Throwing Down the (Green) Gauntlet


The ACG blue bag. Photo by Sherry Boschert.

From the American College of Gastroenterology annual meeting, San Diego

I was pleasantly surprised to see the American College of Gastroenterology promoting its eco-friendly iniatives at its annual meeting. So much so, in fact, that I think the ACG has thrown down a green gauntlet. Will other medical societies take up the challenge? Anyone know of other large medical conferences that can top the following?


A sign at the ACG meeting. Photo by Sherry Boschert.

– Forget the generic black shoulder bag made from unidentified petroleum products that you get at registration. The ACG’s blue bag is made from recycled content.

– Printing only session and abstract titles — but not the abstracts — reduced the program book by 300 pages, down to 172 pages. Multiply 300 by 4,000 attendees, and that’s 1.2 million paper pages saved. Abstracts were available online and on compact disk. On the other hand, the abstracts did fill the pages of a print supplement of The American Journal of Gastroenterology. The program book, meeting newspaper, and other materials did not seem to be on recycled paper.


Better than trash. Photo by Sherry Boschert.

– Bins collected name badges and program books for recycling.

– Meeting hotels were chosen within walking distance of the convention center to avoid using shuttle buses.

– The decorator of the conference and exhibit hall, a company called Freeman, donates the signs afterward to schools to use the foam cores for arts and crafts. Aisle carpets get recycled into a second life as drainage pipe for septic systems. Fancier booth carpeting gets re-used in affordable housing facilities or in “pet-related products.” (Huh?) Recycled aluminum forms the frames of most booths.

– The San Diego Convention Center itself provides ubiquitous recycling bins, uses low-flow sinks and toilets, has drought-tolerant landscaping with efficient drip-system irrigation, donates excess food from meeting events to local charities, uses recycled content in all paper products (copy paper, toilet paper, towels, etc.), and plans to install solar panels on the building within the year.


Exhibits = exercise??? Photo by Sherry Boschert.

But let me offer a friendly caution to meeting organizers — don’t get carried away trying to flaunt the whole good, green lifestyle thing. It’s fine to encourage attendees to exercise (especially in beautiful, warm Southern California), but to suggest that they exercise in 1/4-mile or 1/2-mile routes in the exhibit hall? That’s a stretch.

Sherry Boschert (@sherryboschert on Twitter)

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Filed under Gastroenterology

2 responses to “Throwing Down the (Green) Gauntlet

  1. Catherine Hackett

    Carpeting as “pet-related products?” How about kitty scratching posts?

  2. Mitchel Zoler

    In what was likely more than coincidence, the program for the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, being held in Philadelphia on Oct. 29-Nov. 1 (within days of the American College of Gatroenterology meeting cited in the post above) had the following, prominent entry:
    “Our switch to electronic abstracts and elimination of shuttle buses helps IDSA’s carbon footprint.” The highlighted box on the inside cover of the program then offered several different calculations of consequence of these two green steps. They saved 42 trees, preempted production of more than 17,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, and spared more than 38,000 gallons of water.

    I’m not sure how the impact of the IDSA’s actions compares with what the ACG did, but I never before saw a medical society give an accounting of its environmental impact.

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