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Hawaii Convention Center Builds on Million Trees Initiative with Meetings & Events Program

Glenn Hasek

Many hotels and convention centers now offer the opportunity to offset the carbon impact of one’s visit. The Hawaii Convention Center is one such place and I would like to highlight it this week because of its outstanding offsetting work.

In case you did not catch the news, last month the Center launched its program that provides offset opportunities for all meetings and events. As part of the program, individual attendees can select and plant endemic and native trees virtually or in-person. Through Google Earth, one can even follow the tree’s growth progress. These efforts are part of the Center’s Hoʻomaluō (to conserve or manage wisely) conservation program. Hoʻomaluō guides the Center’s leadership in environmental best practices, including energy consumption, water use and waste diversion.

While the offset program for meetings and events just launched, the Center has offered its One Million Trees initiative since 2016, partnering with the statewide nonprofit Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative to reforest native and endemic trees in Hawaii. This video explains the One Million Trees program. I am unaware of any hotel or convention center that has set such a lofty goal for itself.

Teri Orton, General Manager, Hawaii Convention Center, told me that over 500 local native and endemic Legacy Trees have been planted for permanent reforestation in the Hawaii Convention Center Legacy Forest to date. “Over the 50-year lifetime of a single tree, it will produce $31,250 worth of oxygen and $62,000 worth of air pollution control,” Orton says. “Each tree will recycle $37,500 worth of water and prevent $31,250 of soil erosion. That’s a huge impact so far, and we look forward to building on this progress.”

With the new offset program for meetings and events, the pace at which trees are planted is certain to grow significantly.

Mālama Kuʻu Home

According to a press release about the offset program, the Center’s carbon offset program is in alignment with the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s (HTA) vision of Mālama Kuʻu Home (Caring for My Beloved Home). HTA’s objective is to help empower the community to have a greater voice in tourism’s future, with a focus on regenerating the environment, perpetuating the Hawaiian culture, recognizing Hawaii’s multiethnic cultures and supporting responsible economic outcomes.

“The Hawaii Convention Center’s industry-leading environmental practices help reduce the impact of our meetings and events, and provide organizers and attendees with customized, turnkey options to protect our natural resources right here in Hawaii,” Orton said.

Center is Certified LEED Gold

In 2018 the Center achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) v.4 O+M Gold certification, which was recertified in 2021. Orton told me the Center was the first “public assembly, convention center” to earn LEED v.4 O+M Gold Certification in the U.S.

The Center has a sustainability director and a sustainability team that meets on a regular basis. “The Center’s sustainability team is comprised of staff from various departments who are integrally involved with managing utility savings, our recycling and repurposing program, the purchasing of local and sustainable products and incorporating sustainability best practices into our events,” Orton said.

The Center has held a zero-waste event and a case study of it is available here. “The Center has placed water-filling stations throughout the facility so guests may conveniently refill their reusable water bottles rather than purchasing single-use plastic bottles. Our Food & Beverage Department also distributes water in aluminum cans rather than plastic bottles,” Orton added.

The Center has set a goal of increasing its waste diversion rate from 62 percent (2021) to 70 percent and has listed other steps it has taken on its website to improve indoor air quality, reduce water and energy consumption, and improve event practices, purchasing, and food and beverage operations. You can read about them here.

The Center has earned numerous awards for its efforts.

Kudos to the Hawaii Convention Center team for setting its Million Trees goal and for all its other work to reduce its environmental impact.

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