BlogHer '11: Greening a Conference

BlogHer '11: Greening a Conference

There are many challenges when producing a conference -- and one of the biggest is being eco-friendly. At BlogHer '11 this year, we did many things in an effort to be green. We do know it's not only about "recycle," so there was also a healthy dose of "re-use and reduce" in the mix!

greening BlogHer

Reduce:

  • We have significantly reduced our use of paper once again, this year going 95% digital with digital signage. We went digital everywhere we could; the days of all paper/foam signage are almost over.
  • Speaking of digital, we had a mobile app for the conference -- this was a great addition to the event, as attendees could simply click on their mobile phones and see floor plans, sponsor lists and so much more!
  • Once again. we had an online pre-conference guide. Again, you could peruse and prepare for the conference without printing a single piece of paper!
  • As in years past, we did not have bottled water, but instead, we had water bubblers located throughout the convention center so attendees could fill their water bottles -- no plastic in the trash.

Re-Use:

  • Once again, in a partnership with P&G/Future Friendly, we provided the Swag Exchange, where attendees could drop off and pick up swag, so nothing ended up in the trash. Because of this effort, the Future Friendly Swag Exchange was able to donate an incredible amount of product to the Providence Charity of San Diego. Six barrels (about 216 gallons) and 15 bins (about 450 gallons) were gratefully picked up by the charity, while the remainder was sent to a recycle center.
  • In addition to donating and recycling swag, we continued our policy of donating food. This year, untouched food was donated through Convention Center charities.

While we made great strides in our efforts to be eco-friendly, we learned we fell short in the serving ware department, and we were very disappointed.

When we were planning this event, we made sure to clearly tell the San Diego Convention Center that we wanted recyclable or compostable or otherwise eco-friendly serving ware. This meant plates, cups, utensils -- the whole thing. We were assured we were getting what we asked for, and got the following response in writing:

Biodegradable corn-based and sugarcane-based plastic cutlery cups and plates are used.

Turns out that wasn't exactly what was laid out for attendee usage, a fact we didn't learn until a few intrepid attendees let us know! Yes, the utensils were biodegradable -- but the plates, that was a different story. As we learned after the fact when investigating after the conference: The plates were recyclable as long as they were not used, but once a plate was used, it could only be thrown in the trash. Seems that if we had used the biodegradable plates with hot food, they would have deteriorated, creating quite a mess. Unfortunately, we were not asked about the decision to switch, and the information was not shared with us at all until we inquired.

Normally, had we been presented with an alternative, we would have requested that china be used. But at the time we were planning this event, we were not permitted to use china plates in the Sails Pavilion, where our meals were being served, because the pavilion is not carpeted.

However, there is a silver lining to all of this. Because some of you brought the issue up to us, and we took it up with the convention center, they have now changed their policies in a couple of key ways. Because of our conference and our community, they are making big changes.

  • They will offer china plates in all areas of the convention center, upon request.
  • They are clarifying the language above about biodegradable serving ware, so that it is clear the biodegradable/compostable products are available upon request.
  • The bottom line is that they are improving not only their communications, but their already award-winning sustainable practices.

We would like to thank everyone who brought this to our attention, as you not only helped us but you also helped the San Diego Convention Center!

If you have questions, please let me know.

Lori Luna
director of events

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