Are you looking for ways to minimize your company’s environmental impact when hosting an event, meeting or group? Of course you are. When sustainability is a company priority, group travel can raise concerns, but sustainable event planning is still possible, even if attendees have to travel from multiple cities to get to your event.
We have entered a new era of group travel and travel’s impact on climate change cannot be ignored. While it’s difficult to be 100% sustainable, there are still ways to make a small contribution and highlight the importance of sustainable practices.
WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL?
Sustainability promotes and eliminates harmful human impacts on the natural environment, including an economic, social and supply chain perspective. Eco-friendly travel aims to minimize the overall impact, often with a focus on reducing carbon emissions.
For companies, the desire to adopt this worldview can conflict with cost containment: sustainability often comes with a higher price tag, especially as travel prices soar.
Create more sustainable group travel practices
Eco-conscious organisations, group travel organizers and event planners are moving closer to sustainable travel practices simply by booking hotels smarter. A change of perspective—like choosing a lesser-known location, emphasizing local businesses while traveling, and actively reducing waste at your event—helps make a positive impact.
Here are four tips to get you started:
1. PUT ON YOUR RUNNING SHOES
Reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gases when driving to and from your chosen venue by booking hotels within walking distance.
With GroupSync Marketplace, you can do just that: filter your search by address and neighborhood so the results match that criterion. Finding, sourcing and booking a solution that fits your needs, budget and facilities has never been easier.
A walking commute is also the best way to get acquainted with the city you’re visiting, making you more immersed in a local bagel shop and giving money back to the community.
“[Shopping locally] enables a more circular economy that impacts other sustainability factors such as cultural preservation, local sourcing, etc.,” said Jaclyn Yost, Founder and CEO of ecomadic, an online green travel magazine.
When walking is a challenge, convenience doesn’t have to sacrifice sustainability: many cities’ public transit systems make it easier to get from A to B, although unfamiliar users might be transport-shy. Research and share ways to use public transit to keep your group comfortable. Or you can also plan in such a way that your group has a clear carpool plan.
“Event planners should ensure, when planning their event, that they consider ADA and accessibility requirements to be truly sustainable,” said Hazel Horvath, founder and CEO of Ecolytics, which works with companies to assess and improve their environmental impact.
bonus point: If carbon-intensive air travel isn’t a must – let’s say you’re traveling within Europe – opt for the train. The advantages of rail travel include sightseeing opportunities, group meetings, work time and relaxation.
2. BOOK HOTELS WITH ON-SITE FACILITIES
Event planners can make it easy for attendees by booking meeting rooms and accommodations at the same location to reduce travel expenses. Beyond the commute, however, consider a hotel’s additional offerings that address every beat of a guest’s experience:
Does it have an airport shuttle?
Can you hire bikes or does it offer bike storage?
Are there charging stations for electric vehicles?
Will it subsidize public transport tickets?
Do the meeting rooms have digital thermostats?
Are there occupancy sensors to control temperature and light?
Does it track water usage and have a conservation practice?
Are there refill stations for water bottles?
Do the rooms have bulk shampoo dispensers?
bonus point: A hotel’s amenities can go beyond a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Hotels that embrace these efforts think long-term, like vegetable gardens, beekeeping, timed landscaping of water systems, green infrastructure, monthly beach clean-ups, and donating extra food. These hotels are evolving from an “I” responsibility (an individual guest’s stay) to a “We” responsibility (contribution to the community as a whole).
3. REDUCE WASTE
Once they partner with a venue with the same Earth-First approach, planners need to think through their event materials: name tags, signs, and the many paper products that are often thrown away afterwards.
Not only can they switch to suppliers who make the eco-friendly choice their standard, but they can also reduce plastic use, single-use signs, plastic straws and more. Small changes with a big effect:
- Event signage with date → Signs with generic branding (can be reused)
- Compulsory attendance → Optional attendance (with virtual attendance)
- Useless Items Swag Bag → Canvas swag bag with a metal straw, a reusable water bottle, a natural fiber bento box, a recycled fabric ball cap, a biodegradable pen, etc. (See more ideas here.)
bonus point: Make sustainability part of your meeting or event programme. Point out the efforts that have been made – here are the recycling bins, these are compostable forks, that’s why we’re using a QR code instead of printed materials – so the conversation can continue.
4. SUPPORT HOTELS ON THEIR SUSTAINABILITY POLICY
Hotels that have adopted sustainable practices are likely already promoting their efforts. Some, like Marriott International, are recognized for their commitment.
However, organizations and companies say they feel held back by their inability to determine the authenticity of sustainability claims. The commonly used term “greenwashing” is when a company misleads consumers about its environmental efforts.
A hotel’s sustainable practices are of course not entirely altruistic. Just think about when the hospitality industry took to letting guests leave new towels on a daily basis. While this saves water, it also reduces a hotel’s laundry costs.
Ask hotels to detail how they incorporate sustainable practices and request a copy of their environmental policy. Questions to ask when communicating with hotels via a GroupSync RFP include:
- Do you use renewable energy sources?
- What steps have you taken to reduce your carbon footprint?
- Can you work with me to make my event carbon neutral?
- Our event includes some paper and plastic products. How can we reduce on-site waste and make recycling and composting easier?
bonus point: Examine a hotel’s third-party certifications to see how success is measured, because not all are created equal, Horvath said. She recommended looking at how many metrics are being tracked and how claims are being verified.
Small steps towards social responsibility make a difference.
The hard-hit travel and tourism industry is still recovering from 2020 losses of $4.5 trillion in GDP and 62 million jobs, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Economic and Trends Report. However, the sector remains focused on making the recovery better than before, prioritizing climate and environmental issues “not only for ethical reasons, but also because tomorrow’s travelers will demand it”.
Sustainability is both in fashion and here to stay, and being eco-friendly can feel next to impossible when planning group travel and events. Still, there are small, minimally intrusive ways to make a lasting impact on the planet. Every bit helps. Just as hotels’ sustainability efforts are a win-win for them, so is an organization’s work towards greener travel operations.
Groups360 was founded with a single goal – to empower meeting planners by bringing innovation, transparency and simplicity to the decades-old problem of group booking. The company’s integrated technology solution, GroupSync™, enables suppliers to distribute inventory, engage with planners and optimize group sales. GroupSync also enables planners to search and shop for hotels worldwide and book rooms and spaces directly online or through a simplified RFP process. GroupSync is the first distribution channel to offer online booking for both group hotel rooms and meeting rooms.
Groups360 has offices in Nashville, London and Singapore. Learn more at groups360.com.
Vice President Marketing