What’s a good first step to vetting a ‘green’ convention center?
Once awards and designations have been investigated and confirmed, the next important step is to fully examine the operational side of the venue. Executing an attentive back-of-the-house tour on a convention center site visit is imperative in the evaluation process.

How a convention center operates on a day-to-day basis in regards to sustainability is important. Planners must be acutely observant when touring a venue. You should walk the docks, common areas, meeting rooms, halls and kitchen and closely study what sustainability elements are present.

What should planners be on the lookout for here?
Beyond obvious items like recycling bins, no disposable serviceware and bulk condiments, planners should examine ancillary things like how much natural light is in meeting rooms and common areas, organic food availability in the kitchen and mass transit possibilities so attendees don’t have to rent a car.

I once booked a convention center for 2,500 people and was told recycling was a strong focus. We got there and discovered there were no recycling bins. I learned my lesson to confirm everything.

What else can planners do to find a solidly sustainable venue?
One of the keys is to look for cities, venues and vendors that are already strongly committed to sustainability. Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Denver are among cities that have been at the forefront of the sustainability movement.

What are some ways that concerned planners can help spur sustainability during their outreach?
Show that there is a demand for sustainable venues by including a checklist on your RFP and then using it to make a decision. If the venue isn’t selected, let them know the decision came down to the most sustainable choice.

What are the ‘green’ elements that probably matter the most to attendees?
Location to mass transit, hotels, shopping and restaurants offer convenience as well as minimize the carbon footprint. Most participants are also looking for a place to recycle their cans, bottles and paper. Natural light is a green component that also makes us as humans very happy when stuck in meetings all day.

Have you seen any positive new trends regarding sustainable convention facilities?
Convention centers have finally figured out that most of the sustainable initiatives are saving them money and resources. Energy and water efficiency systems are on the increase.