Three Practical Ways to Improve Sustainability in Meetings

cmp-welcomeI am a self-described “Recycling Queen.” As a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), improving sustainability in meetings is always on my mind. I have been recycling plastic name badges for 20+ years, bring my cloth bags into the grocery store when I shop, and I’m proud that my workplace offers paper, plastic, and aluminum recycling. When it comes to sustainable efforts at meetings, I am always on the lookout for ways to improve my dedication and assist our clients in making their meetings as green as possible.

Recently, I attended the annual CMP Conclave in Baltimore. It was a terrific opportunity to network with other meeting professionals and hotel convention service managers. The weekend was full of educational sessions, including a keynote on how to “Lead with Levity,” and we heard about event security from a former Secret Service agent. I particularly enjoyed the collaborative session where we reviewed Secure Venue Standards. Each program was enlightening; however, I picked up some unintentional takeaways, as well. Over the course of the Conclave, I observed three excellent methods of practicing sustainability in meetings that I encourage meeting planners and attendees to adopt.

Create a Meeting App for Attendees

sustainability in meetingsThe first, most obvious step that you can make to improve sustainability in meetings is to implement a meeting app. The CMP Conclave proved that it is possible to put everything a meeting attendee needs in a functional, easy to use app. The more information you upload and invest in the app, the higher the return on investment. Include all the information that meeting participants might need that used to be provided on paper, such as:

  • Meeting agenda and meeting room assignments
  • Speaker bios and contact information
  • Customizable profiles for attendees and sponsors
  • Destination reports and sightseeing options
  • Hotel information

Most importantly, be sure to post speaker presentations. No more hand outs! I even took my notes in the app and emailed them to myself when I got home for archival purposes. It was so easy. Eventually, apps will replace printed programs but until then, make the written program as condensed and efficient as you can. An added benefit to an app: they live long after the meeting is done. I’m still using my CMP Conclave app to contact attendees and speakers.

Sustainability in Meetings Food Service

sustainability in meetingsConsider ways to reduce disposables. At the Conclave, each attendee was given a reusable water bottle upon entry to the first general session. What a great sustainable idea! These colorful containers had an infuser stuffed with lemons and limes to flavor the water. Nary a plastic water bottle was to be found at any break or meal. The next morning, new fruits including strawberries, cucumbers, and fresh mint were available to restock the infuser. My only challenge was keeping up with the bottle. I lost it at the end of day two and was quite disappointed.

Partner with community suppliers for locally sourced food. The Hilton emphasized local foods with fresh Maryland crab at nearly every meal, local produce and juices at a smoothie bar, and gourmet donuts from a local vendor featured at breakfast. Sourcing food from nearby supports community jobs and businesses, an important aspect of sustainability.

Help Participants Think Green

Communicate sustainability suggestions before the meeting. The CMP Conclave organizers sent an email to meeting participants before the meeting with ways to improve your environmental footprint while you travel. The easy-to-read list gave concrete examples in four categories:

  1. Prepare for travel
  2. Reduce food waste, water use, and energy at home
  3. During travel
  4. While on site

How many of these suggestions are already part of your at-home or on-the-road routine? Are there any others you could add? Sustainability in meetings is not just about recycling name tags anymore. There is so much more we could be doing to help the environment.

To discuss ways you can personally or professionally improve sustainability in meetings, contact the Covington Meets & Events team.


Christi Ruddy has been a member of the Covington Meeting & Events Management team for more than 25 years and a certified meeting professional for over 20. She plans meetings and incentive travel for a variety of organizations, and assists in developing websites to register attendees. Christi is actively involved in Meeting Professionals International-Virginia Chapter, currently serving on the Education Committee.


  1. Good idea for a story, Christi. Interesting. HOWEVER, I would need an APP lesson. But I suspect younger folks whom you’re working with or who are attending meetings wouldn’t have that problem. I’m remembering the mountains of press kits I came home with from food editor conferences. That may have been an unusual situation.

    • Thanks so much Nancy, lovely to hear from you. As you point out, press or sales kits don’t exist much anymore. Everything is available online. Using apps can be daunting but then internet searches used to be frustrating too. Everyday technology improves and makes our lives easier. – Christi

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