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Green Meeting Industry Council
700 N. Fairfax Street, Suite 510
Alexandria, VA 22314

Member Spotlight - May 2012
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Member Spotlight

Get to know our members. Every month we profile a different member who helps to make the GMIC community so unique. Explore the links below to learn more about our network of engaged Sustainability professionals.

Katherine Manfredi
Senior Director, Strategic Event Management & CSR
Conference Partners, Inc.

Why did you join GMIC?
I was compelled to learn more about how to make meetings and events more sustainable, in view of the waste generated and the expanse of opportunities we have in our industry. GMIC was the logical choice, being the ‘green’ arm of our industry associations, and given the involvement of thought leaders and leading-edge practitioners.

How long have you been a member?
I co-founded our chapter, starting discussions in late 2008 and my membership came bundled when registered for the upcoming conference, so officially I’ve been a member since March 2009 when my membership was activated.

What is your sustainability philosophy?
Small steps add up: do whatever you can, no matter how tiny it seems. There is always some way to incorporate sustainable choices. I believe we all need to take responsibility for ensuring our communities and planet are healthy, and to help ensure the well-being of those who are not in the position to make choices or protect themselves. And remember to share our knowledge, look for new opportunities, and celebrate successes.

How do you incorporate sustainability into your life and work?
There are the usual things we all do at home, like recycling, plus I seek other ways to make changes that make a difference such as installing a solar water heater and volunteering for community organizations. At work, I look for opportunities to educate colleagues and clients on more sustainable choices. I try to initiate the ‘green meetings’ discussion at the outset with a supplier and/or client, and explain how we can ‘green’ events in ways that will not adversely affect their bottom line or guest experience – and that there are countless options that can actually reduce their financial investment and enhance the attendee experience, which is often a revelation and starts them thinking about doing things in different ways that will not disrupt the business of the meeting yet provide a more socially and environmentally responsible platform and outcome.

What is your greatest satisfaction in being a member of GMIC? (or what sets GMIC apart from other organizations you are a member of?)
GMIC brings together people who are all interested in rowing the boat in the same direction, and so willingly share information to help one another move forward on their sustainability journey. From the first conference I attended, it was immediately apparent I was surrounded by people who were equally eager to talk about green meetings. As an event professional, I love that at a GMIC conference, sitting to my left may be a chef and to my right a hotel GM, and they are all just as interested and open to sharing their thoughts, experiences and challenges. The learning atmosphere within the GMIC community is so rich.

What would you share with others just getting started incorporating sustainability or green practices into their works?
"Rethink” – simply by looking at your job/event/organization from a different perspective, you can find neat ways to incorporate sustainability practices that can reduce the negative impact or make a positive impact to the community and environment, and many options offer the prospect to trim your budget at the same time. For planners, there are some simple basics, for instance during site selection looking for a ‘greener’ destination and a more sustainable venue that will boost your event’s sustainability without costing you more time, effort or money... For suppliers, something as simple as changing the settings on your computer to print double-sided in those cases when you must print, can be a step forward. Also "Partner” – you will be most effective if you engage your business partners/suppliers in dialogue and talk about why you are taking steps towards greater sustainability, how important it is, what you hope to achieve, etc. Open discussions can lead to wonderful outcomes for all sides of the table and beyond. Everyone wants the event to be successful, and we can support one another in defining what success looks like and how we can achieve it together.

What do your attendees/employees notice the most from your sustainability efforts?
There are some things they don’t notice, such as bulk condiments, and that makes me feel good that we are able to incorporate no- or low-cost adjustments without them feeling deprived. Delegates are frequently delighted with fun alternatives like pitchers of different flavored waters (berries, orange slices, etc.) They are often pleased to find organic foods served, just like the choices they make for themselves at home. Options to walk to a meeting and get outdoors are also refreshing to many, and energizes them. Just being outside on a lovely day can raise people’s spirits and they feel joyful; how wonderful these are healthy options that may even save us dollars in our ever-shrinking events budgets, or allow us to move dollars around and make other sustainable choices that may require an investment, so we can do everyone some good.

What do you need from the industry to continue to advance in the realm of sustainability?
More tools, continued education, and communication of efforts being made by others everywhere. More discussions with groups like airlines where there are still so many opportunities ahead and are huge contributors to the meeting footprint. And more collaboration between associations and between organizations, using our abilities collectively to move our industry forward at a faster pace.