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Greening the Hospitality Industry Conference Wraps Up in Portland

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PORTLAND, ORE.—A little more than 100 meeting planners, hoteliers, vendors, convention and visitors bureau representatives and others gathered here last week for the 2007 Greening the Hospitality Industry Conference. The event was held at the Green Seal-certified Doubletree Hotel and Executive Meeting Center and organized by the Portland, Ore.-based Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC).

The purpose of this event, according to GMIC, was to “encourage the meeting industry as a whole to embrace environmental responsibility in order to reduce the impacts of our activities as well as capitalize on the opportunities and benefits reduced waste presents.”

Sustainable meetings operations has been a hot topic recently and interest in it is expected to keep growing. In fact, keynote speaker Joel Makower, founder, Greenbiz.com, said during his speech that in the past year there has been a tremendous shift toward sustainability in many industries.

“Green is a huge opportunity in all sectors,” Makower said. “Businesses need to step up to the plate in regard to climate change.”

Makower encouraged meeting planners to ask themselves the following questions:

• “What are your criteria for green meetings?”
• “What are your metrics for measuring their success?”
• “What does wild success look like?”

Makower said being green for green sake is a losing proposition.

“A green meeting needs to be a better meeting,” he said.

Educational Opportunities

The conference featured numerous learning and networking opportunities, including sessions on “Sustainable Trends in Food and Beverage,” “Making an Environmental Impact with Sustainable Exhibits,” “How to Implement Green Meetings,” and “Achieving Certification.” Additional session topics included “Global Climate Change, Travel and Tourism,” “What is a Green Event Destination,” “Making the Switch to Greener Cleaning,” “Hotel Chains Modeling Sustainability,” and “Sustainable Transportation.”

During the “Achieving Certification” session, John Echlin, SERA Architects, Portland, Ore., provided an overview of a hotel project underway in downtown Portland. Called “The Nines,” the Starwood Luxury Collection Hotel and Sage Hospitality Resources project is part of a mixed-use development in the historic Meier and Frank building. It has been designed by SERA. The hospitality portion of the project, which will include a luxury hotel with meeting rooms, a ballroom, restaurant and roof-top lounge above a five-floor retail department store, was designed with the goal of achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification. The unique hotel will open in 2008.

Green Cleaning Part of Green Meetings

At the “Making the Switch to Greener Cleaning” session, the presenters agreed that any meeting cannot truly be considered green unless green cleaning is part of it.

“There has never been a better time to use green cleaning products,” said Mark Petruzzi, vice president for certification for Green Seal Inc., Lexington, N.C. “If there are cleaning chemicals you would not use at home, why would you ask your housekeepers to use them?”

Pierre Bee, vice president of Orbeco Inc., a San Francisco-based maker of green cleaning products, said that whereas at one time green cleaning products were not cost competitive, today they are. They clean just as well as chemical cleaners, are better for housekeeper and guest health, and reduce absenteeism and liability concerns.

Denise Levesque, an industry expert in green cleaning, says using green cleaning products demonstrates your uniqueness as a meeting destination and also demonstrates corporate responsibility.

Dave Rapaport, director of new business development for Seventh Generation, a maker of green cleaning products, advised attendees to look for products from experienced, established vendors. Do your homework before buying, he said, and learn about the various product certification programs such as Green Seal.

2007 Action Steps

During the closing session, attendees suggested action steps that could be taken this year to help green the meetings industry. Suggestions included: working with hospitality schools, getting more meeting planners involved, better documenting the benefits of green meetings, creating a directory of meeting destinations that operate sustainably, and producing a white paper on the meetings industry/global warming connection. Shawna McKinley, executive director, GMIC, said GMIC would commit to producing the white paper.

The Greening the Hospitality Industry Conference was a carbon neutral event, meaning that the 85 metric tons of meeting-generated carbon dioxide emissions were offset. A few other meeting facts:

• Twenty-four gallons of free trade organic coffee brewed by Portland Roasting, a sustainable business observing Natural Step principles, were served.
• About 130 pounds of food waste was diverted from landfills to Cedar Grove Compost.
• Use of water pitchers removed an estimated 310 plastic bottles from the waste stream.
• Approximately $2,300 was invested in small farms within 100 miles of Portland by buying food locally.
• Forty-five locally grown bulbs and flowers were used as centerpieces and will be planted on the Doubletree Hotel and Executive Meeting Center’s property in Portland.

Go to GMIC for more information.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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