Search Articles

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Green Safari for Meeting Professionals



On a January day when the temperature in the Washington, DC area soared into the 70s, the ASAE Convene Green Alliance (CGA) took an adventurous group of 20 meeting professionals and industry partners on a behind-the-scenes “Green Safari” tour of the sustainability program at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View, one of only three Gold LEED-certified hotels in Virginia.
Participants received bandanas to wear and were greeted by Renaissance associates dressed in pith helmets and safari gear to set the theme for this unique learning format.
The Green Safari demonstrated how the property earned Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental (LEED) status and how it benefits meeting planners, their organizations, and the planet.
CGA Director Kristin Clarke kicked off the green theme by handing out corn-based compostable badge holders and lanyards made from recycled soda bottles. Even the name badges could not have been more organic – the paper was made from 50 percent Sri Lankan elephant dung and 50 percent post-consumer waste.
Planners were first invited to sample sustainable breakfast fare from Executive Chef David Creamer. The Renaissance Arlington Capital View adheres to a policy of local sourcing as much food as possible from within a 200-mile radius and has forged relationships with area farmers to ensure that the freshest, “greenest” products make it to the table. The Renaissance purchases only cage-free eggs and pork products. The entire Marriott company has set a goal of serving only cage-free eggs by 2015 and cage-free pork by 2018. The hotel also maintains a sustainable fish program to protect species such as Chilean Bass from overfishing.
Renaissance Director of Sales and Marketing Denise Durgin and Director of Engineering Grant Renfrow then trekked the group through the “backwoods” operations of the hotel. Using a jungle ringtone on his phone, Renfrow led planners to the first stop in the main lobby at the window glass wall. The Renaissance boasts 76,000 square feet of glass, which has a low-E coating and a shading coefficient that helps to keep temperatures cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter while allowing appropriate light.
The group then hiked to the kitchen, where Renfrow explained that because recycling and composting are two vital elements of the property’s overall program, the area is set up to make both as easy as possible for associates. Last year, the hotel composted 88 tons of food and aims for 100 tons in 2013. A local company, Envirelation, collects the compost several times a week.
In addition to composting, the hotel also recycles fryer oil. Green Light Biofuels collects the used oil and processes it into biofuel, which is then distributed locally. The Renaissance also has a no-Styrofoam policy; all to-go containers are made from corn-based recyclable or compostable products. These initiatives have reduced the amount of the hotel’s garbage by half.
The safari’s next stop was to the meeting spaces, all of which are equipped with carbon dioxide (CO2) sensors. When CO2 levels rise in a crowded room, fresh air is triggered to flow into the spaces to increase oxygen content and promote alertness or, in the case of guest rooms, more restful sleep.
Refrow and Durgin then took planners to the “green roof,” which is a beautifully designed space with many plantings that filter rain water, aid in water distribution to prevent flooding, remove CO2, and cool hotel space below. Drought-resistant species keep the roof garden low-maintenance, and the hotel plans to add an herb garden.
Engineer Francis “Frank” Duve trekked participants to a guest room to learn about the property’s low-flow water fixtures and energy-efficient lighting. Duve noted that each room has a bag for recycling with a custom-made recyclable instruction card.
The safari ended in the Club Lounge where planners got a canopy-level view of Washington DC’s spectacular skyscape and answered the last of Clarke’s eco-themed trivia questions.
“We are lucky to be in a major meetings destination where we can creatively showcase venues of the highest green standards,” said Clarke. “This type of transparency allows meeting planners to learn exactly why and how they can benefit from eco-friendly planning.”
The next Green Safari will be Monday, August 5, 2013 at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta, GA as part of the ASAE Annual Meeting. For more information about the ASAE Convene Green Alliance, which is free to association meeting professionals, visit www.convenegreen.com.