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Green aspects highlighted at ASAE & The Center Annual Meeting

The Convene Green Alliance (CGA), ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership and Marriott International, united before a capacity crowd to discuss the ever-evolving strategies aimed at greening one of the industry’s largest meetings.

Three ASAE & The Center staff leaders described everything from carbon offsetting options to use of innovative eco-products as ways to lighten the environmental footprint of their annual meeting and exposition in Los Angeles August 21-24, 2010. The event promises to be one of the organization’s most socially responsible and greenest meetings ever.

“When a highly visible and well-attended event like the ASAE & The Center Annual Meeting & Exposition develops so many green initiatives, it provides a huge boost to the green efforts of the entire meetings industry,” said CGA Executive Director Tracey Messina Buonforte.

Held at the Key Bridge Marriott in Arlington, Va., and moderated by Jay Hamilton, senior director of Corporate Public Relations for Marriott Corporation, the event featured ASAE & The Center Vice President of Conventions & Expositions Amy Ledoux, CMP, CAE; ASAE & The Center Director of Social Responsibility Chris Wood; and ASAE & The Center writer and researcher Kristin Clarke.

Wood and Ledoux emphasized the strong commitment that ASAE & The Center have had to social and environmental sustainability since it hosted a Global Summit on Social Responsibility two years ago. That event sparked a social responsibility movement and spawned a set of social responsibility principles that guide the organization’s activities, which will be evident at the Los Angeles annual meeting.   

The organization also has forged a strong partnership with Midnight Mission, an independent social service agency that provides food, shelter, clothing, medical care, counseling, education, training and job placement to homeless people.

In addition to organizing volunteer activities at the mission, ASAE & The Center are encouraging exhibitors to ship toiletries and other essentials to Los Angeles with their booth materials for donation to the mission. Ledoux reported that more than 200 attendees and exhibitors are already participating.

Wood added that ASAE & The Center is holding a 5K charity fun run, and attendees can also sign up for several edu-tours of local areas and facilities; many of which have environmental sustainability features. All registration fees will be donated to the mission.
Although Los Angeles was selected to host the Annual Meeting & Exposition in 2001, before sustainability became a priority for ASAE & The Center, the city and the organization had been working for more than two years to plan and execute environmental goals.   

“It’s not hard to find sustainable stories in Los Angeles,” Clarke noted. She said the mayor is a green eco warrior who has expanded the rail and metro network with clean energy, launched a green lodging program, developed partnerships with utility companies to save water and energy, and passed one of the strongest building codes in the country that requires new public buildings to conform to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Clarke added that Los Angeles also has many roof gardens and white roofs that reflect or reduce heat.

According to Ledoux, Los Angeles also was the first city to require low-flow toilets and showerheads in 1998. Buses use alternative fuels, the metro system runs on electricity, the convention center is the nation’s largest solar power-generating building, and celebrity chefs are pushing sustainable and locally grown food. Ledoux said, “All this gave us a good sense that the city is on the move with green initiatives.” She pointed out that ASAE & The Center works with all of its vendors to find innovative green initiatives such as biodegradable lanyards, badge holders, and registration bags. This year the organization is even using a badge stock that contains grass seeds that will grow when the badge biodegrades.

The 11 Los Angeles host hotels each have their own sustainability program in place, many of which involve guests Clarke noted. For instance, most hotels offer in-room recycling automatically or on request and have switched to green cleaning products. Some also offer a $5 credit toward food and beverage in the hotel if a guest opts for no housekeeping during his or her stay. Because of the warm climate and heightened green-eating expectations of guests, many hotel kitchens are using seasonal, organic and local produce; some hotels have their own herbal gardens. Three hotels are within easy walking distance to the convention center, and all the shuttle buses to other hotels use alternative fuels and pollution-reducing technologies.

Even Melissa Etheridge, who will perform at he Opening Night Celebration, incorporates green actions into her concert management, including LED lighting for the show, biofuel-run trucks for her band, and onsite recycling for concert goers.

Focus Forum attendees offered many of their own ideas and stories, including elimination of carpeting in the exhibit hall, since it is typically discarded after just a few uses, production of sturdy paper badges that don’t require badge holders, guidelines for exhibitors that discourage them from bringing small giveaway items that are often thrown away, green cleaning requirements  for convention facilities and hotel rooms, and requirements that destinations submit their bids electronically rather than in paper form.

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