Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Carbon-Neutral Meetings...are they prevalent in the U.S.?

While talking to a family friend this morning, I learned about an organization at the University of Florida called Neutral Gator. "Neutral Gator is an initiative of Earth Givers, a non-profit focused on reducing carbon emissions through energy conservation and carbon sequestration projects. Neutral Gator is dedicated to eliminating Gainesville’s contribution to global climate change by supporting the University of Florida in reaching carbon neutrality by 2025 and by reducing the carbon emitted by the local community."

Neutral Gator specifically works with UF's athletics department.  Through carbon-reduction projects that focus on the local Gainesville community (such as planting trees), the group successfully developed the first carbon-neutral athletic organization in the country and first carbon-neutral football season.  Talk about amazing! Just consider how much air and land travel is required to get all the necessary players, coaches, support staff, media, and equipment to each game.

All of this new information led me to think about carbon-neutral meetings. That was a big buzz-phrase when Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth came out in 2006. To me, it seems as if this movement has fizzled a bit in the meeting industry in the United States. Maybe I'm wrong (and please leave comments if you are seeing RFPs for carbon-neutral meetings), but I can list the number of carbon-conscious groups I've served in the past year on one hand.

That being said, I think the force behind this movement is going to make a comeback very soon in the U.S. The world's first carbon-neutral conference/convention center just opened in Ireland. Everything from the concrete foundations to the insulation of the Convention Centre Dublin was designed to be sustainable, carbon-neutral, and minimize overall energy consumption. Also, the facility provides guidance to groups wishing to offset their carbon emmissions (caused by travel to the CCD) through the purchase of carbon credits.

What's your opinion on carbon-neutral meetings? Are organizations wishing to offset their carbon emmissions, or are they more focused on other green initiatives, such as recycling programs, at conference centers? If you work at a conference center property, do you offer guidance on how to offset carbon footprints to groups? I'm interested to hear what the trends are like around the country.

Written by:
Meghan Bollenback
Food & Beverage Manager
R. David Thomas Executive Hotel & Conference Center

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