Saturday, February 2, 2008

Making a difference, one association at a time

Was hugely encouraged by a New York Times article indicating that a 33 cents tax on plastic shopping bags in Ireland reduced use by 94% in a few weeks. Not years, but weeks. And Ireland ensured couldn't just switch to paper, which had other environmental concerns. So next they're going after chewing gum, ATM receipts and types of light bulbs.

There are many ways associations make a difference, and approaches internally and externally towards reducing paper can encourage members to look at what they're doing with paper too.

Just considering paper alone:
1. Electronic directory instead of print directory;
2. E-newsletters instead of print newsletters;
3. Online dues billing instead of mailed invoices;
4. Materials sent in advance by PDF - may never be printed;
5. Limit number of handout pages by instructors; have students print what need;
6. Give committees and board of directors information by email, do not print same material for meeting.

My association is going to post convention course material this year, to print in advance, and then sell copies of the printed handouts in notebooks. Hope it avoids a lot of the waste. Like Ireland, it takes leadership to move change forward, and a population willing to accept it. Can members give up more paper?

Here are more environmentally friendly ideas for associations.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Five years ago, I started investigating putting all AE Institute handouts on a CD-ROM, with an ultimate goal of going "paperless." The vendor nearly fainted when I gave him the bid this year. But, old habits are hard to break and we need to slowly wean association executives from needing paper handouts. So, we're posting handouts on the website (we always do this); we're allowing attendees to print handouts onsite (we always do this); we're providing printed handouts onsite(limiting quantities); and we're giving everyone a CD-ROM with the handouts at registration. The good news is, I've convinced speakers to include "value-added" resources in the CD-ROM that will not be printed! Hopefully, next year we will kill fewer trees.