An inside look at Sun’s practical environmentally friendly conference upgrades
Despite the standard perception creating an environmentally friendly event doesn’t necessarily mean breaking the bank. A few key decisions made in the planning process can turn events a shade greener without a significant increase in investment or resources.
One company that’s got it right: Sun Microsystems. No stranger to environmental responsibility the company has an organization-wide Eco Responsibility Initiative and works to make products and services that are as environmentally friendly as possible. The company has already instated a Global Takeback Program which allows the majority of returned products to be recycled and is greening internal operations with programs including Open Work which allows employees to work from home or in a flexible work environment.
Keeping in line with the internal standard the technology company turned last month’s JavaOne conference into an eco-friendly event without a complete upheaval in strategy or a significant increase in resources. The trick? Everything in moderation. Instead of completely throwing traditional event strategy to the wind Sun tweaked its approach with small—but integral—changes that translated into big enviro-friendly results.
“Ultimately by just being a little bit more conscious about our approach we definitely were able to be a lot more eco-friendly and it was actually very easy to do ” says Wendy Yamaguma vp-event marketing for Sun.
Take notes tree huggers-in-training. Here’s how to apply Sun’s approach to your next event:
1. Partner Up. Simply choosing the right venue can be half the battle. The JavaOne conference was held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco an environmentally conscious facility that regularly practices a number of initiatives aimed at sustainability including food composting recycling and a donation program that gives excess food to area charities and shelters. Sun was also able to take advantage of Moscone’s in-house caterers which use eco-friendly techniques when possible such as offering salad bowls made out of cornstarch instead of plastic.
In addition much of the power for Sun’s conference was generated by the massive solar electrical system that operates on Moscone’s roof. (To find more green facilities check out epa.gov/oppt /greenmeetings. The Environmental Protection Agency web site includes links to a list of properties with environmentally friendly practices in check and tips for planning green events.)
2. Make Material Decisions. Although going completely paperless would have been optimal for a green event it was unrealistic given attendees’ expectations says Scott Schenker vp-client services at Auburn Hills MI-based handling agency George P. Johnson.
“Attendees still aren’t ready to carry around PDA devices just so they can find what room they are going to ” Schenker says. “Paper-based signs still make the most sense.”
The solution? A semi-paperless approach that had Sun sending some direct mail pieces virtually while using recycled paper and eco-friendly ink for handouts and other collateral. The company chose to send the weightiest piece of direct mail—a pre-registration course guide that regularly includes 30-plus pages—virtually to attendees while sending follow-up mail on recycled paper. The company estimates that the strategy saved four-and-a-half tons of paper.
3. Spread the Green. Because many of the conference’s attendees were located in the Bay Area Sun took its green strategy outside the conference walls with a Bike to JavaOne program. The company brought in the San Francisco Bike Coalition a non-profit advocacy organization to offer a Bike Valet service. Staffers from the organization watched over bikes and offered attendees tips on keeping their wheels in tip-top shape.
The end result? Yamaguma says the eco-conscious approach generated positive feedback from attendees and the JavaOne conference may serve as a benchmark for greening other Sun events.