Like hotels, conference centers are also seeing a trend in eco-friendly renovations and practices. Making an establishment green opens doors to clientele who care about their surroundings and want a green facility for their meeting — a growing segment of the business world. Going green produces lower operating expenses, providing savings that are particularly needed in the current economy.
So what can a conference center do to be more eco-friendly? There are many different techniques, but some of the most common include:
- Adjust thermostats for more efficient heating and cooling; automate temperature systems to avoid energy loss
- Retrofit or install energy efficient lighting (e.g. compact fluorescent bulbs)
- Minimize the use of paper for meeting materials; recycle leftover paper
- Switch to reusable materials (e.g. china, glass and silverware, and linen table covers and napkins)
- Donate or compost excess and leftover food
- Greener transportation alternatives
- Efficient water use and waste management
Unlike hotels, there aren’t any commonly accepted green-certification programs for conference centers (yet), so facilities must advertise their practices through print and online media. The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) website lists several conference centers that have achieved certification. Visit their directory and type “conference” into the Project Name field to browse this listing.
You can do some simple online research to find a green conference center in your area, or contact a local environmental leader or organization for more information. Below are a few good examples to get you started.
Airlie Conference Center (www.airlie.com) – Warrenton, Virginia
Initiatives include reduced energy consumption, minimized waste through recycling and composting, utilization of eco-friendly projects in all aspects of its operations, producing and sourcing of local foods, stewardship of more than 1,000 acres of sensitive wildlife habitat, and workshops and programs dedicated to environmental education and policy.
David L. Lawrence Convention Center (www.pittsburghcc.com) – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
This facility is the largest LEED Gold-certified convention center, built on an urban brownfield location. Over 95% of demolition waste from the old building was recycled, and 50% of the new materials were brought from the local area to reduce transportation costs and energy use. Initiatives include: the use of over 75% natural light (reducing energy use); an on-site water reclamation plant and other water initiatives that have shown a 66% reduction in purchased water; 100% biodegradable trash liners, 30% post consumer recycled copier paper, 57% post consumer recycled hand towels, and 50% post consumer recycled toilet tissue; a dedicated recycling program; and much more.
Essex Conference Center (www.eccr.com) – Essex, Massachusetts
Initiatives include the use of high post consumer content in all paper products (brochures, business cards, copy paper, napkins, paper towels, cups, etc), energy-saving compact florescent bulbs, environmentally safe and non-toxic products for cleaning and maintenance, water-efficient shower heads, 100% recycling of materials (glass, newspaper and magazines, aluminum, cardboard, scrap metal), and organic fertilizers. Instead of throwing away old computer systems and equipment, they are donated to charity or shipped to Ghana for use in community centers.
More examples include:
- Q Center– St. Charles, IL
- Oakland Professional Development & Conference Center– Oakland, CA
- National Conference Center– Leesburg, VA
- Boston Convention Center– Boston, MA
- Seaport World Trade Center – Boston, MA
For more information, check out:
Economically Sound – Conference Centers Go Green
Boston Green Tourism – Green Convention Centers