Creating a Greener General Assembly

Elaine MCArdle | UU World 6/10/2019

There was no such thing as a “green” convention when Janiece “Jan” Sneegas became director of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly and Conference Services in 2002. So she was initially taken aback when someone suggested that she consider making GA more environmentally sustainable.

Yet in 2003, after meeting with Amy Spatrisano, then the co-principal of a visionary company now called MeetGreen, and learning about the huge amount of landfill waste and other environmental destruction wrought by conventions, Sneegas embraced the challenge. Over the past seventeen years, she has not only completely transformed GA so that its sustainability practices are a key part of its identity but has had an enormous and lasting impact on the environmental practices of the meetings industry nationwide.

“It’s part of our theology,” says Sneegas, who is retiring after GA 2019 in Spokane, Washington, but will continue to consult with the UUA through GA 2020. “This is a religious thing for us. It is our Seventh Principle. We are called to do this work.”

Within the area of sustainability, Sneegas’s influence has been groundbreaking. “Over the years, the UUA General Assembly has set the bar for sustainable events,” says Nancy J. Zavada, president and founder of MeetGreen, which continues to work with GA, including keeping metrics on its greening efforts. “We work with dozens of organizations annually, and the UUA is the leader in environmental initiatives and implementation. This is due to Jan and her team’s diligence, from the destination selection process through to the on-site sorting of waste after the General Assembly is over.”
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