5 Green Pointers for Eco-Friendly Meeting Planners

Convention CentersGreen MeetingsMeeting Planning

The National Conference Center in Leesburg, Virginia, is doing its part to reduce the Beltway’s carbon footprint. The center, which offers 250 meeting rooms comprising 265,000 sq. ft. of event space, is celebrating Earth Day 2017 by encouraging meeting planners to go green.

Located about 40 miles from Washington, D.C., the conference center has 917 guest rooms and is devoted to sustainability best practices. Situated 12 miles from Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), the center is recognized as a certified Loudoun County Green Business Challenge winner.

To commemorate Earth Day, the center has identified five green trends for meeting planners to consider when booking a venue for their next Beltway event.

1. Grass Is Always Greener: Outdoor spaces for walking, hiking and relaxing—even meditating—offer a natural way for attendees to unwind and go green. Set on 65 countryside acres, the center’s grounds are covered with drought-resistant plants, trees, shrubs and native plants to minimize water use. The property is irrigated only when necessary. Mulched plant beds are used to retain water. An integrated pest management program has been implemented to research the use of organic insecticides and fertilizers.

2. Food for Healthy Thoughts: Studies show that eating high-protein foods and less sugar maximizes body energy, brainpower and cognitive focus. Meeting planners are encouraged to select a venue that serves healthy foods and encourages breaks. The center offers meeting planners healthful menu options, with more than 60 food products purchased from Local Food Hub, which represents more than 30 farms in Virginia and Maryland. Menus are created based on what is available during the season, such as blueberry morning Power Shakes and Eggs Benedict with yogurt Hollandaise sauce.

3. Energy Saving Matters: Energy conscious meeting venues install modern automated equipment to efficiently manage central utility plants. The center uses motion-sensors in guest rooms to minimize heating and cooling usage. All of the center’s lights recently were replaced with energy-efficient lamps and bulbs. Every time the venue replaces equipment—whether its computers and copiers at the front desk and lobby, TV monitors in guest rooms or refrigerators, ovens and dishwashers in kitchen facilities—the center installs Energy Star-rated equipment.

4. Smart Digital Logistics: From implementing paperless check-in to using digital brochures to discouraging plastic water bottles, the center practices what it preaches by minimizing the use of products that harm the environment. Planners should ask prospective meeting-site managers how water is provided. Venues should use environmentally friendly paper products that are biodegradable and recyclable. The center maintains a waste management contract for single-stream recycling of glass, plastic, aluminum, metal, wood, cardboard and paper. Soon, the center hopes to eliminate the printed map of the complex by developing an app to help guests find their way around.

5. Get Evolved in Green: Wherever meeting planners are booking their next events, they’re encouraged to work with local charities and participate in earth-friendly activities, or donate proceeds to programs that promote sustainability. The center helps local meeting planners organize a cleanup program near the Potomac River, or the creek flowing through the center’s Northern Virginia property. The staff works closely with neighboring high school students, who participate in culinary teams to learn about farm-to-table cooking.