Aaron Elliot from MeetGreen shares with Mike McAllen the 5 easy steps for a greener IMEXAmerica. He talks about the Sustainable Exhibits Guide they produced for the upcoming IMEX America Show October 14th-16 in Las Vegas. Aaron talks about the 5 Actions that can make a difference for exhibitors. He also touches on how attendees and exhibitors can join the IMEX green team and the APEX results from the 2012 and 2013 IMEX America shows. Head over to the IMEX America website for more information on all these great programs.
Mike: Welcome back to the Meetings Podcast, this is Mike McAllen from Grass Shack Events and Media and AV for Planners. And on today’s show we have Aaron Elliot-Project Manager for MeetGreen. Hi Aaron!
Aaron: Hallo Mike!
Mike: This is one of our IMEX podcasts and you guys have put together a great; again great things that are going to be happening down there to green up the IMEX America meeting, the tradeshow and so you put together the Sustainable Exhibits Guide and do you want to talk a little bit about it?
Aaron: Yeah, absolutely, we put this together kind of from a need of IMEX America to focus a little bit on exhibiting and what exhibitors can do kind of some simple actions that exhibitors can do to make a big difference for sustainability. So we put this guide together and I should mention just right off the top that I will briefly go through it during this podcast here but it is also available in the Exhibitor’s Zone on the IMEX America website so if you hear anything that you want to know a little bit more about, it goes into greater detail in the actual document so make sure to go check that out if you like what you hear. But it goes through kind of five different sustainable actions that exhibitors can take part in anywhere from kind of reducing the waste that you bring to the event to knowing how to dispose of the waste and things you can do in Las Vegas as well kind of public transportation use and things like that that will help make kind of a big impact and we wanted to focus on the exhibitors’ side of things since a lot of times you focus on the attendees’ side of things and also from my perspective on the planner and supplier. So you know we work with so many for Sands for instance a great deal to do a lot of things kind of behind the scenes but getting down to the ground level is what is kind of our hope with this got.
Mike: That is great because it is really needed obviously people they are so wrapped up in the actual event itself it is good to have these kind things to look at, okay let’s do this, this. So do you want to go over the five actions?
Aaron: Yes, the first point I just talked about it just now but is just to reduce waste and as anyone knows that has been to a conference or event, waste is a very large aspect of the environmental footprint of an event. So people bring all bunch of materials some of them say IMEX America 2014 on them and which is something that we will talk about a little bit more to kind of avoid doing but you bring all these things there and then after the event you know happens and at the end you are going home and you have this big pile of things that you had brought that is now needed, you need to dispose of it. So the first thing is just to kind of reduce that waste right off the back, so things like bringing in a USB key with information as opposed to a great deal of pamphlets and things like that, reducing the giveaways to make sure that if you do have giveaways they are going to be useful they aren’t just a pen or something that might just be thrown away at the event right after it is received by the attendee. So there is kind of reducing waste on site and there is also reducing waste before you get there which is kind of what I discussed there. Once you are on site there is waste that the VENETIAN and PALAZZO, and Sands in particular has made it pretty easy to know how to kind of dispose of this waste you bring. So a lot of people bring things of course in packing materials and cardboard boxes and things, so just ways you can help out your flattened boxes and toss them in and they are recycling, there is discuine and clear plastic that you see a lot of times that people kind of wrap all their stuff in and that is a great source of waste and the Sands actually has a great donation program for that that is like clear plastic and if you haven’t heard about it, they donate it to greenhouses in the surrounding areas and that discuine is able to be kind of the new perimeter of their greenhouses and they kind of reuse that for 3 years to come. So it is a way to kind of get some reuse out of some material that would otherwise go landfill. So that is kind of the waste aspect of being an exhibitor, and the other thing that we are really focusing on this year is the donation program that the Sands is working really hard on as is IMEX and there are some things that you bring that are kind of unavoidable and some things to kind of beautify your exhibitor booth, flowers and things like that that you don’t want to bring it back with you of course and on the plane flowers don’t that well. So the Sands has a great donation program where after the event you are able to donate those flowers and they will find a retirement home or a hospital to get a little bit more use out of them. So there is that great donation program and we are still working out the finer details of the donation program but just now it will be in materials they will be able to read, it will be an Espresso from GS online and it will also be kind, of explains on the show floor by Sands staff will go around each of the booths and they will let exhibitors know how they are able to donate those left over items. And there is also kind of the aspect of transportation, this is something that you can do kind of before you leave as well which is I talked about trying to minimize the amount of materials that you bring both the waste carbon emissions and also just the waste afterwards and one of the things you can do is pay a little closer attention to how you are shipping. There is a system called the smart ways system which we always encourage people to look into with the transportation companies and it is kind of an EPA certification for shipping companies that use fuel efficient technologies to reduce the transportation rate of emissions that you are kind of contributing as you are inevitable again to ship some things to IMEX America to have there so it is something we always encourage people to do.
