Don’t "Greenwash" Your Event

One thing that has come up as we consider greening our conferences is that we don’t want our efforts to be perceived as “greenwashing.”

With “green” being as chic as it is, it seems just about anyone will slap a kelly green sticker on their product and send it out into the world. I wouldn’t be surprised to see massive SUVs roll off the assembly line with a sticker that proudly states, “25% of the console of this vehicle was made with partially-recycled materials. Just one more step to a greener world.”

It would seem that green sells, so if you’re going green, you should mention it. But beware–as in all marketing, you should not promise something that you don’t intend to deliver. Take away the ethical issues–it just doesn’t make business sense. If someone actually chooses your event over another option because it is green and it turns out all you did was use recycled paper, you have almost certainly lost that customer for life.

We have to deliver everything we promise in the way of green. If our first greening attempt is simply to switch to recycled brochures, then the appropriate way to note that is with a simple, small recycling symbol in one corner of the brochure. I certainly don’t think you call it a “green conference” at that point. But remember, the event world, as a whole, is still at Green 1.0. We’ve got some learning and growing to do and it’s better to start small than not at all.

Some of these already green conferences have been criticized as “not green enough,” and if you go green, your event will likely receive some criticism, as well. Even the 2007 Academy Awards Ceremony, which was honoring “An Inconvenient Truth” and most certainly had the top green people (and the cash flow) around to “green” the event, was criticized in its first effort.

It’s easy to criticize green efforts as “not enough.” Almost a year ago, I came across the No Impact Man blog, talking about a man and his family’s attempts to seriously limit their impact on the environment. People actually criticized the man (who was not even using toilet paper) because of the amount of energy expended by his computer to write the blog and for others to read it.

I’m not saying to ignore the criticism–some of it could actually give you new ideas for the next event. But don’t let it stop you. Just make sure you are always honest and forthright about your green efforts and you can’t go wrong.

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