Best Practices of Green Venues
Awareness of the impact that our daily habits have on the environment is (rightfully) increasing. To avoid detrimental environmental effects on our planet, it has been suggested that humans must reduce carbon emissions and pollution by 50-85% within the next 35 years. Sustainability acts are being supported by large companies worldwide and most every industry has a part to play in this movement. The event industry is no different; especially when it comes to the idea of green venues.
Organizational initiatives to become more sustainable and green are factors that consumers take into consideration when making purchasing decisions. This is very much the case for venues. No matter the industry you serve, the majority of target demographics are looking for venues that consider their impact on the environment in their selection process.
LEED Certification as the Highest Green Certification
In order for venues to prove their sustainability efforts are meeting an industry standard, many venues evaluate themselves along certain protocols and certification standards. One of the most highly regarded certifications is the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, also more commonly known as LEED certification. LEED Certifications require venues to be responsive and transparent in regards to their “green” efforts and that is determined through a series of rigorous testing and evaluation methods.
Following the tests, venues are awarded silver, gold, or platinum status. Only two venues in the North American region have achieved platinum status. As the standards for the various levels of certifications are incredibly high, the recipient displays their successes like a badge of honor.
Other Sustainability Certifications
Aside from LEED certifications, there are many more “green” certifications available for venues that meet set sustainability guidelines, standards, and benchmarks. The International Organization for Standardization based in Geneva has its 14000 series of certification which includes a set of green benchmark standards that help reduce the venues impact on the environment.
The U.S Environmental Protection Agency and the Green Meetings Council developed the APEX/ASTM certification which was created by event industry professionals and 200 non-industry stakeholders. The Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada (BOMA Canada) created the Building Environment Standards (BESt) program to establish realistic benchmarking for energy and environmental factors. The BESt program has evolved to provide common standards for venues.
These certifications are signs of a venue’s sustainability and environmental efforts and many attendees and organizers see environmental efforts as a priority when planning or attending an event. Venues are more appealing to people when they are eco-friendly and provide options for more sustainable practices.
5 Best Practices of Green Venues
1. Dedicated Sustainability Staff
Successful green venues find value in having a staff member solely dedicated to managing the sustainability operations. In the 2015 Green Venue Report by Greenview and Twirl Management, 70% of the centers in the survey had a dedicated Sustainability Coordinator or Manager on staff. Green venues also frequently have green teams comprising of an average of 11 employees from all departments in the facility that works together to further sustainability.
2. Sustainable Sourcing
One of the most attainable green practices venues can implement is through sustainable sourcing. Green venues commonly source their food products from local suppliers or environmentally conscious producers. The cost and emissions of transporting consumables contributes significantly to the carbon footprint of an event. As expected, buying environmentally friendly food options and swag takes more research, time, and dedication to the process. However, this is one of the main ways to ensure a venue is as low-impact as possible.
3. Waste Diversion
The more people inside a venue, the more trash, no matter what efforts are taken to minimize the amount of waste created. Many venues have replaced disposable one-use items with reusable items, such as using glasses and cloth napkins that can be washed instead of thrown away.
Another one of the easiest ways to be eco-friendly is to provide visitors to the venue multiple, easily accessible bins that are divided by items that are landfill items, recyclable items, and items for compost. Each section is labeled clearly with descriptions of the types of items that go in each section to make it easy for all visitors.
80 percent of respondents in the 2015 Green Venue Report donate their excess food to local charities on an ongoing basis. Other than donating leftover or excess food, venues can reuse decorations and other resources for similar events or donate them to local charities to reduce waste and help the community. The average waste diversion reported was 52 percent within the Green Venue Report.
4. Green Roofs & Spaces
Event venues can span over large amounts of space and consume large amounts of energy. Many venues have underutilized space, and a method that some venues are implementing is a green or living roof. Green roofs are essentially a roof that is covered in vegetation. One-third (33 percent) of the venues surveyed in the Green Venue Report of 2015 reported they had a green roof installed, and another 3 percent of venues surveyed planned on installing one within the next year.
Green roofs help reduce the heat island effect in urban areas as well as helping to reduce energy costs by better insulating the building and protecting it from direct heat. Green roofs also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution and can filter noxious gasses, provide animals habitats, and stores water and acts as a filter for the water that does run off.
Some venues even use the space to grow their own food or for beekeeping. For example, 30 percent of respondents in the Green Venue Report produce food onsite. Green roofs have many benefits for the venue and the community, not to mention the improved aesthetics for the building. Plus, aside from the ecological and energy benefits, green roofs also create local jobs for the manufacturing, design, and maintenance of the spaces.
5. Energy Reduction
Many venues have written policies regarding procedures to reduce energy consumption. According to the Green Venue Report, 96 percent of venues have a policy in place for reduced lighting and 93 percent have policies for reduced HVAC use during move in and out times.
Many venues also use Building Automation Systems that control the temperature and lighting within the facility as well as sensors for reducing lighting in the restrooms and unoccupied meeting rooms. Green venues also incorporate energy-efficient lighting systems and windows throughout the building to better manage the facility’s energy consumption. Installing energy efficient lighting, windows, and electronics or appliances is commonly one of the easiest steps that a venue can make in their efforts to be greener.
Easing into Sustainability
While not every venue has the ability or the funds to implement green practices throughout the entire facility, there are some small steps that venues can take to begin to reduce their environmental impact without major changes and high costs. Some venues provide menus with food options that don’t require utensils, thus eliminating the waste from disposable utensils. Don’t provide bottled water at your facility. Instead, provide reusable bottles or ask attendees to bring their own and place water coolers throughout the venue for refills.
As a venue, require event materials to be exchanged digitally through an event app or some other method. Implement a “green” press room where all press kits and welcome packets are available in digital formats or via an event app. Many venues participate in community-wide “green” programs that help connect them with partners that need food and resource donations and other opportunities for small steps towards sustainability. From a planner point of view, if a green venue is not available or viable or affordable option for an event, choose a venue that is close to public transportation and provides bike racks.Conclusion
As our carbon footprint increases, so does the responsibility and obligation of venues to reduce their impact. Venues such as convention centers and exhibition halls can span over acres of land and consume massive amounts of energy and release pollution into the environment. At a time where energy efficiency and “green” operational standards are becoming less of a choice by innovative venues, and more of a necessary step in order to advance into the future.
Sustainable venues are highly attractive to attendees and preferable to planners and organizers. With the environmental issues that are present, venues need to create efficiencies to minimize their impact within communities. As sustainability is becoming the norm, venues need to begin the shift to eco-friendly and environmentally conscious practices.