Mike: Is that companies or how does that work?
Aaron: Yeah, companies kind of get certified or get kind of the blessing of the EPA and they will be kind of smart way certified so you will be able to tell them that is something that the transportation companies like to promote. So you will be able to ask them if they are smart way certified or if they have any of their fleets that are smart way certified that you are able to use and kind of ensure that you are contributing the least amount of emissions that you can from your transportation. It is a great program it has been around for a while and EPA does a great job with kind of vetting that process.
Mike: So this is number four, right?
Aaron: This is number four and this is kind of a big one this year as some of the listeners probably know bringing sustainable aspects into a meeting and an event is kind of an ongoing process you know you kind of find your particular areas to tackle and then on the following year you kind of look to improve upon the things that maybe were shortcomings in the previous years. And this year IMEX America has really focused on the food and beverage items and trying to make them as local as possible as healthy and sustainable, organic as they can and you know as anyone that has been to Vegas knows there is kind of an inherent challenge there being in the middle of the Mojave desert to bring local organic foods to a convention. But VENETIAN and PALAZZO has done an amazing job they have been able to make 50% of the exhibitor menu sourced locally which is credibly impressive.
Mike: Especially with so many people that is amazing.
Aaron: Exactly, yeah absolutely, so one of the ways that we kind of encourage the exhibitors to take advantage of that is to of course look at the exhibitor menu and also the concession menu and you will be able to see what items are for local sources are organic and be able to make those choices from there and of course a lot of the organic choices are also healthy and so they will help with kind of your brain function and those sorts of things that kind of go along with healthier foods as opposed to the creasy butter that you could choose to get as well. So that is one of the things on the ordering and also the VENETIAN and PALAZZO, SANDS has worked a great deal on their compostable service wear and so basically we wanted to make it as easy as possible for the attendee to kind of understand how to dispose of their waste and the food beverage side of things, so everything from your folks and your knives to cups and plates, to plates, to the wrapping that is around your sandwich wrap that is all compostable. So when you go and you get your meal, you will be able to find a green bin in that area and dispose of your food and beverage service wear and then also of course the food is all compostable. So you will be able to drop that in which is an amazing thing to be able to say and not kind of make it so that everything but the folks and knives are compostable so it is kind of a clear message and hopefully we can contribute as much to the compost stream as we can as opposed to sending it to landfill. And decomposing stream of course goes to a compost facility and then it created padding soil basically nutrient rich padding soil out of your folks and knives.
Mike: That is really great because that is sometimes confusing when you go up to this like six different trash cans so that is great because it kind of, it makes it, it damps it down for people like myself who can go, ‘okay, this is the one’.
Aaron: Yeah, it isn’t just you, it is me too you know you go there and there is five different things and you have to sort them all out so we wanted to make kind of an asserted effort to make everything as streamlined as possible. So it is just kind for the exhibitors to know that and also to be able to educate other people that they see might have trouble understanding where things go and that is kind of different in every location so it is always a learning process for everyone.
Mike: Yeah, I live in Oakland California and we had a street fair here and they had a mall but they had actually taped the actual pieces onto each one so you knew. I thought that was great I had never seen a couple of kids were doing that, they were little kids doing that I thought it was so great that they had come up with that because they were confused because they were reading in a little picture and they didn’t have what they had there at the fair so they actually were taping all that.
Aaron: It is great way to get that word out to make people understand a little bit more and bring the message over the clear and it is in a way very similar to what IMEX America will do which is kind of just having pictures up of what is compostable and those sorts of things. Number five is just the use of public transportation in Vegas and we always want to promote this you know it is very easy to get off the plane and by yourself get into a taxi and spend $20 and have that taxi take you to the VENETIAN and PALAZZO or wherever you will be staying when there is a shuttle that takes folks directly from the airport to the strip that is about half the cost and I am sure it will take a little bit longer but just in terms of carbon emissions and contributing to traffic and just all those sorts of things environmentally, it is of course a lot more beneficial both of course environmental and also from a cost perspective. So we always want to encourage people to take advantage of that shuttle and also take advantage of the different public transportation systems that they have on the strip there. So while you are at IMEX America you might want to go out and see a show or experience Vegas a little bit which I would definitely recommend Vegas is a great place. But they have the Dash buses as one option which is the double Decker bus which you have probably seen around if you have been in Vegas it runs 24 hours a day up and down the strip from Nelson to Monorail which are pretty easy to get to from the VENETIAN and PALLAZO I know the Dash bus picks you up right outside of the VENETIAN and PALLAZO there and it is just a great way to travel up and down the strip as opposed to when I went to Vegas the first time I thought why don’t I just put on my walking shoes and all then just walk for the place that appears to be across the street and I took like half an hour. So sometimes it is beneficial to take transportation, walking is great but Vegas is huge so it is pretty nice to be able to take advantage of those available transportation systems.
