When you think of the meetings industry’s environmental impact, you think of its carbon footprint – air travel, shipping, packing waste, and so on. But what about water use? How relevant is that?
Very, according to Tamara Kennedy- Hill, CMP, executive director of the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC), which used its 2012 Sustainable Meetings Conference to raise money for ONE DROP, a Montreal-based nonprofit organization dedicated to providing water access to poverty-stricken areas of the world. Even more than financially supporting ONE DROP, GMIC wanted to get the issue – which some analysts have called the next great global crisis – on attendees’ radar, and to help them recognize the meetings industry’s connection to it. “It was a key area about awareness building that we needed to drive into our community,” Kennedy-Hill said. “This was the first step of that. … Overall it very much resonated with our community.”
Amanda Ulbich, GMIC’s global project specialist, who spearheaded the ONE DROP initiative, added: “There are really simple ways as a planner or supplier that you can make changes. … The more you can raise awareness of big-picture issues and tie it into what you do at home, the more you can create change and get traction.”
Indeed, GMIC’s approach was to use ONE DROP to both engage and educate participants at the Sustainable Meetings Conference, which was held at the Hilton Montreal Bonaventure on April 22–25. Beginning on March 22 – World Water Day – Ulbich sent a weekly e-newsletter with water-usage facts, tips, and even “water-efficient recipes” to GMIC’s distribution list, including members, nonmembers, and past conference attendees. Sample facts: “Did you know the average conference delegate over a three-day event uses 846 gallons of water – or roughly 262 gallons per day! If that conference has 300 delegates that’s enough water to fill half an Olympic Sized Swimming Pool!”
Each newsletter also included a link to a “ONE DROP and GMIC Commitment to Change” webpage where meeting professionals could pledge to take certain actions to reduce water usage at their events, such as printing on both sides of every sheet of paper (because it takes 10 liters of water to produce one sheet of paper) and installing low-flow toilets and faucets in a venue (because a water-reducing device can save up to 45,000 liters of water a year). “It really gave people – whoa, here’s the big impact, and then here’s how they can make a change,” Ulbich said, “because I hate when people just give me a bunch of bad news.”
GMIC also asked its chapters to donate one dollar for every person who attended one of their programs between March 22 and the start of the conference a month later. Individual members were also encouraged to donate. All told, GMIC raised $5,262 for ONE DROP – recognizing and celebrating everyone who participated during the conference, and presenting a check to Alexandre Meunier, ONE DROP’s director of development and corporate partnerships. .
This is just the beginning of GMIC’s involvement with ONE DROP. “The cool thing,” GMIC’s Amanda Ulbich said, “is now we are carrying on awareness building of water use or misuse in our industry, things people are doing to save water, and continuing our partnership with ONE DROP as a way to increase awareness to bigger-picture issues.”
For more information about GMIC’s partnership with ONE DROP, visit convn.org/one-drop.
Giving Back is sponsored by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, fairmont.com.