Sun Microsystems has a long history of environmentalism. The company uses reduced energy at its many data centers around the country and a global product returns program reclaims and recycles customers' products. For the JavaOne conference, which brings together about 15,000 Java developers and is one of Sun's largest events, the company wanted to carry its green initiatives into yet another aspect of their business.
"What we decided to do was make more of a concentrated effort and put some best practices into place," said Wendy Yamaguma, senior director of global events.
In order to do this, Yamaguma and her team focused on several methods of "greening" the event, which was held in May: paper reduction, reusable products, reduction of energy use and community assistance.
The key to a successful green event, Yamaguma said, was in the planning. "We were able to strategize," she said. "We took it from a pre-event perspective. Knowing how much we would be saving, you just kind of switch your strategies."
Before the event began, Sun eliminated most of its direct mail pieces and implemented a virtual campaign. It decreased the number of mailings from three to one and, instead, sent emails to potential attendees. In addition to sending more emails, the company increased the size of its email lists and created a Web-based marketing campaign. "We did place banner ads on a number of different Web sites and did an html email blast out to different mailing lists," Yamaguma said. "We changed our marketing strategies, related to a virtual campaign and had the direct mail online as a PDF … so the content is still there."
Additionally, Sun enhanced its Web site by adding an "Eco Corner" to the JavaOne section. The Eco Corner catalogued the way Sun was reducing and reusing resources—turning its environmentally friendly initiatives into a marketing tool on its own.
On-site, the conservation continued. Sun printed its 150-page conference program guide, which included highlights of the conference and lists of participants in the Sun pavilion, on recycled paper with soy-based ink. This method was also used to print all other handouts, including the exhibitor guide, pocket schedule, surveys, instruction sheets, free notebooks and Sun's on-site daily newspaper, JavaOne Today. In addition, each attendee received a free T-shirt made from organic cotton.
Sun did not take on the burden of going green all on its own. The company encouraged each of its exhibitors and attendees to create a paperless conference. As a result, AMD gave away recycled buttons, several companies—including IBM Corp., Intel Corp. and Motorola Inc.—used recycled paper and SAP gave away a reusable cell phone holder.
Finally, Sun set up a "Bike to JavaOne" program. The program provided a valet service for bikes, which allowed people to leave their cars at home and drop their bikes off with Sun to watch for the day.
Partnering with the convention center was another big step toward reducing the footprint of the event. San Francisco's Moscone Center, which prides itself on eco-friendly installations such as emissions-reducing air quality systems, solar power generation and a food-composting program, contributed significantly to the reduction of waste. In addition to using biodegradable food service packaging, "our salad bowls were made out of corn starch," Yamaguma said, Moscone donated leftovers to three local charities.
Sun was so pleased with the results, it is currently considering how to make its attendance at other events more eco-friendly. It is also working on making JavaOne even more environmentally sound in upcoming years. "We're working with George P. Johnson to create a multiyear use of our on-site signage in high-impact areas," Yamaguma said. "Whether it's a billboard or a cut out of the Java logo … [we'd like to reuse] different pieces from show to show."
The overall plan sounds pricey. However, Yamaguma said, "in the scheme of things, it didn't cost more but it ensures that you're doing the upfront planning." Additionally, she said, the success of the program made the cost worth it.
"We did see an increase in attendance. The Web banners and emails are big factors in driving attendance, creating the virtual piece still supported our efforts in reaching a broader audience and fewer direct mail [pieces] saved us money in printing."