Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Energy Efficiency for the Holidays and Beyond…

During the holidays, our energy consumption usually increases significantly as we add lighting to our homes, offices, and businesses. Thankfully, there are ways to be energy efficient and protect the environment during the busy holiday season (as well as during the rest of the year).

For inside or outside holiday lighting, you can buy Light Emitting Diode (LED) just about anywhere. They are energy efficient, more cost effective, reduce fire risk, and are long lasting. According to PG&E, LED lights reduce energy consumption by as much as 90% compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. Over time, this can save consumers a substantial amount of money. In addition, you’re making a conscious choice for the environment and collectively to the planet.

By now, most people know they can save energy and money by replacing their Compact Florescent Lights (CFLs) and incandescent bulbs with LEDs. CFLs are a temporary solution to energy efficient lighting. Where can you get rid of CFLs and incandescent lights? You don’t have to throw them away, which is harmful to the environment. CFLs contain a small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing and should be disposed of properly to avoid contaminating the environment.

To recycle CFLs and incandescent bulbs, you can mail your lights to a recycling program such as this one:

Attn: Recycling Program
118 Rosehill Dr., Suite 1
Jackson, MI 49202

You can also take them into a local Home Depot, which is the first major retailer to offer free collecting/recycling program for CFLs. To learn more about Home Depot’s Eco Options, please visit this site.

[Incidentally, if you should have a CFL break in your work or home, here is a handy two-page document, courtesy of the EPA, that will help you know what to do.]

Contact your local city, county, or solid waste agency to find more options about recycling. You can also visit or Where You Live at

“Change a light, Change the world.” Energy Star

- Tess Conrad • Meeting Planner

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ten Things You Can Do to Make Your Office Greener (continued)

Last week, I listed the first five of the ten ideas from staff to reduce our impact on the environment and help make the workplace a bit greener. This week, I present to you the final five, thus rounding out our list of ten ideas. And, as a bonus, I have added a special tip for anyone traveling to a destination in California. The bonus tip (with link) is included at the end so, without further ado, on with the list…

#6. Don’t print emails unless absolutely necessary. How many times do you print an email, only to throw it out a short time later? More and more people are asking readers of their emails to “think about the environment before printing”. Join the thinking crowd and consider whether or not you really need that email in hard copy form.

#7. Use electronic documents whenever possible. This is not just an extension of number 6. Nearly any document that needs to be reviewed or edited can be sent electronically or shared over a network, so why not save your paper and ink just for those jobs where it is absolutely necessary to have a hard copy?

#8. If you do need to print a document, print on both sides of the paper. Many software programs are capable of printing documents double-sided. Check your printer to see if it can do this – more modern printers are able to do two-sided printing, especially office models.

#9. Recycle used printer paper. If you can only print one-sided on your printer, don’t throw out old printed documents – reuse them! In our office, we have a printer that is dedicated to using just recycled documents. We take junk faxes, draft documents, and other non-sensitive printed materials and use them in that printer, especially for in-house, working documents. Of course, once you are done with the second use of the sheets, don’t forget to add them to the recycling bin! [See Idea #1 from last week’s post.]

#10. Spread the word! The more people who take even these simple actions, the more we can reduce our impact on the environment. Many small actions add up to large results…so what will you do?

And the Bonus Tip: For those of you planning a meeting in California (or even just traveling for fun!), use a participating hotel from the California Green Lodging Program. Many of the “small” ideas I’ve listed above are included in the requirements of their hotel certification program – and can make a big difference when implemented by a large business such as a hotel chain. For a list of participating hotels, click here.

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ten Things You Can Do to Make Your Office Greener

With all of the focus on the environment and climate change these days, “going green” is not something that can (or should!) be ignored or put off. And while “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” may seem like a quaint and outdated phrase, the concepts embodied within it are as solid as ever. Using those concepts, though, can sometimes be overwhelming to us as individuals and it often feels like we can’t make a difference – especially in the workplace. Here are the first five ideas our staff suggested that can make a difference. They may seem like small things but remember: a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…

#1. Set up recycling bins for glass, plastic, paper, cardboard, aluminum – whatever your office uses in quantity. Make recycling these items a habit and it will become an easy thing to maintain.

