Two venues worth considering for your special event in downtown Atlanta sit across from each other in the beautiful Centennial Olympic Park: the World Of Coca-Cola and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Before we dive into these two venues, let’s grab a bar stool at the nearby Legal Seafood, and let me order you a….

Anjou Pear Martini – Grey Goose Pear Vodka, St. Germain, Pierre Ferrand 1st Cru de Cognac, simple syrup & lemon juice. 

This refreshing cocktail cuts through the humidity and soothes the throat after logging 27,000 steps scouting venues for the upcoming Facing Race Conference held in Atlanta this November.

The Face Forward team who produce this conference are experts in fostering thought leadership in racial and social justice, and I’m grateful to be able to support their work. As technical production lead, it’s my role to make sure the revolution is well amplified, in HD, and Live-Streamed.

So, what do Atlanta, Coca-Cola, Human and Civil Rights, and green event planning all have to do with each other? Marketing.

World of Coca Cola, Atlanta

World of Coca Cola, Atlanta

Coca-Cola, Inc. is the perhaps the world’s best marketing company. It’s ingenious how they have imprinted their brand deep into our lifestyle and culture. From Norman Rockwell to the present, product placement experts have made sure a coke is always in the picture. They have created demand on every continent, and to quench this worldwide thirst, their scale of their operations is massive. In 2014 alone, Coca-Cola used 304.8 billion liters of water to produce and bottle their products. You can find this fact in their annual sustainability report, which covers Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) key performance indicators such as ethics, environmental impact, human rights, labor practices, and product responsibility.

Why does Coke report on these programs? Marketing. However, marketing via sustainability report is not just aimed at consumers. Coke understands the business case for social and environmental responsibility. Safe workplaces and product safety standards show Coke’s stockholders and other financial partners that they are less vulnerable to lawsuits and bad public relations. And Coke knows that happy, loyal employees are the single most important factor in the long-term success of the company, and employees are more loyal to a company that cares about their domestic partners, human rights, and workplace safety.

The World of Coca Cola venue is a gorgeous building: a clean, well-lit, attractive venue where guests can taste over 60 flavors of Coke and marvel about a marketing machine that’s enjoyed a 125-year winning streak.

The Center Hand Mural, Center for Civil and Human Rights

The National Center for Human and Civil Rights is also a beautiful venue. Warning: you will not leave unchanged. The Civil Rights and Human Rights galleries make you almost physically ill with grief, and yet leave you inspired by the courage of all of those who have taken a stand against the status quo. How has social progress been made?  Marketing. Laws and social norms don’t just happen. They happen when people organize and use marketing strategy and tactics to create awareness, build public support, support a movement, and effectively change the cultural norms. If you want to know more about forging a movement and creating change, Facing Race is the conference where you can learn from, network and and collaborate with scholars, advocates, journalists, artists, organizers and others who are committed to racial equity and racial justice.

Did you know that “the city too busy to hate” is a marketing tag line for the city of Atlanta? The phrase was developed in the 50’s by city leaders to attract business to Atlanta during the early years of desegregation. This positioning differentiated Atlanta from other cities in the south during that time, and Atlanta has since remained the economic hub of the south.

What does this all have to do with event planning?

Pallets of Plastic going to landfill. Photo Credit

Speaking of feeling ill. Let me segue to the Great Pacific Garbage Gyres— which have more in common with Atlanta than you might think. The gyres, mostly made of non-biodegradable plastic, are now estimated to cover as much as eight million square miles of surface area and stretch nine feet deep. The surface area of the Gyres is 60,000 times the size of Atlanta, and more than double the size of the continental United States. Whole or partial plastic from water and soda bottles are the primary material in this horrifying environmental disaster.

You probably know that if your plastic bottle has a “1” or “2” on it, it is able to be recycled. But did you know it may not be economically feasible to recycle it? Even if it makes it’s way to a recycling facility and is properly sorted and palletized, that pallet will eventually go into landfill if there is no commercial demand for it.

Did you know that in the city hosting the headquarters of Coca-Cola, one of the leading manufacturers of aluminum cans and plastic bottles in the world, recycling is often not supported because it is cost prohibitive – since there isn’t enough demand for the reclaimed materials?

Which brings us to green event planning.

My wish is that all event planners have the courage to stand up to the status quo. It’s not ok to serve water in individual plastic bottles just because it’s always been done that way. Think about this: 2000 bottles a day, times a 3-day conference is 6,000 bottles. And you can avoid this! It’s very easy to serve water in bulk out of dispensers and pitchers. Compostable cups and serving-ware are good alternatives and don’t cost more. While we can’t always control whether our venues are able to recycle, we can still reduce the demand for plastic containers and non-recyclable serving-ware. We all know some catering managers can be intimidating and authoritative – but you have righteousness, the budget, progress, and us on your side: and you can overcome.



The W Atlanta Hotel

Di at The W Atlanta


Here are some article references: Legal Seafood Restaurant features incredibly fresh, sustainably harvested seafood and other other foodie-grade fare.

If you want to learn more about Pacific Gyres, here are a few links for you