reduced, minimal, or no harm at all upon the environment.

How does this definition relate to the meeting industry? 

  1. Ask for local products and services.
    From locally grown food to renting audio visual equipment from a local office, all of this has a positive impact on the environment. It cuts down on shipping and storage, plus it is a great boost for the local economy. 
  2. Reduce as much as possible – go paperless, have a good RSVP count, make things simple
    Reuse – go with glass, silverware and china, rent as many items as possible.
    Recycle – set up recycling stations at your meeting and encourage attendees to recycle. 

SmartSource Rentals is available to help you make your next meeting sustainable! Give them a call today at 800.888.8686  to learn more about their total technology solutions.