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By Brian Wettlaufer
THERE'S NO DENYING that the “Go Green” movement is gaining momentum
in our industry.
Sustainability and conservation concerns have become
increasingly important to the special events and facility management
business. Each day seems to bring
higher expectations and new developments into play.
No longer seen strictly as a personal choice issue, the
green movement has emerged as a critical business model and facilities that
want to be competitive and in the forefront of their industry are taking
steps to join in this movement. There is no doubt that the “Reduce, Reuse
and Rethink” philosophy is great for our communities but it hasn’t
necessarily been seen as pro-business.
In fact, many efforts to go green mean higher
operational costs due to staff training, extra labor for recycling efforts,
the purchase of additional equipment and products and so on.
This financial burden is the main reason why businesses
have been reluctant to jump on the green bandwagon. Simply put, business
leaders have not been convinced that going green was good for business.
A MOVE TOWARD GREEN
That premise is changing as conservation trends become more popular. With
wider adoption, green products and services become more affordable due to
increased demand and economies of scale. Increasingly, evidence suggests
that conservation efforts can pay dividends to businesses that embrace green
practices operationally and exploit this through their marketing efforts.
According to the Meeting Professionals International FutureWatch 2009
green meetings is one of the top ten trends affecting business in 2009.
Further, the survey states that, “1 in 10 FutureWatch 2009 respondents
predicted a continuing trend toward greener, more environmentally friendly
meetings...”and that “61% of respondents reported that corporate social
responsibility (CSR) was important to their organizations…”
Show managers that include green considerations in
their site selection planning even have a resource in the federal
government. The Environmental Protection Agency website (www.epa.gov)
offers information on such things as how to green their shows and also how
to include conservation guidelines in their RFP’s and contracts with
facilities. As the green movement further expands into our industry this
client mindset and marketing effect will likely have a much larger impact on
venue selection and impact competition between venues. Clearly, green
initiatives taken on our part as venue managers are appealing to our
clients and are affecting their future business decisions.
Need more evidence that going green is good for your P&L statement? How
about this: You can now make money or earn credits from your waste
management vendor for the return of bulk paper/cardboard and co-mingled
plastic/ glass/can materials. In addition, selling opportunities have
emerged “Green initiatives taken on our part as venue managersin every
market for such items as recycled deep-fryer grease, reusable wood pallets
are appealing to our clients and are affecting their future and even quality
scrap materials leftover business decisions.” from some of your events.
Other cost savings by going green are achieved through
better facility management. According to the United States Green Building
Council, (www.usgbc.org) incorporating substantial green practices into new
construction or renovation projects can achieve consumption
decreases of up to 30% to 50% in energy, 40% in water, 70% in solid waste
and reduce facility carbon emissions by as much as 35%. Think of what that
will do to your bottom line!
So, as you can see, along with important marketing
effects there are now real monetary benefits to adopting green measures in
your facility. If you haven’t yet caught the go-green bug I urge you start
the process now so your facility is not left behind in a competitive
To help get you started here’s how we at the Wisconsin
Exposition Center took the plunge. Maybe our roadmap to conservation can
help you get started.
CHECK YOUR COMMUNITY
In 2007 the State of Wisconsin Department of Tourism developed the Travel
Green Wisconsin certification program and since then over 200
hospitality/tourism businesses have been certified in our state. If your
state, county or city does not offer a similar initiative or certification
program look to other non-profit, private or industry-specific organizations
NUTS AND BOLTS
Before the Wisconsin Exposition Center gained green certification we
conducted a comprehensive facility survey. This review of our operational
procedures helped us identify where we stood in relation to our ultimate
goals. Surprisingly, we discovered that even without a formal conservation
plan in place we were already doing an acceptable job of resource
For example, as part of our established best practices
we proactively program our lighting and HVAC controls to minimize waste and
maximize utility price breakpoints; we had an undefined recycling program in
place for cardboard, co-mingled materials, used batteries, etc; we tried to
properly dispose of such things as wood pallets, food grease and burned-out
light bulbs and we did make donations of appropriate materials to local food
pantries and charities.
Since obtaining green certification in 2007 we have
formalized all of the above conservation efforts and developed more into our
policies and procedures, and through continuous staff training we have
experienced phenomenal success. For example, our solid waste tonnage to
landfill has dropped by almost 30% and our overall recycling has increased
by over 80%. These two actions themselves netted over $5,000.00 in cost
savings to our clients in 2008.
START SMALL AND GROW
If your facility is just getting started on the road to sustainability then
the best way to start is slow with small, easily achieved steps. There are
so many variables to achieving green status that it can be intimidating at
first and if the attempt is not bitten off in small chunks it could lead to
resistance, frustration and maybe failure. Here are some obvious small,
As incandescent bulbs burn out replace them with
Place recycling containers in high traffic areas
especially near concession stands
Encourage staff to re-use paper by printing double-
sided n Place mats at main entry doors to capture
Hang sidesaddle recycling baskets on office waste
Use drip irrigation hoses in landscaping areas
Once you master these small steps -and there are plenty
others that you’ll discover along the way -you’ll be ready to tackle more
involved procedures. Before you know it your facility will be well on its
way to being green and -as a result -getting green from more business. Good
Brian Wettlaufer is
vice president of operations at Wisconsin Exposition Center at State Fair
Park in West Allis, Wisconsin.