By Andrea Schnitzer, national program manager for U.S. EPA ENERGY STAR
Good for the earth and good for business, green meetings provide an opportunity for event organizers to minimize environmental impact and demonstrate leadership in sustainability. In fact,
hotel suppliers surveyed in 2011
noted that nearly half of their meeting clients specify green requirements for their events, and 73 percent of meeting planners indicated that their clients show increasing interest in tracking and reporting green measures.
With so many components that go into the planning and execution of green meetings, though, where should meeting planners start? Because the meeting venue is the focal point for these events, and because energy consumption is one of the largest components of a building’s environmental footprint, planners seeking to make their meetings “greener” should start by assessing the energy-efficiency activities of the venues under consideration. Since energy efficiency is “the “first step to green,” venues that are serious about reducing environmental impacts should be measuring and tracking their energy consumption over time, seeking opportunities for operations and maintenance improvements, and implementing retrofits where appropriate.
But how can meeting planners know if a venue is operating at a high level of energy efficiency, or making meaningful strides towards improvement? EPA’s ENERGY STAR program provides a number of resources to help hotels and convention centers improve energy performance and communicate their commitment to energy management. One key resource is Portfolio Manager, an online tool used to measure and track facility energy performance. Many building types, including hotels, can receive a 1-100 score in Portfolio Manager, which shows how each building performs relative to similar buildings nationwide. Hotels scoring above a 75 on this scale are eligible to earn the prestigious ENERGY STAR certification, indicating that the building achieved superior energy performance. While convention centers cannot receive a 1-100 score, they can still use the tool to track progress over time and compare performance against a national average. Tracking performance in Portfolio Manager allows hotel and convention center operators to quantify the impact of their efficiency activities, and to communicate achievements to guests, visitors, conference attendees, and meeting planners.
In addition to Portfolio Manager, ENERGY STAR provides resources such as the Guidelines for Energy Management and the Building Upgrade Manual, which hotels and convention centers can use to develop and implement best practice strategies for improving energy efficiency in their facilities. Venues can also choose to become ENERGY STAR partners, making a formal commitment to protect the environment through the continuous improvement of energy performance. When selecting a venue for a green meeting, planners are encouraged to ask candidate properties about their energy efficiency activities, including whether they have partnered with ENERGY STAR, whether they are leveraging ENERGY STAR resources to pursue improvements and promote achievements, and whether they have recently earned ENERGY STAR certification for their property (look up ENERGY STAR partners). With more than 85 percent of U.S. households recognizing the ENERGY STAR logo as the symbol for superior energy performance, selecting a venue that is actively engaged with ENERGY STAR can help planners to validate and promote a meeting’s “green credentials.”
For more information on energy efficiency in hotels and convention centers, see ENERGY STAR for Hospitality and ENERGY STAR for Entertainment.
The Virginia Beach Convention Center (shown in the photo for this post) is leveraging ENERGY STAR tools and resources to improve its energy performance. See this ENERGY STAR success story and the convention center’s sustainability website to learn more.