By Jody Long Have you ever thought about how much waste is associated with some meetings and events you plan? Signs, hand outs, name badges, food…there’s a lot of one-time-use items that are thrown away after a short-lived event. If you’re thinking about changing this, and "going green" is something you've been considering for your next gathering, here are some points to consider when you start planning. · Create online invitations, such as Evite.com, or online an online registration website instead of mailing invitations or registration forms. · Ask the event site to use linens, glasses, and other re-usable products instead of disposable items. Also ask if they participate in a recycling program. (Did you know some hotels recycle their bars of soap and send them to less-fortunate countries after a sterilization process?) · Look into online advertising or email marketing instead of paper marketing material. Make use of your own website, blog, and social media pages. · Work with food vendors and caterers to ensure you order the right amount of food for your guests and there is not too much excess. Inquire what they do with leftover food. (Some hotels and restaurants donate it to local farms to feed their animals) · Provide online tools for guests to be able to download event materials, handouts, and course materials. Consider emailing these materials ahead of time, or giving attendees a link to a folder after the event. You may also consider an online/cloud based system such as DropBox.com, or handing out USB drives to attendees as they check in. · If printed materials are necessary, consider using recycled paper. · Choose decorations and signage that can be reused at your other events. For example, don't include the dates on posters or banners, so that they can be recycled for the following year. · Are you using name badges, lanyards, or both? You'd be surprised how many you'll get back if you set out a name badge recycle box near the exit. This is also saves you money! · Visit your state’s environmental website for ideas on how to “go green”. · If you have the option to bring in your own food for the event, research a local caterer or farm that can provide sustainable food and beverage choices. · If you typically hand out surveys during or after the event, collect email addresses instead and let your attendees know you’ll be emailing a survey out to them. You can use online survey websites such as ConstantContact.com, or SurveyMonkey.com · Instead of collecting business cards from customers and attendees, consider using a lead-retrieval system to collect contact information. These are usually scanners that allow you to download information after an event or trade show.