Conference greening.
Article Type: Conference notes
Subject: Green technology (Conferences, meetings and seminars)
Sustainable living (Conferences, meetings and seminars)
Ecological footprint (Conferences, meetings and seminars)
Pub Date: 01/01/2012
Publication: Name: CANNT Journal Publisher: Canadian Association of Nephrology Nurses & Technologists Audience: Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Canadian Association of Nephrology Nurses & Technologists ISSN: 1498-5136
Issue: Date: Jan-March, 2012 Source Volume: 22 Source Issue: 1
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Canada Geographic Code: 1CANA Canada
Accession Number: 283970441
Full Text: Dear Green Tech,

I had a fantastic time at the 2011 CANNT conference in Calgary. It was very obvious that the planning committee had put some thought into making this year's conference a more eco-friendly event, as it coincided with the national Waste Reduction Week. Thinking about the 2012 Ottawa conference and other future CANNT-related events, what kind of tips can you offer those individuals looking to be involved on such committees who have a like-minded vision of hosting a marquee event for its members, but in keeping with a low carbon footprint agenda? Thanks for any advice you can offer.

Clean Karl from Cornwall

Dear Clean Karl,

A Happy New Year and a fantastic 2012 to all of my fellow Green Techies, from Rejean "Green Machine" Quesnelle. I would also like to echo those same sentiments about the Calgary conference. On a scale of 1 to 10 it was a 10.5. The Calgary conference planning committee did a stellar job of making the east coast folks feel right at home in their western stomping grounds. The entire event was a huge success with more than 600 attendees including delegates and exhibitors. What a blast it was hanging out in Canada's western frontier capital. I have to give a big shout-out and kudos to the two best cowgirls the west has to offer--the conference planning chairs Janice and Heather. Their energy and cowgirl get-upand-go really made the conference a hit. One of the highlights was showing off my hot line dancing moves, but I must say that getting branded was quite possibly my favourite highlight (besides singing karaoke with The Renal Brothers--but you kind of had to be there--yee haw!). So, I guess that I am now considered an honourary cowboy--with his trusty steed Streak--the one with a tiny green streak in its mane.

Now back to your original question. There are many things to consider when planning any green event. According to The David Suzuki Foundation (DSF), an organization dedicated to creating a sustainable and healthier Canada: "Virtually all aspects of any event can have a reduced climate impact. Climate-friendly practices can range from waste minimization and energy conservation to using renewable energy and carbon offsets to mitigate emissions that remain after reduction efforts". What are the major areas on the green agenda that we should contemplate in the initial stages of planning? They should include: the destination and venue, accommodations, food, registration/giveaways and, of course, most importantly, transportation/travel. Some other possible factors to consider may include the presenters/presentations, logistics, and positive social initiatives. Keep in mind that these are just starting points, so in order to better understand what specific areas we can look at painting green, I will discuss each main key point separately and in greater detail.

When planning a green/sustainable event you first need to consider where do you intend to host the event? Large conference facilities are major contributors of greenhouse gas emissions due to the energy required for heating/cooling, to power the lighting for the 600-plus delegates and exhibitors, the water used for various applications such as the washrooms, and the waste generated by those in attendance. The nice thing about these facilities is that many of the existing conference centres have made numerous upgrades to create a more carbon-friendly facility. Any new large building constructions are pre-greened, as a result of modern design specifications around carbon reduction strategies, such as Leaders in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Nearly all (if not all) new large facility builds today are using the LEED standards as their benchmark for construction.

If we use the CANNT 2011 conference venue, the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre (CTCC), as our point of reference, there are numerous green initiatives the moment you walk in the door. Here are just a few of the green initiatives I was able to scope out during my stay: Upon entering the north conference centre, you can see the green etching on the walls, so to speak. It is powered by green energy purchased from Bullfrog Power, and large windows allow ambient lighting to shine into the main registration area. Modern washroom facilities are equipped with waterless urinals, water-saving sensors on every faucet, and paper towels not derived from trees (they use post consumer recycled paper instead). Incorporated into the facade of the CTCC facility are the exterior walls from some of Calgary's historic buildings--a way of preserving history while at the same time reducing construction waste that would have resulted from complete demolition.

