Attendee Participation in Greening General Assembly
Many General Assembly (GA) attendees “jump in” onsite to support sustainability efforts. In addition to complying with GA Planning Committee programs, attendees often make spontaneous efforts to reduce our meeting’s environmental impact.
As part of the registration process, GA attendees are encouraged donate $6 to reduce carbon emissions. Donations go to Carbonfund.org, a non-profit organization that educates the public about climate change and works with individuals, businesses and civic groups on CO2 reduction programs. In 2012, a total of 1386 offsets were purchased; representing 38.5% participation.
Reusable Water Bottles and Filling Stations
Did you know that it takes as much water to make your water bottle as it does to fill it? One of the simplest things Unitarian Universalists (UUs) can do at General Assembly to reduce your environmental footprint is to bring and reuse a water bottle. Organizers take special effort to ensure that water fountains and refill stations are available, so take advantage of them and save a bit of money, and a lot of planet.
Better yet, if you're coming with a group, think about bringing your own unique water bottles that identify you as a community while you're at GA. Looking for a fun congregational activity before you come to GA? Think about getting reusable tumblers that you can get together and decorate before you come.
Staff and Volunteers
Increased staffing and equipment were primary contributors to improving waste diversion in 2012. Staff supervision increased from one person to two supervisors and two roving staff at any one time. This represents a significant increase in paid people power. In addition, more volunteers were used and stations were added to historical counts. Although this enabled the best event diversion ever, it is a difficult act to follow without a permanent increase in annual investment in waste management for the event.
Waste management stations could benefit from improved signage. This could prevent some of the confusion about how to recycle, which attendees report in their evaluations. In 2012, existing recycling was expanded to also divert food scraps and compostable service ware. Employing UU volunteers to assist, 86.8% of waste was recovered—an event record! This translates into less than 0.7 pounds per person.
Recycling at GA Hotels
MeetGreen® advocated to expand recycling at host hotels. In 2012, each property had different recycling practices and there was work to do at some of the properties to bring recycling up to speed for GA. Both the Westin and Taylor Place dorm had effective in room or common-area recycling programs for guests. The Renaissance Hotel practiced back of house recycling, meaning there were no signs of recycling in public areas or in guest rooms. Instead, housekeeping staff sort trash from each room and recycle relevant material. Back of house recycling programs often result in a smaller diversion rate as busy housekeepers may overlook sorting. This can lead astute UUs to question if recycling is taking place as it’s invisible to them. Meanwhile the Hyatt had a few recycling bins near meeting rooms and in the lobby but had nothing on guest room floors.
MeetGreen® worked with staff at the Renaissance and the Hyatt to improve these recycling programs. The Hyatt purchased recycling bins that were placed near the elevators on each floor. The operations team also placed a paper bag in each room and left a voice mail for each guest letting them know about this recycling option. Similarly, the Renaissance placed biodegradable bags in every room with a note explaining it was for recyclables.
Judging from the comments received from attendees through the event’s online audit form, GA guests were happy with these recycling options and most bugs were able to be ironed out of the new programs. Also, MeetGreen® staff received reports that hotel staff were proud of the program and that housekeepers at the Renaissance were happy to no longer have to sort through guests’ trash. In addition, the amount of trash diverted from the landfill at each property was either measured for the first time, or increased.
Air Conditioning at General Assembly
Every year the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) receives feedback about the room temperature at General Assembly. Some people find it too cold. Others complain it can be uncomfortably hot. Unfortunately, its difficult to find the ideal temperature all the time. We want you to know we hear your concerns on both sides, and try to find the best temperature to ensure a good experience.
Convention centers typically have standard temperature set points that are programmed for rooms based on size and anticipated occupancy. That means sometimes when you first arrive it seems cold. As more people fill up a room temperatures can increase dramatically and the room becomes more comfortable, but hopefully not so hot as provide strain on those unable to tolerate excessive heat.
To make sure you're most comfortable all the time, we encourage you to bring a light sweater or shawl.
This year eighty-five participants opted to tune into GA virtually. Providing a hybrid event format—one that allows remote and in-person attendance—not only helps foster a more inclusive environment for those unable to travel, it also allows GA to grow attendance through lower environmental impact means. Remote attendees obviously consume power by tuning in and participating online. However their preference to stay home avoids the carbon footprint inherent in traveling. By making the decision to attend online, remote attendees avoided 32.6 metric tons of carbon emissions.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Monday, March 4, 2013.
- Housing & Travel
- Programs & Schedule
- Social Justice at GA
- How Congregations Are Represented / Delegates
- Virtual GA: Participating from Off-site
- Past General Assemblies
- Exhibit Hall