The Greening of NEHA

By Fabian, Nelson | Journal of Environmental Health, June 2010 | Go to article overview

The Greening of NEHA


Fabian, Nelson, Journal of Environmental Health


The environmental health profession that NEHA represents is committed to fostering both environmental quality and a healthful environment. Accordingly, it is our responsibility to operate your association in ways that honor these commitments.

We've been looking for and implementing a host of measures that enable us to increasingly green our office operation, our journal, our communications, interactions with the membership, and various business practices. We have been particularly focused on measures that will increasingly green our Annual Educational Conference (AEC) & Exhibition, which is the single largest program that NEHA sponsors. With the AEC & Exhibition now just around the corner, I thought that the membership might enjoy getting a briefing from me on what we've been doing to green your annual conference and by doing so, to support the very goals that you work to achieve each and every day.

Over these past several years the meetings literature has been growing insofar as the issue of green meetings is concerned. However, NEHA is among a small (though growing) number of associations that are making the effort to transform their annual meetings into increasingly green and sustainable events.

We hope, e.g., that you've already noticed our switch from paper to more electronic mediums for our promotions and even conference newsletters. We've also extensively employed e-mail, blogs, and the E-News to coordinate and advertise conference details.

The NEHA office has also gone green behind the scenes. We now send out RFPs to conference cities via e-mail rather than paper. This saves significant paper and postage costs. The entire conference program layout (which spells out in enormous detail all of our room sets, F&B needs, AV needs, event times and locations, etc.) is now developed and determined in a paperless e-format. We produce the conference program guide using sustainable options, and have greatly reduced its size over the years. It is now also printed locally in our conference city, thereby eliminating the need to ship these heavy booklets from Denver. Contracts with conference hotels are now reviewed via e-mail and signed with digital signatures, eliminating the need to print out and post 15-20 pages for each iteration of the negotiation process. We also work with our conference hotels to ensure that they are implementing green practices. Recycling bins are now located throughout the halls, and laptops, instead of desktops, are offered at computer cafes. After the 2009 AEC & Exhibition, all conference surveys were completed electronically (versus paper conference surveys that attendees have submitted on site, mailed, or faxed in the past).

We now steer you to register online, which greatly reduces the number of mailed registrations. Exhibitors can promote their companies via the virtual platform and are also asked to use recyclable or reused materials for signage in their booths at the conference. Our planning with presenters is now all taking place through e-mail. In addition, we've been discouraging our presenters from creating hard copy handout materials. Instead, such material has been electronically compiled and incorporated into the CDs we've been providing our attendees.

For our last two AEC & Exhibitions, we've coordinated a carpool system to transport attendees from the airport to the hotel. In Atlanta, we collaborated with the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority to make public transit passes available to our AEC & Exhibition attendees. In addition, we've been providing attendees with the opportunity to purchase carbon offsets through TerraPass. (See www.terrapass. com/about/how-carbon-offsets-work.html for more information.)

To further encourage sustainability, NEHA now offers a prestigious "NEHA Sustainability Award." In addition, we've been expanding the track of education that we make available on sustainability. …

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