Carbon Emissions from Business Air Travel Elicit Turn to ‘Green Meetings’

Businesses facing the dual pressures of remaining sensitive to environmental impacts and a need to communicate by using in-person meetings and conferences have turned to “green meetings” to bridge the divide.

According to the Department of Transportation, airlines in the United States carried 62.4 million scheduled domestic and international passengers in March 2010 alone, which represents a 2.4 percent increase from the same month in 2009.

As the economy rebounds, the numbers are projected to keep rising, and according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, business men and women going to meetings represent a hefty portion of those travelers: 16 percent.

While business travel is rebounding, several companies are attempting to offset their carbon footprints by implementing environmentally sound practices in planning their meetings, and organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency and The National Business Association have released guidelines on how to do so. 

According to the EPA Web site, “Anyone who has ever organized a conference or meeting knows the monetary and environmental costs involved in such an undertaking.” So the goal is to, “show hosts, planners and suppliers how to incorporate green principles into every aspect of conference and meeting planning.”

With simple tips such as, using paperless technology, reducing distances traveled for meeting locations, and choosing hotels that offer recycling and linen reuse programs, the EPA hopes to reduce the environmental impact of in-person meetings.

In a response to the popularity of the green meeting, Starwood Hotels, which owns popular brands such as W Hotels, Westin and Sheraton, recently launched sustainable meeting practices that will be implemented in all of their properties worldwide.

“Rolling this program out across North America formalizes environmental practices our hotels have been implementing and we are excited to encourage,” said Sandy Swider, Starwood’s Vice President for Global Citizenship, in a press release issued by Starwood.