In 2008, a project to develop the first set of sustainability standards in the meeting and events industry was initiated by the Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC) during discussions with the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
After four years of development, the official publication of these standards started in February and is expected to be completed later this year. These standards, produced as a partnership between the Convention Industry Council’s Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) and the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM), include nine different sectors of the meeting industry.
Representatives from three of those sectors; accommodations, destinations and meeting venues, have already been busy adding sustainable aspects to its properties, which is just what customers want to see.
According to a recent survey by World Market Intelligence, 43 percent of travelers now report that booking a green certified hotel is important to them.
“Now that we’re serving tens of thousands of guests every day, we’re even more committed to incorporating eco-friendly practices into our daily operations,” said George Tanasijevich, president and CEO of the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Conference Center in Singapore. “Going green is a long-term aim of Marina Bay Sands.”
The Marina Bay Sands recently became the largest single building to be awarded the Green Mark Gold Award by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) in Singapore.
With more than 1,000,000 square feet spread over five levels, The Marina Bay Sands is Singapore’s largest exhibition and convention space.
“To be awarded the BCA Green Mark Gold Award is a symbolic recognition of the progress we have made since day one,” said Tanasijevich. “It also serves as a timely encouragement as we ramp up our sustainability practices this year.”
Marina Bay Sands’ first green accolade in Singapore follows the lead of Las Vegas Sands in the U.S., where The Venetian and The Palazzo together form the largest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building in the world.
Other properties in Las Vegas are also accommodating clients who are looking for green options.
Formerly the Las Vegas Hilton, the LVH- Las Vegas Hotel and Casino recently partnered with Concept Amenities to provide eco-friendly liquids and soaps to the hotel’s 2,690 rooms and 305 suites.
“At the LVH-Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, we pride ourselves in being able to provide our guests with distinctive amenities that are now eco-friendly,” said Cami Christensen, vice president of hotel operations for LVH.
LVH has also recently revamped hotel operations to include switching to eco-certified cleaning supplies, reducing paper usage, using LED lights to reduce energy usage and processing trash through a recycle belt upon collection.
The hotel and casino offers 200,000 square feet of meeting space and is one of the major facilities used by exhibitors and attendees at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Another U.S. hotel that is heading down a green path is the Westin Michigan Avenue Hotel, which recently completed a $7 million renovation of its 38,000 square feet of meeting and banquet facilities with earth-friendly materials.
Chicago-based architect VOA Associates took great care throughout the renovated spaces to continue the commitment that the Westin Michigan Avenue Hotel has already shown to the environment.
“Our biggest challenge was to make this space feel glamorous enough for a wedding reception, but also serious enough for a business meeting,” said Patricia Rotondo of VOA Associates.
It’s this same dedication that earned the hotel the designation as a Green Seal Silver Certified property last year. The hotel meets the Green Seal Environmental Standard for Lodging Properties for its best practices in the areas of energy consumption and efficiency, recycling and waste minimization.
Outside of the U.S., meeting venues are also attaining sustainable certifications.
Green Key Global, a world wide green hotel certification program, recently gave The Fairmont Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver, BC, a “4 Green Key Meetings” rating.
A Level 4 rating is awarded to a hotel that has shown a commitment to protecting the environment through wide ranging policies regarding its meetings and convention facilities.
“We are delighted to be one of the first hotels in downtown Vancouver to be granted the prestigious 4 Green Key Meetings rating,” said Ian Pullan, general manager of the Fairmont. “We have upgraded our facilities to ensure maximum efficiency and sustainability is always front of mind. We feel that being part of the solution is what is best, not just a competitive advantage.”
In 2011, the Fairmont Waterfront also created the new position of energy manager at the hotel, which has made sustainability one of its core values. With guidance from the energy manager, the hotel has a dedicated team that is proactive in creating policies supporting sustainable conferences at its 24,000 square feet of meeting space.
“Our Green Team is both innovative and persistent, and as we look to the future, we will continue to see a shift towards adopting more rigorous green initiatives,” said Pullan.
Hotels with smaller meeting venues aren’t the only properties moving toward sustainable standards.
The Kuala Lumpur Convention Center in Malaysia is also continuing its commitment to green policies.
In March, the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center achieved the EarthCheck Bronze Benchmarked Certification for a fifth consecutive
“Retaining our EarthCheck Bronze certification affirms the Center’s commitment to being an internationally recognized convention center that operates its business in a responsible and sustainable manner,” said Datuk Peter Brokenshire, general manager, Kuala Lumpur Convention Center. “It also reflects our support of the long-term sustainability goals of the business tourism sector in Malaysia.”
The Kuala Lumpur, with more than 100,000 square feet of exhibit space, was also recently recognized as the Best Convention Center in Asia by the MICE Report, a meetings and business traveler magazine.
Closer to home, the Raleigh Convention Center is about to have its rooftop outfitted with 2,080 photovoltaic panels, which will help move the venue into an even more sustainable program.
When completed in April of this year, the 500-kilowatt solar energy system will cover about 60 percent of the convention center’s roof and produce an estimated 725,000 kilowatt hours of electricity.
“We are thrilled to move forward on this solar energy system,” said Mayor Nancy McFarlane. “Making our Convention Center even more sustainable is a very significant achievement.”
The Raleigh Convention Center is one of seven convention centers in the nation to have achieved a silver certification in the LEED rating system by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).
According to the USBCG, more than 1,000 hotels and 50 convention centers were moving toward LEED certification in 2011. So as the trend toward creating and working with green venues and hotels continues to rise, sustainability in the convention industry is becoming the rule rather than the exception.