MPI Blog


Meeting Planners of WEC18 Seek a Fresh, Innovative & Sustainable Event

WEC and Corporate Social Responsibility

Meeting planners of each annual MPI World Education Congress (WEC) seek to make the event fresh, innovative and, perhaps most of all, better than the conferences that preceded it in one way or another. And the planners of the sustainability initiative at this year's WEC (June 2-5 in Indianapolis) will likely hit their target without any doubt.

The key to that highly likely accomplishment is that MPI has committed to following International Organization for Standardization (ISO) sustainable event standards.

Julia Spangler (MPI Indiana Chapter), an independent sustainability consultant who is a member of the WEC 2018 host committee’s CSR sub-committee, says the adherence to ISO sustainable events standards is a hallmark of an event that seeks to be in the top echelon of green events.

“I have never worked with an event before that was committed to meeting the ISO standards, and working with MPI has been inspiring,” she says.

The key to WEC 2018 being a model for sustainability is that in addition to a massive and thorough effort that went into the planning of WEC and will continue through the execution, there will also be an equally massive and extremely detailed documentation effort that will produce quantitative numbers on just how sustainable the big Indianapolis conference turned out to be.

“We are going to have about 40 different standards of measurement in addition to how much waste we kept from going to the landfill,” Spangler says.

Related Article: Convention Centers Get Creative with Event Sustainability

Those standards of measurement will include everything from the energy efficiency of the audiovisual equipment to shuttle bus fuel efficiency to the local sourcing of food.

“The key to documenting our sustainability efforts so thoroughly is that we want to be able to show how well WEC did in terms of achieving the highest green standards for events and also for the ability to share our methodology and allow planners of future events everywhere to replicate what we did with their events,” Spangler says.

In the key area of waste reduction, lots of attention will be paid to what goes into the food service piece of WEC. The caterer, Centerplate, will be weighing and documented the level of food scraps produced in meal preparation and will be certifying that all of those food scraps will be composted as opposed to dumped into the trash system.

Food that is prepared but not served at WEC will be delivered to Second Helpings, a local charity whose mission is to abate hunger by delivering food to more than 80 local entities that serve food to the needy. (Second Helpings currently provides about 4,000 meals a day in the Indianapolis area.)

"The food initiative is not just focused on waste,” Spangler says. “There is an emphasis on a local sourcing of food as much as possible."

Spangler will lead a team of onsite monitors and facilitators who will work to not just measure the amount of waste that is properly put in the various categories of the recycling network, but to help attendees find and use the disposal bins that will be ubiquitous around the convention center.

Spangler and her staff will be working at three key events during WEC—the opening and closing night galas and one of the luncheons—and will also be on hand at the various villages within WEC when they are in use.

She says one of the goals is to not just make sure the attendees do their part to help recycle waste, but to have an open process where attendees—especially the meeting planners—can learn about the sustainability process so they can use all or part of it in their own future events.

Paper Products and Other Waste

Spangler says one of the key methods of cutting down on paper and plastic waste is to do everything possible to keep it from being created in the first place. Exhibitors and MPI stakeholders have been issued green guidelines about doing as much as possible with digital distribution of information rather than information printed on paper.

Much of the paper and plastic leftovers, including things like attendee name badge lanyards, will be given to a local charity called Teacher’s Treasures, which distributes usable leftover materials to Indianapolis area schools.

Spangler says providing a green learning experience for attendees is an emphasis.

“Having a really sustainable event with a well-documented green footprint is very important,” she says. “And the ability to inspire other green events being carried out by many other groups going forward is huge.”

The ISO standards for events came from a source that will be quite familiar to veteran MPI members. A sustainability standard ccalled ISO 20121 was created as a green blueprint for the 2012 London Olympics by a team of ISO experts shared by Fiona Pelham, former MPI board chair.

“The development process has been led by members of the event industry from around the world who have experience of event management and sustainability leadership initiatives,” Pelham said at the time ISO 20121 was created.

About the Author

Roland Stiteler
Rowland Stiteler

Rowland Stiteler, a veteran meeting industry journalist, is a writer and editor for The Meeting Professional.