The GMIC Helps Planners Minimize Meeting Footprints

Green Meetings

Hosting the Green Meetings Industry Council’s (GMIC) Sustainable Green Meetings Conference in San Francisco made quite the statement. The city has completely eliminated the use of water bottles at conferences (and the use of Styrofoam and plastic bags citywide for that matter), and is currently on track toward zero waste by 2020.

“We work with SF Travel quite a bit and have a basic checklist of what meeting planners should do,” says Shawn Rosenmoss, senior environmental specialist for the San Francisco Department of the Environment. “San Francisco is seen as a leader in the field, but we’re mouthing off about it a lot, and a lot of people aren’t, so I think some of it is understanding what other cities are actually doing.”

Rosenmoss says San Francisco’s stringent green business program gives planners a list of the city’s 180 greenest businesses—an easy first step in finding green suppliers. Mandatory recycling and composting in all buildings is also the norm. At the Moscone Center, for instance, leftover food waste from conferences is either donated to local organizations or composted. Plus, the 60,000-sf solar generation project atop Moscone South gives solar power back to the city’s electric grid.

In nearby Monterey, a.k.a. the “salad bowl capital of the world,” 13 weekly farmers markets keep a farm-to-fork mentality going strong. We’re told that Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program was a pioneer in linking dining behavior to ocean health, which led to the use of responsible seafood menus across the country.

The Monterey Regional Waste Management District guarantees that county events will either be low waste or have a zero landfill impact. For those meetings that can’t mitigate a zero or near-zero waste event, the Offset Project’s Monterey Bay Carbon Fund pays for carbon offsets, which go to local renewable energy projects, says Sylecia Johnston, MTA, destination marketing/group sales for the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Sustainability has also been part of the Keystone, Colorado, culture since long before “recycling was sexy,” says David Sackmann, senior national sales manager for the Keystone Resort & Conference Center. Sackmann made that point clear by offering to donate $5 to San Francisco’s Friends of the Urban Forest foundation for every business card he received at the GMIC conference.

“Because we operate within the national forest system, we give guests the opportunity to donate a dollar to the National Forest Foundation upon registration,” says Sackmann. “In Colorado, we’ve had water issues for 100 years, so for years and years we’ve been promoting low-flow fixtures in our rooms, and we have had highly efficient laundry services years before the sustainability movement even launched.”

Singapore is another destination that continues to make green advancements in the MICE industry—the nation’s infrastructure alone showcases its commitment to sustainability.

“We built our city in a garden,” says Tiong Heng Chew, Singapore Tourism Board’s executive director of business tourism development. “If you were to take a satellite picture of Singapore, 50 percent of the land is covered by greenery. The green value proposition we have for our visitors isn’t just at the property level, but the destination level.”

Kevin Teng, director of sustainability at the 2,560-room Marina Bay Sands (MBS) in Singapore, says a $25 million high-tech system that allows hotel staff to control lighting, heating and water supplies from more than 60,000 control points is one of the property’s highlights. Low-flow fixtures reduce water consumption by about 92 million gallons a year. Teng said that a green culture across property operations is key to sustainability.

The Global Sands Eco360 program created by parent company Las Vegas Sands Corp, certainly embraces Teng’s idea. More than 50 percent of MBS staff members participate in sustainability initiatives.