Mike: Awesome, so that is great, so that is the big five, the five actions. Alright, so what else is going on there? Tell me a little bit about the green team
Aaron: Yes, so the green team is kind of an initiative that IMEX started to get attendees, exhibitors, hosted buyers involved in the sustainability process and it is extremely important to get everyone involved in the process as opposed to just getting the planners behind the scenes and suppliers involved just to see kind of educational sense of things to make everyone aware of what is happening, what work has been done and also just to let everyone know that these small actions that kind of we talked about over the last kind of five different tasks that exhibitors can take, the small actions not really do make a difference individually but also when you put them together with everyone else you know it is a big change that can be made. So the green team is if you want to become a green team member and you can be if you are an exhibitor, an attendee, a hosted buyer, you can go online and there is kind of a registration form there and the process is basically to commit to three out of seven tasks that they have listed. And just to go over a couple of tasks so that people know that they are attainable or not, things that are impossible, one of those tasks is simply to ask clients from exhibitor’s perspective, ask clients that they meet with what their interest level is in sustainability aspects. Another one is to provide information on USB key as opposed to the printed brochures and getting back to kind of the educational aspect of things one of them is to attend at least one of the education sessions at the sustainability hub or to kind of commit your team to recycle their badges using the badge back program that is available on show floor of it that helps donate money for each of the badges that are donated at the end of the show to Opportunity Village and Clean the World and Shade Tree which will be the organizations that IMEX is working with this year. Yeah and then once you fill out that form and calculate those three when you register on site, you will be able to wear that green team ribbon proudly and everyone kind of knows, communicate to everyone that you have taken these steps and you are committed to sustainability.
Mike: That is great; yeah I am going to do that too with our whole staff.
Aaron: Yeah and don’t think that you can only do three; you can of course do all seven.
Mike: Yeah that is great we will do that I was planning on doing that and also doing the Shade Tree, I mean we are doing podcast with the Shade Tree people but go and do that philanthropy thing there too.
Aaron: Yeah that is a wonderful, wonderful program as well and I know you kind of talked a little bit to Dale Hudson about it on a podcast before but we had a chance last week actually to visit Shade Tree and it is an unbelievable organization and just the work they are doing is fantastic and o know work with IMEX is doing with the IMEX challenge with them is just amazing you know it is very heart warming.
Mike: Very cool and you were down there for the meeting just recently, did you meet Meetings Podcast Shinnel?
Mike: That is good because now you know her when we are down there we will follow up with this podcast. Okay so the next thing is; can you mention a little bit or go over a little bit of the APEX results for all the last years’ program?
Aaron: Yeah, absolutely, so the APEX-ASTM is sustainable meetings standards which is what is kind of called the long title of them are standards kind of to measure the sustainability in the urban events that kind of formal standards and they were developed back in 2012 and IMEX has measured itself against them 2012 and 2013 and again we are going to do that this year for 2014. In 2012 we were 63% compliant and following that up last year we pumped it up 9% to 72% compliant in 2013 and we hope to build upon that of course this year as well and it is really just a collaborative effort with everyone that these standards are broken up into 9 different categories so we work with the venue and the Sands and the accommodations and the VENETIAN and PALLAZO so all the way down to the AV company which you are familiar with and the transportation companies and once all of those things are kind of brought together that is what that 72% compliance means is all those different aspects put together into one final number. So it is just a big collaborative effort and everyone has worked really, really hard to make this kind of come to life these standards come to life and IMEX America has focused on that great deal and it is has been amazing to see what people have brought to the table and ways to kind of work around things and as you know probably standards are standards across the country, you know of course this well and working in Las Vegas there are a couple of challenges and things like that as there are for any location so just the creativity from the team at the Sands and the VENETIAN and PALLAZO has been unbelievable.
Mike: Yeah it is amazing, Meet Green does some good work I mean there are a lot of players in this plus all the people I mean besides the players, the companies themselves or the venues, but the amount of people involved is amazing I have seen Meet Green do Oracle stuff too which is pretty amazing. So, how would someone get a hold of you if they wanted to learn more about Meet Green or actually learn more about what is going on here of course at IMEX?
Aaron: You can go to MeetGreen.com and there is this kind of a ‘contact us’ information form there, to contact me personally it is [email protected] and for IMEX specific information you can of course contact me but the report, that IMEX makes available on their website every single year from 2013, 2012 are both available on the IMEX America website and also available on Meetgreen.com. So if you want to get some more information about what we have done in the past then those reports will be a great place to start.
Mike: Yeah that is awesome, alright well Aaron thank you so much and so if someone wants to find you on site you will be dressed in all green?
Aaron: I will be all in green; I will just be a big leash with a big recycling symbol.
Mike: The jelly green giant running around.
Aaron: That is right; I will be the person taking in the trash to separate.
Mike: Excellent, well thank you so much for talking with me and for the IMEX podcast and I will see you in Vegas.