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PORTLAND, ORE.—The sixth annual Sustainable Meetings Conference, organized by the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC), kicked off yesterday with a full slate of educational sessions and news that GMIC has grown to 600 members in more than 30 countries. The conference, which has drawn 250 people in person and 60 “virtual” attendees, is being held at the Doubletree Hotel Portland. Four years ago, when the conference was also held in Portland, total attendance was closer to 60. Guy Bigwood, president of GMIC and director of sustainability, MCI Group, told attendees that GMIC currently has 20 chapters up and running or in development, up from seven at the same time last year. There are also now 47 business members, support that Bigwood says has put GMIC in a financially sustainable position for the future. Bigwood led off the first day by moderating a session on the “Business Dimensions of Sustainability.” Panelists included Dr. James Tansey, president, Offsetters; Dr. Ian Lee, Sprott School of Business, Carleton University; Regina Hauser, executive director, The Natural Step Network; and Denise Taschereau, co-founder, Fairware.
ASHLAND, OHIO—A 160-acre parcel located just southwest of Ashland, Ohio could soon be the home of the United States’ greenest retreat center. Developer Wendy Kertesz says she hopes to break ground this summer on Windy Retreat Center, a 25,000-square-foot, 16-guestroom facility that will include two indoor conference rooms, one outdoor conference space, three classrooms, great room, dining room, commercial kitchen, fitness center and conservatory. The goal is to open the center by late 2012. Constructed in part using straw bales, Windy Retreat Center will pursue at least Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification and Passive House Certification.
SOUTHAMPTON, BERMUDA—In a symbolic passing of the “baton,” Bermuda’s Junior Tourism Minister Marc Bean recently received the Caribbean Tourism Organization Sustainable Tourism Mahogany Scroll from the Permanent Secretary in the Barbados Ministry of Tourism, Andrew Cox, confirming Bermuda as host of the 12th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development (STC-12). The event will be hosted by the Government of Bermuda and will be held from April 3 to 6, 2011, at the Fairmont Southampton. “We are honored to host STC-12 in Bermuda,” said Sen. Bean at a news conference later. “We look forward to an action-based program that builds on the recommendations coming out of STC-11.” Although Caribbean tourism has achieved much over the past 10 years in spite of ongoing global and regional challenges, the region must prepare itself for the industry’s evolution over the next 10 years. How should Caribbean tourist destinations strategically plan to build upon their successes, capitalize on future trends and become more globally competitive and sustainable? Costas Christ, the National Geographic Traveler Editor at Large, will be the keynote speaker.
MANUEL ANTONIO NATIONAL PARK, COSTA RICA—The push for sustainable tourism was given a boost late last month with the establishment of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism that unites all stakeholders in the industry in influencing policies, developing projects and providing a global communication platform. The Partnership was established at the first annual General Meeting in Costa Rica, hosted by the Costa Rican Ministry of Tourism and supported by the French and Norwegian governments, together with the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). During the meeting, France was elected President of the Partnership Steering Committee and Costa Rica as Vice-Chair. The Secretariat to this Global Partnership will be housed with UNEP’s Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE) in Paris, France and the emphasis will be to shift tourism onto a sustainable pathway worldwide. Tourism is one of the world’s largest industries and for developing countries it can be a source of much needed income. However, if not managed well, tourism can also threaten a country’s natural resources.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The National Restaurant Association issued the following statement, in response to the release of the government’s new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: “We support the Dietary Guidelines’ recommendations around a total dietary meal pattern which focuses on increasing consumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables,” said Joan McGlockton, vice president for Industry Affairs and Food Policy at the National Restaurant Association. “There has been a growing trend of restaurants offering more whole grains and produce, and we look forward to continuing to work with restaurant operators and chefs to provide even more healthful menu options for adults and children.”
PORTLAND, ORE.—It’s Game On! as the sixth annual Sustainable Meetings Conference convenes senior level meeting and hospitality professionals from Fortune 500 companies, destinations, hotels and leading green industry associations into an immersive and innovative conference design in Portland, Ore., February 20 to 23, 2011. The international delegates, challenged to solve event case studies in a sustainability context, are now able to take their experience one step further with the announcement of GMIC’s keynote speaker of Dr. Karl-Henrik Robèrt of The Natural Step International.
ATLANTA—IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) the world’s largest hotel group by number of rooms, announced that its in-house sustainability system—Green Engage—has been awarded with a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) volume precertification established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). IHG is the first hotel company to receive this award for an existing hotels program. The USGBC’s LEED rating system is a program for the design, construction and operation of green buildings. Volume precertification is a preliminary step that provides a streamlined path to LEED certification for a large group of hotels based on a preapproved prototype and process. In the United States alone, an average hotel has in excess of $500,000 in energy expenses every year. As energy prices continue to rise, Green Engage can deliver more than $90,000 in annual energy savings by making hotels 15 percent to 20 percent more energy efficient. This means IHG’s portfolio of 4,500 hotels has the potential to save more than $300 million in reduced energy costs annually.
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND—On its second anniversary, the Mercure Meetings Carbon Neutral Conference program has offset more than 3,821 tons of carbon emissions, equating to the carbon used to drive drive 1,127 times around Australia or 47 trips to the moon (if you could drive there). To put this into perspective, Mercure has effectively taken 1,803 cars off the road through this initiative over the past two years.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred program announced that a final rule to initiate a voluntary product certification and labeling program for qualifying biobased products has been published in the Federal Register. This new label will clearly identify biobased products made from renewable resources, and will promote the increased sale and use of these products in the commercial market and for consumers. “Today’s consumers are increasingly interested in making educated purchasing choices for their families,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. “This label will make those decisions easier by identifying products as biobased. These products have enormous potential to create green jobs in rural communities, add value to agricultural commodities, decrease environmental impacts, and reduce our dependence on imported oil.” Biobased products are those composed wholly or significantly of biological ingredients—renewable plant, animal, marine or forestry materials. The new label indicates that the product has been certified to meet USDA standards for a prescribed amount of biobased content. The final rule applies to manufacturers and distributors that wish to label products with USDA’s product mark.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Mandala Research and World Footprints, leaders in travel market research and sustainable tourism, are teaming up with travel industry leaders on a Sustainable Travel and Tourism Study. The research will address the 55 million travelers who the U.S. Travel Association says have growing concerns about environmental issues. The study will assess the value and impact of sustainability on travelers by understanding their expectations and their propensity to support destinations and travel companies that implement sustainable practices. In addition, the Sustainable Travel and Tourism Study will assess the impact of the new GSA Federal Travel Regulations on destinations, cities, and venues where government conferences and meetings are held.
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