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Greening Your Events: Success Stories

These success stories provide tips and lessons learned from Forest Service green events. They are derived from Forest Service employee submissions of the Green Event Feedback Form and internal-only Leadership in Sustainable Operations (LISO) Sustainability Stories site. 

Highlights and Tips from Some Forest Service FY16 Green Events.

FS Employees: Please provide information about your green events through the Green Event Feedback Form and submit more in-depth tips and lessons learned as a Sustainability Story on LISO. (NOTE: this is an FS internal-only link). 

Virtual Events

R4 Monthly Sustainability Forums

R4 Regional Office hosts a monthly one-hour Sustainability Forum on the Adobe Connect platform. These Forums support forest and regional networking, sharing, and learning among the R4 climate change coordinators, R4 green team coordinators, and related staff. Adobe Connect helps build stronger community as compared to only conference call meetings. Below are two examples of recordings that feature guest speakers. The 2-4-16 recording features climate science specialist, Chris Swanston, presenting on climate science for employee education. The 11-3-16 recording features Region 1 climate change coordinator, Linh Hoang, presenting on climate change and planning. 

Contact: Natalie Little (nlittle@fs.fed.us)

Chief and Associate Chief Go Virtual with Leadership Forums

In lieu of holding Forest Service Leadership Forums as onsite meetings for 300 attendees, the FS Chief and Associate Chief went virtual in 2013 and now successfully reach even more leaders through virtual forums held 2-3 times per year. A Washington Office Virtual Events Cadre was set up to support logistics, planning, and production. There are typically plenary sessions and small-group breakout discussions. They engage participants by integrating webcams, providing visuals onscreen, and offering opportunity for input through the web-meeting chat pod and poll features. This has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by ≈ 375 metric tons, saved ≈ $1 million in travel costs, increased work-life flexibility for the participants, and facilitated connection with leaders across the agency.

Contact: Sherri Wormstead (swormstead@fs.fed.us)

Onsite Events

WMNF All-Employee Meetings with Environmental, Economic, and Social Benefits

The White Mountain National Forest is incorporating sustainable practices in their annual All Employee Meetings. With members of the Forest’s Green Team involved, they have incorporated the following: Emails from leadership about the green event, including that they would have composting, recycling, and waste-tracking; and asking employees to bring their own plates, utensils, and water bottles; and to carpool to the event in the most fuel efficient of vehicles. They choose an energy efficient facility that is also an efficient site for travel. Environmental Sustainability Benefits: Waste reduction, increased recycling, and reduced GHG emissions. Economic Sustainability Benefits: Reduced cost to the Forest and Agency by reducing miles driven, reducing food and product purchases necessary, among other intangible economic benefits. Social Sustainability Benefits: Local food bank donations and sustainability leadership displayed to employees, partners, and the public. They plan to track the sustainability achievements from these meetings over time.

Contact: John Kamb (jkamb@fs.fed.us)

Green Regional Award Ceremony

Region 5 has a tradition of integrating sustainable measures into planning their annual Regional Forester Honor Award (RFHA) Ceremony – a highly visible, onsite event. Electronic invitations (as opposed to paper) are sent to honorees and other ceremony participants. Attendees are asked to bring their own Forest Service name badge or a previously used name tag (for those without a name tag, the RFHA Committee provides 100% post-consumer recycled paper name badges with 100% recyclable plastic clips). The Committee works collaboratively with the hotel to use reusable linens, dishes, and cutlery; serve water in pitchers rather than single-use plastic bottles; and provide condiments and other food items in bulk instead of having them individually packaged. Finally, all food is responsibly sourced, especially from local growers or providers, and excess food is composted by the hotel. This is a wonderful opportunity to put “green” in the spotlight!

Contact: Lara Buluç (laraybuluc@fs.fed.us)

Inyo National Forest All-Employee Meeting

The Inyo National Forest Green Team is emphasizing sustainability at the annual all-employee meetings. The meetings, which introduce new employees to the Forest and provide required training for all employees, are held in a central location on the Forest to reduce travel. They have also incorporated the following sustainable practices: (1) organized a walking and biking group to travel from the Supervisors Office and White Mt. RD to the meeting; (2) encouraged and organized carpooling for those needing to travel by car; (3) required employees to bring their own table settings for a potluck (no disposable plates, utensils, or cups were provided); (4) shared green "Did you know...?" tips throughout the day; (5) gave awards to employees for sustainable operations efforts (throughout the year); and (6) and brought recycling containers to the meeting location. Through these efforts, they achieved sustainability training, fleet savings, waste/energy savings, and large savings in gas and $ through carpooling and alternative transportation methods. Integrating sustainability into daily habits is an ongoing challenge given our jobs, which require traveling long distances and using many resources, but they learned that little things do add up and that it IS possible to provide absolutely no disposal table settings at a very large meeting!

Contact: Ila Vradenburg (ilamvradenburg@fs.fed.us)

Hybrid Events

Computers Connect Communities in Sitka and Tenakee Springs, Alaska

The Tongass National Forest is using technology to connect with the public, including people in remote areas and during months in which weather makes travel dangerous. Consider safety, cost, sustainability, and public service, in 2013, the Sitka Ranger District (SRD) on the Tongass National Forest, held its first ever electronic public meeting using the internet, a webinar program (Live Meeting), and phone conference. The main Live Meeting site was Tenakee Springs’ community library, but people from throughout Alaska attended electronically from their own locations. Community post-meeting reviews were very positive, as one of City Council member’s noted, “I think the webinar went well and we felt that our concerns were given your attention.” The District saved roughly $2,000 in gas, per diem, and travel time and going virtual helped ensure the meeting could be held no matter what the weather, wind, or waves. SRD learned that careful planning and dry runs from the location you plan to host the event are important (test run with computers, software, phones, visuals, etc.). They also sent the presentation and map files to participants before the meeting (which provides a great back-up in case individual users have difficulty connecting to the web platform). Since they had participants in the location they hosted the event from, they found it helpful to set up two computers in the meeting room; one for hosting the presentation and one to view locally (to see the participant view).

Contact: Michelle Putz (mputz@fs.fed.us)

Sustainable Operations Summits

Over a five-year period the Forest Service hosted three-day Sustainable Operations Summits for up to 400 participants. Each summit included plenary and concurrent breakout sessions. The summits evolved rapidly from exclusively on-site to mostly virtual events. Initially they were launched with simple web meeting technology and progressed to a sophisticated integration of virtual event and broadcast technologies. The intent was to provide the best experience possible for presenters and participants. To enhance the experience, live broadcasts included blog posting, hosted discussion threads, registration, web links, video and audio broadcasting, and archiving for on demand viewing. A combination of agency staff and contractors collaborated on planning and logistics. Each mainly virtual summit resulted in reducing GHG emissions by ≈ 300 metric tons and saved ≈ $800,000 in travel costs.

Contact: James McGinnis (jmcginnis@fs.fed.us)

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