More than 30 association and nonprofit meeting professionals braved a “Green Safari” into the behind-the-scenes wilds of the sustainably certified Westin Peachtree Plaza Aug. 5 in Atlanta during the 2013 ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition.
Hosted by the ASAE Convene Green Alliance (CGA), which is dedicated to creating eco-friendly, socially beneficial meetings and events, the safari provided these trekkers with a bird’s eye view of environmentally friendly and socially beneficial investments and operations that help meeting venues, such as the Westin Peachtree Plaza, achieve Green Seal and other eco-certifications. Such seals assure planners who want to execute green events and conferences that the infrastructure and expertise is in place to provide returns on investments, such as cost savings, attendee engagement and a lighter environmental footprint.
CGA Director Kristin Clarke ran an on-the-trail trivia contest about everything from recycling elements to water usage in showers.
“We were fortunate to have one of only five Green Seal-certified hotels in the state so near the Georgia World Congress, especially one with a wonderful staff so willing to generously don pith helmets and embrace the unusual learning format of a safari to showcase why green initiatives at meeting venues are so beneficial to planners and the planet,” said Clarke.
After an official greeting by the hotel’s meetings and events manager, Emily Peterson, the group heard about the importance of sustainability to the property from the natives’ chief leader, George Reed, the general manager. The group then hiked to the hotel loading dock where they witnessed the main recycling repository. The property recycles up to 9 tons of kitchen oil and grease into biofuel each year.
Participants moved to the kitchen where pith-helmet-clad Executive Chef Russell Sleight discussed the strategic relationships with local farmers that allow the hotel to offer guest local, seasonal, organic, and sustainable food and beverages. The hotel also partners with the Atlanta Food Bank, where more than 200 pounds of food are donated annually.
The group then traveled into the depths of the laundry room, where Assistant Director of Housekeeping Jasmine Arrindell noted that associations could help the venue reduce energy, water and chemical usage by lowering the weekly poundage of laundry it washes, dries and folds—all 150,000 pounds of it. By encouraging attendees to participate in the “Make a Green Choice” and similar linen reuse programs, planners could boost the average 22 percent of guests who register for this program and reward them through food vouchers or loyalty points. Linen reuse statistics are among the many possible metrics that meeting professionals can request to monitor and build goals around with host hotels to ensure meetings are more sustainable.
Planners followed the trail to a ballroom to hear Director of Banquets Steve Grayson explain clutter-free meeting set-up practices, which include use of linenless tables to eliminate laundry, bulk-served notepads and pens to reduce waste, and reusable living or dried botanical centerpieces rather than fresh-cut flowers. The safari concluded at the trail head – a recently eco-renovated suite with a sustainably sourced breakfast and stunning view of the Atlanta “jungle” from up near the clouds.
CGA expects to hold another green safari in Orlando, Fla., during the 2014 Great Ideas Conference March 9-11.
ASAE is a membership organization representing more than 21,000 association executives and industry partners representing 10,000 organizations.