Events Council Blog

Sustainable Event Planning Builds Legacy for the American Chemical Society

Feb 27, 2018

Beverly Johnson- EIC-Sustainable-EventsBeverly Johnson is a proud Washington, D.C., native and has been a part of the American Chemical Society (ACS) since 1982. In the past 36 years, Johnson has watched the ACS carry out its mission with great success, spreading the science of chemistry to the American public. The last quarter of those years have brought something new and exciting to her role at ACS: Sustainable event planning.

Johnson is the lead meeting planner for the organization, and since 2009 has helped implement impactful carbon and waste reduction programs for their ongoing conferences. “We started with the simple stuff and built from there. Soda-can recycling at our poster sessions eventually led to no cans at all, then we opted for kegs and fountain dispensers which reduced landfill impact greatly,” says Johnson.

From that momentum, ACS would continue eliminating waste streams such as plastic water bottles, printed paper usage (down from 15,000 registration packets per event to a current 3,000). “Very soon, we hope to be fully integrated into our event app and not printing packets at all,” Johnson says excitedly.

Some of these small steps inspired the pursuit of Platinum LEED designation for the ACS building near The White House (which was granted in 2011).

The events industry has continued to display just how quickly the idea of sustainability can spread throughout an organization’s core culture. Once people start to think creatively about small ways to reduce waste and carbon, the big impactors seem that much more attainable. Johnson is inspired by what is next for ACS. “We are continuing to find ways of reducing shipping emissions by sending less to event locations. One of the other things I’m most excited about is our focus on food rescue. We are encouraging all of our venue and hotel partners to help us with responsible F&B planning. There are a lot of hungry people out there, and we want to ensure our extra food makes it to them.”

Johnson’s work with ACS has landed her a position on the Events Industry Council’s Sustainable Event Standards Rewriting Committee. She is excited to spread her knowledge and passion to the rest of the events industry. “I think there are two key areas the industry needs to focus on from a carbon standpoint,” she adds. “The first is our impact on the airline industry. Are there ways that we can offset the massive travel footprint our business creates? Maybe we could partner with the airlines to utilize miles rewards programs into carbon offset purchasing. The second opportunity we need to continue improving upon is food & beverage. We do a lot already, but we still have a ton of work to do. Sustainable meals need to match up from a cost standpoint; this will help encourage events to source and eat responsibly.”

Johnson is excited about the EIC’s #PeoplePlanetProfit campaign. “ACS is procuring more local labor talent to benefit the community we are visiting (the “people” component). We will continue to prioritize the planet by pursuing things such as APEX/ASTM certification and better event technology. For profit, we must see the industry shift to a sustainable standard. The more of us that buy in, the more our costs in sustainable event planning will come down.”

Chance ThompsonBy Chance Thompson, Senior Manager, Sustainability and Public Relations – 
SMG/Salt Palace Convention Center, Mountain America Expo Center, EIC Sustainability Committee, and team leader for the EIC Sustainable Event Standards Rewriting Committee.