green meetings

Moscone Center – A Bright Green Award-Winning Convention Center

I’ve been to a lot of “environmental” conferences over the years, and I’ve seen a lot of not-so-environmental practices. Some convention centers even throw away the floor coverings they use after every trade show. SMG’s giant Moscone Center, in San Francisco, is just one block away from my office, and this bright green convention center was recognized at EPA’s recent Pacific Southwest Environmental Awards Ceremony.

Image of solar panels on the Moscone Center The two million square foot Moscone Center has one of the nation’s largest municipally-owned solar installations. Their 60,000 sq. ft. solar system generates enough energy to power nearly 400 homes and displaces more than 300 tons of carbon dioxide annually! They also did a major lighting retrofit. You can follow their lead by looking for ENERGY STAR lighting fixtures at home and at work.

SMG pioneered a recycling program at the Moscone Center ten years ago and recently added food composting. They now transform kitchen-based food scraps and corn-based serveware and utensils from large catered functions into compost to grow new food. The catering truck is even fueled with biodiesel. SMG also reduces waste by working with vendors to take back bread trays and pastry boxes.
The facility started using Green Seal certified cleaning products in 2008 and buys environmental products like post-consumer recycled paper, janitorial supplies and garbage bags.

SMG really focuses on improving indoor air quality. The Moscone Center takes the following step to achieve this:

  • Has a full-time air quality technician who regularly monitors and tests conditions ;
  • Requires forklifts to use a propane additive to reduce carbon monoxide emissions ;
  • Reduces diesel emissions by requiring trucks operated by service contractors to use filters;
  • Minimizes idling by drivers, and
  • Strictly enforces the no smoking ordinance.

They’re also improving air quality outside. The Moscone Center is close to nearly 20,000 hotel rooms, making it easy to avoid driving. SMG also promotes the use of public transit in telephone recordings and on the website, as well as encouraging employee participation in the Commuter Check program. The center’s van runs on compressed natural gas and bike racks are installed in front of the facility.

The list of green features at Moscone Center goes on and on, but you get the idea — Moscone Center is truly a model green convention center!

Please share your green conference and convention center information with us.

To learn more about other U.S. EPA Pacific Southwest Environmental Award winners, visit http://www.epa.gov/region09/awards.

About the author: Timonie Hood has worked on EPA Region 9’s Resource Conservation Team for 10 years and is Co-Chair of EPA’s Green Building Workgroup.
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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Making Meetings Green – Zero Waste Meetings

About the author: Viccy Salazar joined EPA in 1995. She works in our Seattle office on waste reduction, resource conservation and stewardship issues.

I work for the government. One of the things that this means is that I spend a lot of time in meetings. Since I, or someone on my team, is often planning the meetings, my team decided to see what we could do to ensure that the meetings we host don’t use unnecessary resources.

The first thing we did was look on EPA’s website for green meetings. We clicked on the link for meeting planners and go directed to a list of 10 easy things to do – well, it didn’t seem easy to us but we were committed so we moved ahead. As a team, we decided that we wanted to 1) be as zero waste as possible, 2) minimize the amount people had to travel by providing options, and 3) track our result and savings.

We thought zero waste would be the easy one. We called up our local organic caterer and asked if they did zero waste. By zero waste we meant – no packaging, durable serving platters, plates, silverware, and cups, they would compost the food waste and any other non-durable items, and finally, they would carry away and wash everything. Simple, right? Well, not really. They said they did organic but not zero waste. We worked with them and finally got ‘almost’ zero waste. It required some work and the vendor had not done it before. One thing we learned was that it was important to be very specific with your food vendor and conference facility about what you want. Getting recycling at the event seemed easier but we still had to educate the meeting attendees to actually recycle!

We don’t always order out. Sometimes, we go and buy the food for meetings ourselves. When doing that, we learned some lessons like: buy from the bakery and take in your own platters. Almost all of the packaging provided by the shops is either plastic or has a plastic window in it – not zero waste. Provide drinks by making it up in a pitcher, serving drinks in cans (very recyclable) or making coffee/tea. Most other drink types had lids that needed to be disposed of. Fruits and vegetables work great – just be sure to carry in your own bags so you don’t end up with plastic bag waste.

The upshot of our lessons for providing food at meetings is:

  1. be clear about what you want, ask for it – we want it to become part of their service package,
  2. communicate to the meeting attendees what you are doing, they like it, and
  3. do the best you can – you can’t always get everything you want.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.