Case Study in Shifting Green Savings

Going green is a process. It begins with the organization’s commitment and progresses over several events or meetings. The incremental steps are critical for your staff and constituents’ to accept and embrace the changes as being the new “normal.” The more diverse in age and the longer the attendees have participated, the more slowly you may have to implement change.

Sudden unexplained changes in the “way we always do it” that have not been pre-introduced to your audience have the potential to cause resistance and blow back. The unhappy participants then consume staff time and energy providing explanations and having to sell the change one complaint at a time. Change may be difficult for staff and participants, but a well thought out plan for staggered implementation that has conceptual buy-in from the organization’s members has a better chance of being well received by the participants.

Begin going greener at your meetings with concepts and practices that people are accustomed to at home, at work or are commonly used in their community. Most of these are basic eco-etiquette such as recycling, saving energy, not wasting consumables. Some practices are a return to how we used to do things before the era of disposable everything. Remember how nice it was to have china coffee cups at meetings?

What are the costs and benefits of going green? The following table shows the green changes a 7,500 person, 4-day conference could take and the financial and ecological impacts.

Carbon calculations are from the website

Traditional Practices Green Practices
Pre-printed handouts Posting electronic documents on the conference website
100 sessions x 15 pages x 200 attendees @ $0.05 per page
Total Cost: $15,000

Environmental Impact
Wood 5 tons (Approx. 37 trees)
Water 30,000 gallons
Energy 58 million BTU
Emmisions 9,000 lbs CO2 Equivalent
Solid Waste 3,500 lbs.

100 sessions @ $15 per session staff time
Total Cost: $1,500

Environmental Impact
Wood 0
Water 0
Energy negligible
Emmisions negligible
Solid Waste 0

Traditional Practices Green Practices

Serving water in individual bottles

Serving tap water in thermal containers with compostable cups

7,500 attendees, 4 days, 3 bottles per day @ $2.50 per bottle
Total Cost: $225,000 (90,000 bottles)

Environmental Impact
Oil 2,500 gallons
Water 95,000 gallons
Energy High use (data unavailable)
Emissions High (data unavailable)
Landfill 4,000 lbs. (1,500 cu. ft.)
90,000 cups @ $0.13 ea. + staff time @ $800
Total Cost: $13,500

Environmental Impact
Oil negligible
Tap Water 6,000 gallons
Energy Low use (data unavaialble)
Emissions Low (data unavailable)
Compost 2,500 cu. ft.

Traditional Practices Green Practices

Plastic plates, cups and utensils

Compositable paper plates, cups and utensils

7,500 attendees, 4 days, 1 meal, 2 breaks per day
Total Cost: $14,500 (90,000 plates, cups)

Environmental Impact
Oil 73,000 gallons
Water High use (data unavailable)
Energy High use (data unavailable)
Emissions 675,000 lbs CO2 Equivalent
Landfill 9,000 cu. ft.
Unbleached paper plates, plant starch, cups & utensils
Total Cost: $28,500

Environmental Impact
Oil 0
Water Low use (data unavaialble)
Energy Low use (data unavaialble)
Emissions Low (data unavailable)
Compost 9,000 cu. ft.

Green Rules of Thumb


  • For every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy consumed, 1.6 pounds of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere.
  • For every therm, 11.7 pounds of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere.
  • Electricity costs .106 per kWh
  • Natural gas costs $1.21 per therm.

If You:

Plant 1 tree and over its 40 year lifespan it absorbs 1 ton of CO2.

Preserve 1 acre of rain forest and stop the release of 80 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere compared to if it were slashed and burned.

Replace 1 75 watt, 1,000 hour life light bulb with a 20 watt, 10,000 hour CFL bulb and save 880 pounds of CO2.

Use an Energy Star desktop computer and monitor and reduce emission of CO2 by 1274 pounds over the 4 year lifespan. Most of the savings come from the monitor.

Adjust your thermostat down by 1 degree F in the winter or up by 1 degree F in the summer and reduce CO2 emissions by 500 pounds per year for each degree.

Skip buying a second TV and save 2,700 pounds of CO2 from the TV not being manufactured.

Turn down the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees F and save 8,250 pounds of CO2 over its 15 year lifespan.

Switch to paper that is made of 100% post consumer recycled material reduces CO2 emission by 288 pounds per year. This assumes that the average paper consumption is 273 pounds per year and that 1 ton of paper with a post consumer recycled content of 100% emits 2108 less pounds of CO2 equivalent than non-recycled paper.

Recycle all your newspaper waste will reduce your annual CO2 emissions by 184 pounds.