2008 Kansas City Regional Expo hit: PLAN it GREEN™ takes a serious look at eco-friendly meetings

December 1, 2008

By Michael Humphrey

The green movement in America represents more than just a little recycling and buying eco-friendly products. That’s the message that came out of Missouri Meetings & Event’s Kansas City Expo – PLAN it GREEN™. Seminars and keynote speakers who gathered at the recently renovated Sheraton Kansas City Sports Complex Hotel on Sept. 8 and 9 helped show expo-goers that it embodies a lifestyle change.

“It is about living in harmony,” John Schuster, founding partner of The Schuster Kane Alliance, says in his afternoon talk, “Leading Green.” “When we face the facts of our impact, which is daunting, then we begin to see a new way of life emerge.”

It’s also about a new way to do business. Many of the presenters, showed the economic advantages of living green.

Thinking Green

But the expo was not a cheerleading fest on how to look green or how to sell green. There was an honest investigation of how complex environmental responsibility really is.

“Now we have to be aware of something called ‘greenwashing,’” says Scott McKye, president of Kleertech, in his breakout presentation. “Not every product that claims to be green actually is. That’s one problem, but even people with good intentions don’t always do what is best for the environment.”

He used several examples:

• Corn-based plastic, celebrated as an alternative to petrochemical plastic, cannot be recycled with regular plastic. And the closest legitimate composting facility for corn plastic is two states away.

• Soy inks, also celebrated as eco-friendly, are not biodegradable and not as energy efficient as linseed or sunflower inks.

• Recycled paper may not be as ecological as buying new paper from a producer that is properly managing the forests it harvests.

“At this stage, research is essential to make a true ecological impact,” McKye says. “You have to find companies you can trust to get at the truth of the matter.”

The good news is that the green industry is full of potential. Hotels, conference centers, restaurants, caterers, transportation companies and many more suppliers are finding creative ways to go green.

Swank Audio Visual, for instance, displayed its latest green products, including recycled-metal, low-voltage LED lighting and LCD video products. These are some of the ways many venues are working their way to more conservation-friendly business practices as well.

Larry Wheeler, instructor at The Culinary Center of Kansas City, gave a break-out session on how to use and re-use materials that are good for the environment but also look spectacular.

“We decided on this topic for an expo,” says Joe Clote, publisher of Missouri Meetings & Events, “not only because there is a such a great need for the industry to address its own impact, but also because the business opportunities that are arising for planners and suppliers is enormous. Many experts say this is the next growth industry and that will certainly be true for meetings and events.”

Fresh Perspectives

Of course, at the heart of being green is seeing the world in new and fresh ways. The expo took that to heart as well, especially with its featured speaker on Monday night and keynote speaker Tuesday at lunch.

John O’Leary, president of Rising Above, gave an inspirational talk Monday night about the power of overcoming setbacks in life. He should know. As a child, he was given a one-percent chance to survive a fire that burned his entire body. Not only did he overcome physically, but he has been a success in business and in helping others overcome their own struggles. His story earned him an Energizer Keep Going Hall of Fame induction, along with baseball great Cal Ripken, Jr. (the only other inductee that year).

“By owning our accountability, owning our decisions and owning our actions, we can own our true reflection,” he says.

On Tuesday, Anne Gravette, CMP; Kathryn Anderson, CMP; Mauna Speers CMP; and Karen ZimmermanCMP; all of Maritz Travel, gave living proof how a good attitude can produce positive results. They showed a video about the workers and managers of the world-famous Pike Place Fish Market.

Best known for the flying fish going from one worker to another, the market and its employees have bought into the notion of having fun and making life good for the people around them.

Healthy Returns

The reaction to the day was extremely positive. Planners says they learned a great deal about the necessities of working green, but they did not leave feeling overwhelmed or hopeless.

“It’s very helpful to see the ways you can do this right,” says Dixie Henderson, president of Shaboba International. “I was glad to find out about the ways you can go wrong as well. All of the information was very helpful.”

It was also a good day for exhibitors, who says the planners they met were interested in how their facilities provide green events, as well as fun and functional meeting opportunities.

“We had a good day,” says Terri Spangler, director of sales for the Haddad Restaurant Group. “This was a great way to meet new people and learn what they are looking for in their events.”

Peggy Krokstrom, marketing representative for Cedar Creek Conference Center, agreed.

“It’s been a great day,” she says. “The planners were very curious and excited about what we have to offer and we felt like we got to meet a different set of people here.”

Education is an important component of the expos, Clote says. But it doesn’t end there.

“We bring the best speakers we can find to teach about these important topics,” Clote says. “I think most everyone goes away feeling like they’ve learned and been inspired. But it’s also very important for us to give people a chance to make connections. And I think we did that again here.”  MM&E

(Michael Humphrey is the Contributing Editor from Kansas City, Mo.)

Missouri Meetings & Events would like to offer a special thank you to all its expo volunteers, including those from the Keeter Center at the College of the Ozarks.

Thank you to all those who donated door prizes:

• The Treasure of the Steamboat Arabia

• Kansas City Marriott Country Club Plaza

• Kansas City Zoo

• Uno Chicago Grill

• Q Hotel

• The Melting Pot in Kansas City

• Californo’s

And the winners are…

Gladys Schubach, president of GMS Incentives, LLC, presented the exhibitor awards to the following recipients:

1. Paper Award: Cedar Creek – Jennifer Hollander

2. Plastic Award: Swank Audio Visuals – David Kelch

3. Editor’s  Choice Award: Great Wolf Lodge – Kara Brady

4. Planners’ Choice Award: The Culinary Center of Kansas City – Maria Dickson

Jim Jirik and the staff of the Sheraton Kansas City Sports Complex Hotel drew the name of the grand prize winner:

5.Pam Sharitz-Tesch with the Kansas City Area Life Science Institute

6. Cynthia Bowser, with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, accepts the Osage Beach Premium Outlets/Lake Partner prize worth more than $1,000. Presenting the prize are Candy Wilson, assistant general manager for Osage Beach Premium Outlets and Lance Utley, director of sales for Country Club Hotel & Spa and The Resort at Port Arrowhead.



About the author

The MEET® Family of Publications

The MEET® Family of Publications produces regional and national publications that keep corporate, association, medical, education, independent, and religious meeting and event planners informed about relevant industry suppliers, news, tech innovations, and resources that impact and influence how and where they plan their upcoming company function(s).