#2. Re-use plastic water bottles. Don’t throw out a bottle just because it’s empty. Clean it out and use it again! Once it is no longer re-useable, then it can go into the recycling bin. With simple cleaning, bottles can be re-used many times before they reach that stage. Better yet, don’t use disposable bottles at all! Keep a ceramic mug or a plastic or metal sports bottle at your desk for drinking water (or other beverages of choice) throughout the day. Hydrate while minimizing your carbon footprint.

#3. Replace incandescent bulbs with energy efficient bulbs. CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) last longer and use less energy than standard incandescent bulbs. You can do this for a personal desk light or workspace light even if you can’t get the main room lights changed.

#4. Turn off lights in unused rooms; turn them on only when needed. The reduced power use could save you some green as well as helping you be green. Installing timers or motion sensors on the lights can be a good backup as they can turn the lights off when people forget to do so or after a certain period once the motion in the room ceases.

#5. Make sure your computer is set for maximum energy savings. Most people know about these settings for their laptops since they are trying to eek out every last bit of power from the batteries – but did you know that most desktop computers can also be configured for energy efficiency? Change your settings so that the monitor goes to sleep after a few minutes of idleness instead of always being on and the hard drive goes to sleep as well after a certain period of inactivity. Ask your IT person about this if you are not comfortable doing it yourself.

Next week – the final five, plus a bonus tip…

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

How many people will that room hold? – Revisited!

Back in July, I posted a piece talking about how to roughly calculate how many people a room could hold. (Click here to read the original post.) Given the popularity of that particular post, I decided to do this follow up – and include a free cheat sheet (link at end of post) for quick reference. This one page document gives me an easy way to know ahead of time how much space a particular event is likely to need.

Once again, here are the approximations I most frequently use:

Banquets (60” or 72” rounds): 15 square feet/person
Classroom (18” tables): 15 square feet/person
Classroom (30” tables): 20 square feet/person
Theater or Reception: 10 square feet/person
Hollow Square: 40 square feet/person

If you use my numbers and compare them to most space calculators, you will find that the calculators will usually give you more people in the same square footage than my estimates. This is because most calculators do not take into account audio-visual equipment – mine do. I also try to make sure that my attendees have enough space to be comfortable, instead of squished together as tightly as possible. My approximations take this “comfort factor” into account as well.

Please note that, if you have extensive audio-visual requirements or elaborate sets, you will need significantly more space. As always a property’s Convention Services Manager will be able to help you determine the best fit for your event in the spaces they have.

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Download Cheat Sheet (PDF)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How Do Meeting Planners Get Paid?

There are essentially two ways for a meeting planner to be paid for their services: fee for service or through commissions.

Earning a commission is a very common way for meeting planners to be paid for their services. Their fees are typically determined as a percentage of the guest room rate negotiated with the hotel or hotels that are hosting the event – and the hotels pay that percentage directly to the planner after the conclusion of the event. So, with a 10% commission and a negotiated rate of $150 per night, the planner would earn $15 (from the hotel!) for each night someone paid to stay at the hotel. For small groups, this does not usually result in a very large fee but, with large groups, this can add up to quite a tidy sum for the planner. A major advantage of this fee structure is that the client does not pay for the planner’s services out of their event budget, which can help their event’s bottom line.

“Fee for Service” is the other method commonly used and it can be calculated either on an hourly basis or for the whole project.

A planner who is paid by the hour simply determines an hourly rate for their services, which may vary by service or be a set amount across the board. In either case, there is a menu of services for clients to choose from. The main advantage here is that it is easy for the client to approximate the planner’s fees even before putting the project out to bid. They can also easily compare those costs against the staff time they would have to allocate to the project if they were to do it in-house.

Planners who are paid a fixed amount for the project determine how much to charge for a given event based on the size and complexity of the project – each job is different – and then works with that client to refine the scope of work and the fee until both parties reach an agreement. Though determining the final fee and scope of work for the project can be tricky, once they have been determined, an agency then knows exactly how much they will be paying for the planner’s services and exactly what those services will be.

While this brief overview does not give all of the ins and outs of each method, it is worth noting that most planners will work with you to find the approach that is right for you and your event. RDL typically sets a fee for each event or series of events that we do for our clients. However, we do still work with hourly rates and, occasionally, commissions to create the best fit to our clients’ needs.

Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises