Over the course of the last year and a half, I’ve been inspired and driven to learn more about sustainable event planning and how our industry can change, or has changed, to keep up with this trend that needs to be the norm. In April of 2014, I attended the GMIC SUSTAINABLE MEETINGS CONFERENCE (SMC), and realized how far the industry has already moved into this important topic and how much there was to learn in order to not only change some of the habits I’ve developed over my 15+ year career, but to also help take KONCEPT EVENTS to the next level of event planning. With this new inspiration and motivation AND a new position at KE, I am driving forward with my SUSTAINABLE EVENT PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATE (SEPC) and taking our “Plan Fresh” approach to the next level.
At the 2014 GMIC SMC in San Francisco, realizing I was a bit over my head, I spoke with several of the originators from GMIC and other industry leaders. I learned that the best place to start was the new SEPC program offered through GMIC. This program takes the APEX-ASTM standards in sustainable events and breaks them down into a usable format. With expert speakers in each specific arena of planning involved (catering, venues, exhibits, etc.), each class offers explicit detail and a step-by-step approach to help you make the leap from that everyday event, to a sustainable event. With the 12 week session (this included the 2015 SMC in Atlanta) – I embarked on my new goal, to obtain my Sustainable Event Professional Certificate.
The journey was exceptional. The online classroom allows for interaction with instructors plus each other. There was a great variety of backgrounds and work situations. This brought a dynamic to the group that allowed for even more sharing and assistance with troubleshooting. Each class was broken down into an area of focus (for example, procurement or strategy) and applies it to our everyday lives of planning an event. The guest speakers are people brought in to speak directly on an area of focus. For example, Jeff Chase (VP of Sustainability) from FREEMAN COMPANY spoke on the advancements in exhibits and signage. These real life, every day livers of this world put each topic into perspective and broke it down in to its most basic part. It then allowed us as the students to think through and work through how those topic can be applied in different ways to the events we plan every day. Habits can be tough to change especially for us planning – as it seems we are running at 80 miles per hour, day in and day out. But this class has a unique way of breaking down the immense amount of information into bite-size, applicable amounts, and encourages an ease of use. With additional online resources, we’re given the chance to network with others in the class and share successes and ideas.
All of the collaboration has given me the information and confidence to instill a great sustainability program in KE. We had previously started with a few small areas, including our floral department composting all waste and donating it to our local urban farm. But, now I have the knowledge to take our plans to the next level! Now I can analyze what needs we have as a company and what needs our clients have and begin the steps to implement sustainable solutions for them. We can now put our corporate sustainability policy into action. We can now take steps towards setting up relationships with local vendors that foster an environment for us and them to grow into sustainable partners. With all of this information, our creativity can run free in a completely new realm and allow us to envision new ways to design a client’s event. It will allow us to provide options that are sustainable and affordable. It allows us to rethink all that we’ve done and reinvent all that we can do!
My advice for those looking to take this certification class is DO IT! Sign up. Make the commitment – not only to push yourself as a planner, but to push the limits of our industry. This is not a new, hot trend. Sustainable events are the future of our industry. In order for us to further our industry and continue to have meetings and events throughout the world, we have to approach them from a more eco-friendly manner. This class will give you all the basics to take those first, very scary steps into this world. This class will give you the confidence to walk away and implement change in your small part of the event world…which can ripple through our entire events industry!