To ensure that I had the whole picture, I contacted the CTCC's Sales Manager of Canadian Associations, Melissa Kon, to get her input into what kind of ongoing green initiatives are happening at the CTCC. She began by stating that the CTCC takes pride in offering its clients and delegates a memorable experience.

The following quote comes directly from the CTCC website:

"Environmental stewardship isn't just a handy phrase; it's a way of life at CTCC. From the sales team who work with clients to encourage greener meetings, to the day-to-day operations of facilities and offices, every aspect of our operations is reviewed. CTCC has an Environmental Committee that meets regularly and all employees receive environmental stewardship training.

Building systems, office equipment and low-flow water fixtures are selected and operated for optimum energy efficiency. We buy renewable "green" power. Extensive recycling and reduction programs are in place across the entire facility. We utilize green cleaning products and recycled paper products whenever possible, and every effort is made to use suppliers who employ environment-friendly products and procedures. We're constantly reviewing and improving in order to ensure we make good on our mission to provide an eco-friendly facility for the enjoyment of our employees, stakeholders, and the public."

What's the bottom line? Try to search out a facility that can meet all of your various wants including water and energy conservation and eco design.

That takes care of the venue aspect. Now, what about the destination and travel/transportation? Quite often, associations like ours have rotating conference destinations in order to accommodate all member regions and give them the opportunity to showcase their accomplishments and talents. Typically we start in the central region, then go out east, back to central and then west. The destination and transportation components are probably the hardest to deal with. The more metropolitan you get, the easier it is to accommodate mass transportation means, like bus, trains, or subway. With CANNT 2012 taking place in Ottawa, many of us from Ontario and Quebec can carpool or take the train in order to save on flight costs and carbon emissions. For some organizations like the U.S.-based National Association of Nephrology Technicians/Technologists, (NANT), the annual conference is held in Las Vegas. The majority of attendees will, therefore, have to fly in order to attend, unless they are from the western U.S.

There are very few options available to address this. One option is to always have the conference in a central area that will have the most possible local attendees. I know this does not accommodate the other regions well, but it serves the greater number. In our case, we visit the central region every two years. Another option for dealing with the environmental impact is to purchase what are called carbon offsets. You can purchase a carbon credit to offset your personal impact due to the flight, but this is unfortunately not easy to justify when requesting reimbursement -- paying for something you don't physically possess. It's okay for actors like Leonardo DiCaprio or Ed Begley Jr. to fork out the dough, but even Reggie the Green Machine can't come to terms with paying for this (just yet); so definitely an area to work on! One thing though, if you want to travel around the city and you don't have a vehicle, you do have some green options--either using the transit system (many buses have been retrofitted to be more eco-friendly) or opting for something a little more sleek, like renting a vehicle through ZipCar or renting a hybrid vehicle through any standard car rental agency.

Next on the agenda is the lodging, or the "where do I get my beauty sleep after my day of networking?" option. Most hotel chains are greening their operations all the time. When choosing a lodging venue for guests try to select one that is connected to conference facilities (as in the case with the CTCC). It keeps things more centralized. Look to see what their eco policies are (if they have any) and what types of programs they offer -- like washing linens, and any water conservation or reuse in the laundry facility. Do they purchase green power from Bullfrog Power? Do they have any social programs, like sending their used soaps to third world countries or sending any unused food to a local shelter? Do what you can when it comes to your selection criteria. Determine your "must haves" and "can't haves", weigh your options, and go from there. There are many things to consider, but if the hotel is adjoining the conference facility, it's not likely you will turn them away and choose something on the other end of town and have the attendees commute. So, as always, life is about compromise and trying to do your best.

With all of this typing, I seem to be getting a case of the munchies, which leads me to my next key consideration -- food. When thinking about food provision and its footprint, we need to consider where it comes from. There is a huge movement to provide locally grown foods to communities thanks to the resurgence of farmer's markets and the 100-mile movement. The closer you are to the food source, the less environmental impact. Consider creating your menu around what is in season locally at the time of your conference. CANNT occurs typically in October, when we are at the height of the fall bounty in Canada--so say no to Florida oranges or Mexican avocados when planning the menu. Also consider opting for organic produce. It may cost a little more, but the two benefits are that you are supporting the local economy by supporting local farmers, and you are reducing the impact of needless chemicals being sprayed and ingested. A health care professionals' conference should include this consideration on its priority list, since we should be considering our health as well. There is a direct link between conventional foods and toxic chemical exposure.

