By Beth Buehler
The Green Meeting Industry Council describes green meetings as “gatherings based on a sustainability framework which balances environmental, economic and social impacts in context of an organization’s business needs” and offers the following six-step approach.
Step 1: Create a plan for identifying your event’s sustainability objectives.
Step 2: Engage internal stakeholders in supporting your plan.
Step 3: Engage vendors in supporting your plan.
Step 4: Track your performance.
Step 5: Communicate the results; celebrate the success.
Step 6: Be innovative and have fun!
The state’s destinations, destination management companies, meeting planning firms, venues and suppliers can help with many of these steps as being a green and sustainable is already part of Colorado’s day-to-day culture. In January, Governor John Hickenlooper announced that the state ranked fifth in the nation for LEED green building in 2015, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED-certified spaces use less energy and water resources, save money for businesses and taxpayers, reduce carbon emissions and create a healthier environment.
Historic Denver Union Station is one of the latest buildings to achieve LEED certification for a $54 million renovation that wrapped up in July 2014. A major goal was making the multi-use transportation and gathering hub with a hotel, restaurants, shops, bars and function space as environmentally friendly as possible. More than 90 percent of the historic building’s existing structural elements were reused, including the original floors, walls and roof.
Colorado Convention Center, also located in downtown Denver and a top meeting venue in the state, received LEED Gold Certification in May 2014, the top certification.
A February 2016 article by the U.S. Green Building Council about “Hotels worldwide are going green with LEED” showed Colorado with nine LEED certified hotels, ranking the state seventh in the nation. In 2009, Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain was one of the first in the state to receive Silver LEED Certification.
But it’s not all about LEED. Several properties have a whole host of sustainable initiatives such as St Julien Hotel and Spa in Boulder, Vail Cascade Hotel & Spa, and Vail Resorts Meetings and Events properties in Beaver Creek and Breckenridge. Several Colorado hotels are partners with Clean the World, a program that recycles hotel amenities and has a team-building program to package hygiene kits.
Not long ago, VISIT DENVER became the first destination marketing organization in the United States to attain a Level 2 green meeting certification from the American Society for Testing and Materials. Both the Colorado Convention Center and Image Audiovisuals, the center’s audio/visual provider, also have achieved Level 2 ASTM honors. The city also was named the #1 location in America for green meetings in 2014 by greenbiz.com.
Snowmass ski resorts and two hotels in Aspen and has been a leader in environmental stewardship for many years, winning the National Ski Areas Association’s Golden Eagle Award an unprecedented seven times, most recently in 2016. The company even has a vice president of sustainability.
Hosting meetings that are green can include simple things like renting plants for centerpieces or arranging food to be consumed in a unique way in the center of the table. It might be serving water out of pitchers and large glass containers instead of water bottles and providing free use of bicycle sharing programs in towns like Boulder, Fort Collins, Aspen and Denver so attendees can explore town. Or how about hiring a fleet of bicycle taxis to transport guests to a nearby gathering or night on the town? The options are nearly limitless and as the sixth step indicates, be innovative and have fun!
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.