Sustainable Meeting Destinations in Colorado

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Sustainable Meetings in Colorado

By Beth Buehler

While doing research about sustainable meetings in Colorado, I came across much more information than will fit in one blog. As a result, I’ll write two blogs on the topic and attempt to hit some of the high points about what destinations, the state and Destination Colorado are doing to encourage sustainable meetings in Colorado.

Early on in my role as editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine, starting almost 17 years ago, green meetings became a hot topic. The Westin Riverfront & Spa became the first hotel in Colorado and ninth hotel in the country to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council’s Silver LEED status in 2008. Denver’s Colorado Convention Center (CCC) became LEED Gold certified for an existing building, operations and maintenance the following year and hired a sustainable program manager, Lindsay Arell, who continues to serve in this role.

Today, sustainable meetings is the more common terminology and covers more territory than green meetings. According to an Events Industry Council definition, “Sustainability for events means taking action towards preserving our natural environment; promoting a healthy, inclusive society; and supporting a thriving economy. The organization also has developed four principles of event sustainability and Sustainable Event Standards, a collection of six specific standards and four levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

I’m going to focus on taking care of our environment and being thoughtful regarding resource use.

Denver's Colorado Convention Center is LEED Gold certified. Courtesy Stevie Crecelius/VISIT DENVER.

Destination Initiatives 

Denver in particular has made sustainability a priority. In addition to LEED Gold certification, the Colorado Convention Center also achieved EMS ISO 14001 certification as part of the City of Denver’s Environmental Management System and is recognized as an Environmental Leadership Program, Gold Leader through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The venue has many initiatives that are listed on its website, ranging from a 300kw rooftop solar array, water bottle fill stations and paper towel recycling in bathrooms to electric vehicle charging, a light rail stop and a donation program for leftover conference materials.

Key to a successful convention center is a quality airport. Denver International Airport (DEN) has “investing for sustainability” as one of its seven core objectives and has several initiatives underway.

VISIT DENVER works closely with CCC, DEN and other key meeting and event partners around the city and has an online green vendor directory and event carbon footprint calculator.

The organization was the first convention and visitor bureau to achieve ASTM/APEX Level Two certification for a sustainable meeting destination, and the Colorado Environmental Leadership Program has certified VISIT DENVER at the Gold Level for going beyond compliance with environmental regulations and advancing sustainability in Colorado.

In 2019, Denver became only the 11th community worldwide to be certified LEED Platinum through the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Cities program after looking at a variety of measures such as climate action plan, vehicle miles traveled, mobility data, water efficiency, quality planning, green infrastructure, waste management and more. The USGBC also highlighted Denver’s push for 100 percent renewable electricity in the city by 2030.

Steve Beckley, owner of Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, at a 2019 event announcing that Glenwood Springs is 100% powered by renewable energy. Photo by Mandy Gauldin.

Glenwood Springs became the seventh U.S. city and the second in the state after nearby Aspen to be 100% powered by renewable energy in 2019; this includes homes, businesses, street lights and more.

The Town of Snowmass Village also is doing its share by powering all its buildings and lights with 100% clean energythrough Holy Cross Energy’s Renewable Energy Purchase Program, with the hope of getting buildings not owned by the Town closer to 100% renewable energy. Two out of four main Town of Snowmass buildings, Town Park Station and Snowmass Recreation Center, run on 70% solar power through five solar arrays. In the base village, Snowmass Base Village Plaza is LEED Neighborhood Development certified, and The Collective Snowmass is LEED Gold certified.

Breckenridge has launched a new B Like Breckenridge stewardship campaign and eliminated single-use plastic bagseffective Sept. 1, 2021. Breckenridge was recently recognized as a sustainable mountain resort destination using the Mountain IDEAL standard, has received certification from Green Destinations, and is only the third destination in the U.S. to become certified through a program accredited by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

Breckenridge has launched a new B Like Breckenridge stewardship campaign. Photo courtesy of Breckenridge Tourism Office.

Additional Efforts in Colorado

There are all sorts of sustainability initiatives going on in Colorado as it’s a way of life here to protect valuable resources. The Colorado Tourism Office has its Care for Colorado initiative, and Destination Colorado is one of the program’s stewardship partners. Destination Colorado plans to include sustainability initiatives in member website listings starting in 2022, providing added convenience for meeting planners who are searching for sustainable meetings and event facilities for their clients.

Colorado also is aiming to electrify all of its 26 scenic and historic byways, with seven already completed. This means drivers have access to Level 3 charging at intervals no greater than 100 miles between a byway’s start and finish.

It’s a lot to digest but refreshing to know all the efforts in place and underway to help present sustainable meetings in Colorado.

Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 16 years and helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine in 2013. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.