in our facility’s green practices, but in how we can help them
achieve their sustainability goals,” she says. “We are working
with increasing numbers of meetings where green practices are
Besides the feel-good factor of helping the environment, and
the lure of potential new business, sustainable designs and
green operating practices can significantly improve the bottom
line. Pittsburgh’s eye-catching David Lawrence Convention Center, the first Gold LEED-certified green convention center in the
world, was built with a slew of eco-friendly components and
high-tech systems. Designed with “green” in mind, the building
features large glass curtain walls that admit consistent daylight
(75 percent of the center’s exhibition space is naturally lit), natural ventilation (the shape of the building captures natural air
from the Allegheny River to help ventilate and cool the building),
daylight sensors, a water reclamation center and more. The result?
It boasts an annual energy savings of more than 35 percent
and a reduction of potable water usage by almost 60 percent.
But industry members agree that building components and
green-from-the-ground-up designs are only part of the equation; being green has a lot to do with continued improvements
and operating procedures.
The Virginia Beach Convention Center had a good start: It
was built with a state-of-the-art rooftop weather system, fritted
glass to control incoming sunlight, storm water retention, landscaping with indigenous plants, and more. But when it hosted
the North American Association for Environmental Education
convention last fall, the center had to step it up a notch.
“NAAEE played a substantial part in encouraging the convention center to look at things from a different perspective and
pursue additional sustainability initiatives,” Dyer says. Attendees were asked to bring mugs and water bottles for breaks;
they ate sustainable, locally grown food, and recharged their
electronics with solar panel chargers; and $5 from every conference registration was contributed to offset carbon emissions
produced by the convention center.
The center also incorporated additional environmentally
sound features, including motion and light sensors throughout
the building, individual room thermostats, energy efficient fluorescent lighting and a comprehensive staff awareness program.
“As a result, we showed a savings of over $12,000 in electrical
costs from November 2007 to December 2007,” Dyer says.
Big savings also can be realized when a convention center cuts
down on its waste, and recycles as much as possible. “Ten tons
of co-mingled recycled materials costs me $150 to remove,”
Dyer explains. “Ten tons of trash costs me $85 for the haul and
$45 per ton in landfill charges, for a total of $535. Ideally, we
save $385 every time we send the full Dumpster to be recycled.”
The Goal: Zero Waste
But it takes a lot more than setting out a few recycling bins during meetings. The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority,
which runs both Hynes Convention Center and the Boston Convention and Exposition Center, for example, donates pallets left
from events to local organizations, and carpet padding left behind
is sent to a nearby recycling facility to be made into cement blocks
and asphalt to be used on state highways. Many centers donate
unused food to local food banks and charities. BCEC was also
one of the first convention centers to “recycle” food waste.
Food scraps that were once tossed in the trash are now hauled
to local farms for composting. During one four-day conference
last spring, the center diverted more than 20 tons of food waste.
The optimum goal — and the newest buzz phrase in the
industry — is zero-waste meetings. The first zero-waste event
at the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre was, appropriately, the Canadian Waste & Recycling Expo held last fall.
The total weight of waste materials created by the event was
3,391 pounds. An official audit revealed that the event
achieved 13. 4 percent energy recovery, 7. 8 percent organics
recovery, and a 78.8 percent recycling rate.
And remember the average amount of waste generated from
a typical, 3,000-attendant, four-day meeting mentioned at the
beginning of this article? When the 3,100 members of the Professional Convention Management Association met for four days at
the Metro Toronto Convention Center in January, they generated
more than of 35,309 pounds of waste materials — and a phenomenal 98.5 percent of it never hit the landfill. The official
zero-waste event is said to have saved 57 trees, about 20,000
gallons of water, and over 110 cubic yards of landfill space.
“Many green initiatives make economic sense. Others are just
much friendlier to my staff and to the environment,” Dyer says.
“If we can do them, we try because it’s the right thing.”
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright are freelance writers specializing in travel, nature
and eco-friendly destinations. They also are co-authors of more than 30 books.
Bair lives on the north shore of Massachusetts, and Wright lives in Durham, N.H.
They may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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