A Guide to Planning Green Meetings and Sustainable Events in Colorado

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A Guide to Planning Green Meetings and Sustainable Events in Colorado


By Beth Buehler


Groups committed to hosting meetings and events that are environmentally friendly will be right at home in Colorado to plan green meetings and sustainable events. The Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) teamed up with the Boulder-based Leave No Trace organization in 2018 to come up with seven Care for Colorado Leave No Trace Principles that have been adopted by many destinations, businesses and organizations. Not only do the principles apply to leisure travelers and locals, but they also make sense for groups.


Taking it one step further, CTO ’s “Do Colorado Right” initiative offers tips about traveling without a car, keeping wildlife wild, exploring the states beautiful waterways in a safe way, and much more. However, this ethos has long be present in communities like Aspen, Boulder, Denver and Vail and venues and hotels like the Colorado Convention Center (CCC) in Denver and The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, Avon, Vail Valley, which was Colorado’s first LEED-certified hotel and only the ninth Silver Leed-certified hotel in the U.S. when it opened in 2009.


With that in mind, here is a quick guide to help you plan green meetings and sustainable events in Colorado. And don’t forget to check out this checklist for sustainable meetings.

Natural light in the Colorado Convention Center atrium, courtesy VISIT DENVER

Sustainability Matters at the Colorado Convention Center

Since 2010, CCC has been Gold LEED certified for Existing Building, Operation and Maintenance. the new rooftop expansion that was completed in December is expected to earn the Gold LEED nod as well. The facility has a sustainable program manager and has a large list of sustainable practices.

For example, there is a 300kw rooftop solar array, a lighting-level protocol set at 50% for move-in and 25% for cleaning and maintenance, and use of natural day lighting in the atrium. In addition, CCC has a Reclaim Room to offer exhibitors an alternative to throwing items away; compost collection for all kitchen items, bathroom paper towels and yard waste; water bottle fill stations located at each water fountain; and clearly labeled single stream recycling next to every landfill bin. In addition, there are electric vehicle charging stations in the parking garage, and full-time convention center employees are provided a free ECO-Pass to encourage use of light rail and bus transportation.

Denver Plays a Leading Role

VISIT DENVER helps market CCC and is known for its own sustainability standards. Last November, the Events Industry Council announced that VISIT DENVER achieved platinum-level certification for EIC Sustainable Event Standards. Denver was the first destination to achieve this highest level of certification, which details performance criteria in the areas of organizational management, marketing, communications and engagement, climate action, water management, materials and circularity, supply chain management, diversity, equity and inclusion, accessibility, and social impact.


VISIT DENVER has a green vendor directory and a Denver hotel sustainability chart that reflects the third-party certifications and awards such as LEED, Energy Star, Green Seal, Colorado Green Business Network and more to help you plan green meetings. With that in mind, here is a quick guide to help you plan green meetings and sustainable events in Colorado. And don’t forget to check out this checklist. Hotels like Aloft Denver Downtown, Hilton Denver City Center, Hyatt Centric Downtown Denver, Limelight Denver (previously Kimpton Hotel Born), The Art Hotel, The Rally Hotel and The Ritz-Carlton-Denver are among the properties included on the sustainability chart. There also is an event carbon footprint calculator on VISIT DENVER’s website.

Attendees can ride complimentary bikes when groups stay at Limelight Denver located next to Denver Union Station, where the A Line train from airport starts and stops, courtesy Limelight Denver

This summer, the country’s first carbon positive hotel, the 265-room Populus, is opening in the Civic Center Park neighborhood and is seeking Gold LEED certification. Populus has minimized its carbon footprint in the development stage using low-carbon concrete mixes and high-recycled content materials, maximizing structural efficiency, using fewer finish materials, decreasing the usual waste, and more. The property will be the first hotel in downtown Denver to use BioGreen’s unique food-cycling technology to divert 100 percent of food waste away from landfills and into all-natural compost and fertilizer products. Populus’ embodied and operational carbon footprint also is being offset through forest and agricultural collaborations that sequester more carbon than the building emits throughout its lifecycle.


Boulder Lessens Impacts

A guide to help you plan green meetings and sustainable events in Colorado wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Boulder also located on the state’s Front Range. Boulder is one of only 120 cities in the world on the CDP’s A List, which is this global environmental reporting organization’s highest rating for leadership in environmental action and transparency.


Composting is common practice in Boulder with the city’s Universal Zero Waste Ordinance requiring properties in Boulder to have separate compost, recycling and trash services. Groups can dine out with a clear conscience, knowing whatever food and kitchen scraps are left over will be steered clear of landfills. The community also has 300 miles of bikeways and public transportation to help keep cars parked and goals on track to reduce carbon emissions 70 percent by 2030, hit net-zero emission by 2035 and become carbon positive by 2040.


Embassy Suites by Hilton Boulder and Hilton Garden Inn Boulder (dual-branded properties known as Hiltons on Canyon) unveiled green-focused initiatives earlier this year, including the introduction of a BioGreen composter, a meeting impact calculator, carbon offset credits and more. Located downtown, St Julien Hotel & Spa is an Eco-Cycle Zero Waste partner, and its Jill’s Restaurant provides a local farm with compost weekly to use as feed in exchange for specialty food items.

Gondola at Aspen Mountain overlooking downtown Aspen, courtesy Aspen Chamber Resort Association

Eco-Friendly Ethic in Mountain Towns

Vail Valley and Aspen are two mountain areas that are front and center in any guide to help you plan green meetings and sustainable events in Colorado.


Vail partnered with Walking Mountains Science Center and Sustainable Travel International to become the first sustainable mountain resort destination in the world and the first certified sustainable destination in the United States certified by Green Destinations, a certifying body that is accredited by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. To become a certified sustainable destination, Vail had to meet and maintain progress on over 40 sustainability criteria.


Vail and other Eagle County communities are working to achieve a 25% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. In addition, there is a local Actively Green sustainability training and certification program that provides a framework of sustainable business criteria and performance indicators for all businesses, including hospitality providers for groups.


From civic to private and nonprofit sectors, there is a high level of advocacy and initiatives that also make Aspen a leader in environmental stewardship. In 2023, the City of Aspen released an Aspen Sustainability Action Plan that serves as a roadmap to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 63.4% by 2030 and 100% by 2050. The plan focuses on five priority areas: energy supply, buildings, vehicles and transportation, waste, and aviation and airport.


The city also has two hydroelectric plants and has made improvements to the municipal water distribution system that has resulted in water use dropping to 1950s levels, despite a dramatic increase in population in recent decades. The community’s recycling ordinance requires recycling to be part of basic trash service for all residential, multi-family and commercial customers and was the first in Colorado to include the commercial sector. There also is a free public bus system, a bike-share program called WE-cycle, and lodging properties such as Aspen Meadows Resort, Limelight Aspen and Limelight Snowmass that have thoughtful sustainability programs that includes group business. Limelight Snowmass also has LEED Silver certification.


In addition, Aspen One and Vail Resorts, the ski resort operators in Aspen, Snowmass, Vail and Beaver Creek have made serious commitments to sustainability that positively impact meetings and events in these communities. While this guide to planning green meetings and sustainable events in Colorado could be much more extensive, it gives organizers some ideas for destinations, lodging properties and venues to consider.


Top Photo: The lobby at Embassy Suites by Hilton Boulder, which unveiled green-focused initiatives earlier this year, photo courtesy Embassy Suites by Hilton Boulder


Colorado native Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 19 years, helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine, and was on the team that introduced Southwest Meetings + Events. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.