Our observations on the impact we made as humans became very clear when we were not traveling and consuming as much as we used to during the pandemic. Having witnessed the decrease in pollution resulting from lack of traffic during COVID-19, we have returned to events and conferences much more aware of our footprint. After a long shutdown of events, 2022 saw the doors fully swing open, and we eagerly started to gather again en masse. Virtual events became fully hybrid as we found ourselves rubbing elbows and networking like it was 2019. How can we make our expos, events and conferences less burdensome on the planet—not only when traveling to them, but when we are there? Furthermore, how do we remember to stay on track for paving the way to a more sustainable future in a time of great turmoil, as post-pandemic challenges, economic downturn and a war in Europe affect daily lives and businesses? Where humans gather, they create trash. It’s a given that events produce a ton of waste—from cutlery, plates and cups needed for catering to event passes, wrappers and a myriad of giveaways, often plastic to some degree, tossed into the trash soon after receiving them. With all the talk about moving onto sustainable materials and finding daily ways to reduce emissions, you might think that in the next few years we would be seeing a clear downward trend in the production of oil-based products—like plastics. Still, oil-based plastic production is estimated to grow by four times during the next three decades. In 2014, we produced 311 million tons of plastic each year. Predictions now say that by 2050, we will be producing 1,124 million tons of plastic per year. That’s hardly a step in the right direction. Furthermore, the pandemic actually significantly increased single-use plastic consumption and waste. A study published by PNAS discovered that due to the pandemic, more than eight million tons of plastic waste have been generated globally, and more than 25,000 tons entered oceans globally. According to the study, the sharp increase in demand for personal protective equipment for hospitals and personal use caused many single-use plastic legislations to be postponed or even withdrawn due to the more acutely pressing threat of contagion. Increased dependency on online shopping, often relying on plastic packaging, also played a hand in causing mountains of pandemic plastic waste. Recently there has been a strong movement away from disposable “conference swag,” and event organizers are quickly becoming diligent in both reducing and sorting waste. However, much remains to be done. For example, as much as we’d like to believe simply increasing use of recyclable materials would solve the waste issue, the effective recycling rate is somewhere between 10% and 15%. And even with an optimistic scenario for 2050 of 70% plastic recycling rate, the effective recycling stops just shy of 40%. In the EU, for example, the recycling rate of plastics packaging is just 41%. What’s important to understand, however, is that this number only tells us about the classification of waste, not how much useful material actually comes out at the other end. To top it all off, producing, using and recycling plastic materials ends up releasing microplastics into the environment. As recently as this past summer, scientists have found microplastics in freshly fallen Antarctic snow. All plastic items shed small particles during their lifetime—in production, in use and when disposed of. While too little research on the long-term effects of microplastics exists, the time to stop the spread of microplastics was yesterday. So what do we do? Something always falls through the cracks, no matter how clearly recycling bins are labeled. And as we’ve established, recycling is inefficient and ineffective. One major step would be if event organizers looked into bio-based and biodegradable options. When forks, spoons, straws, plates and disposable containers are responsibly manufactured and truly sustainable, they don’t leave permanent microplastics behind and have no environmentally toxic impacts, even if they fall outside the recycling infrastructure. It’s another opportunity for us to teach ourselves and each other new, kinder habits. Don’t miss any event-related news: Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter HERE, listen to our latest podcast HERE and engage with us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn!
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Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!” These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas. Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities. Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC. What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space. What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here. Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen. This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.
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