If a must-have ingredient comes from a far-off land, then ensure that the food is organically grown and, more importantly, is certified fair trade, whereby the workers are fairly compensated for their work. Look at providing more vegetarian options to save costs and promote wellness. Try to limit the meat/dairy portions to maybe one meal or even consider meat-free days. If meat or dairy are served, they should be free of antibiotics and hormones--again, organic. Ask about these possibilities when developing the menu with the facility.

Another initiative the CTCC offers to its clients is to ship any leftover food to an off-site composting facility. Some larger facilities like the Direct Energy Centre (DEC) in Toronto (another marquis green facility) have the capability to compost their waste on site. Any and all food, packaging, and drink containers at the DEC are compostable. Avoid serving your clients food of any kind in packaging. Try never to use anything disposable. For example, use linen napkins rather than paper, metal utensils rather than plastics, and ceramic or glass mugs for juices and your morning coffee rather than paper cups.

With respect to registration, CANNT currently offers online registration through the website, but is not fully automatic with a PayPal type of registration. Consider also what info is mailed (if any) to your members. Currently, each member is sent a complete registration package by mail. Unfortunately, it may end up in the blue bin (if we're lucky). Many large conferences like the Ontario Hospital Association's annual conference, have gone completely paperless and even offer apps for your smart phone. This is a huge cost savings for any organization including ours and definitely something to consider for the future. Paperless registration is achievable!

When it comes to presenters and their presentations, a few key tips come to mind. Notify all presenters to not offer handouts during their presentation to reduce waste. If anyone would like more info, the presenter could take that individual's contact info and send their presentation electronically. A common trend now is to offer online content from the conference after it has come to an end. CANNT offers online PowerPoint copies of the presentations (for a limited time) for all members to view. Other associations have online libraries of presentations for members to view for a nominal fee. The NANT conference offers an audio voiceover that accompanies its presentations. Presentations can be videotaped and translated as well. There are numerous ways to get the content to your members--you do need to consider cost and the needs of the end user when considering this option.

Everyone likes free stuff and the swag bag is no different. It's always great to get lunch bags or small totes with your registration, especially if they are eco-friendly in design--namely, made from post-consumer products and transformed into new goods. But often the papers that are packed inside, things like maps and brochures, are not eco-friendly. Now some may be handy (like a map or an attractions brochure or attendees list), but their viable usage is limited and inevitably they end up in the trash or (hopefully) the recycling bin. It would be most responsible to insert only what is truly important in the bag and cut back on paper and wasted trees. Any free swag from vendors should also follow suit. I suggest only eco-friendly goodies, such as recycled notepads, or biodegradable pens be made available.

The final area to consider is the area of social commitment. Huge props go to the Calgary planning committee for requesting that attendees bring any opened or unopened hotel toiletries to the registration desk so that they could be delivered to a local women's shelter. This is just one of many examples of social commitment that is easy to incorporate at any conference. This need not only be a planning committee initiative, it could also be supported by vendors. They could either commit to the same initiative, or promote something different on their own. Either way, significant impact can be made through a conference with more than 600 attendees. Increased participation in this initiative would have been achieved if it was announced in the conference written materials. We need to always be reminded and be thankful for what we have, and what better way to show our compassion towards others than to contribute en masse to those less fortunate.

An excellent reference for anyone looking to host a green event of any size is the David Suzuki Foundation's How to Host a Sustainable Event:

To all members of the CANNT 2012 Ottawa planning committee, I wish you a fantastic green event, which is already underway with the venue chosen being the new LEED-certified Ottawa Convention Centre. I look forward to attending and presenting yet again something on the spectrum of greening. For any further information or questions regarding hosting a green event at your hospital or elsewhere, feel free to contact me at

As I ride off into sunset on my green stallion, I leave you with these words from the Wild West: "Keep'r Green Cowpokes ... Yee Haw!"

Rejean Quesnelle, AScT Renal Technologist, Halton Healthcare Services, Oakville, ON

For any and all questions, feel free to email me, Reg, aka "Green Tech," Quesnelle at
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