Convention Centers Help Meet Green Meeting Expectations

The newly released Green Venue Report shows that convention centers around the world are committed to sustainability and green meetings, even if it's not always top of mind for planners.

If you were a fan of the original Muppets show, there’s also a good chance you’re familiar with Kermit the Frog singing the tune “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” (And if you’re not or perhaps just want to rehear it, you can watch the YouTube clip below.)

Kermit begins by lamenting about why it’s difficult to be green—before realizing that it’s beneficial to him at the end. Meeting planners and convention center staffs may share the same sentiment when it comes to ensuring conference venues are “green”—aka sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Now a new survey of convention centers worldwide reveals that they’re not only willing, but able, to host green meetings and help organizations hosting meetings, including associations, meet their sustainability goals.

The Green Venue Report, released last month by sustainability consulting firm Greenview and event planning company Twirl Management, asked 30 convention centers from around the globe 158 questions related to their sustainability efforts and progress.

While convention centers said that only 27 percent of event organizers discussed sustainability or “greening” when engaging with them, up from 20 percent in 2012, 70 percent of the centers surveyed have a dedicated sustainability coordinator or manager on staff—showing that they’re more than prepared to host green events when more planners begin asking for them.

Here are three other noteworthy findings from the survey:

Cross-departmental green teams are important. Seventy-seven percent of the responding convention centers have an employee green team or sustainability committee. On average, they include 11 staff members from almost all departments within the facility.

To get staff excited and informed about a center’s commitment to sustainability, some hold contests and events. For example, the Enercare Centre in Toronto started off 2015 with a staff environmental program called GreenAcres. Teams are given challenges throughout the year, like reducing paper use, and awards will be given at the end of the year.

Giving back to the local community matters. Eighty percent of centers said they donate excess food to local charities on an ongoing basis. In 2014, just under 630 metric tons of food was donated by respondents. In addition, 55 percent say they regularly help meeting planners donate extra conference materials.

One example of this is the San Jose Convention Center’s Hunger at Home program. SJCC’s director of food and beverage and facility operations, along with staff volunteers, meet monthly with hotel partners and local charities to discuss how “Team San Jose can utilize recyclable materials to address local hunger and homelessness.”

Renewable energy is a priority. Almost 60 percent of centers that responded to the survey said they procure renewable energy from offsite sources. The most popular source of offsite renewable energy was wind, followed by solar and hydro. Meanwhile, 42 percent said they produce renewable energy onsite, usually through solar.

For instance, the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City began operating the largest rooftop solar panel in the state in 2012. The 6,000-plus panels cover the size of five football fields and provide about 17 percent of the electricity needed to power the center. (You can even check out a time-lapse video of the installation process.)

The survey includes a lot of other insights into convention centers’ sustainability practices, but now it’s your turn: How much do a conference venue’s sustainability practices factor into your decision-making when it comes to site selection? Let us know in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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