How a Green Team Can Help You Plan More Sustainable Events

February 17, 2020

Sustainable practices are fast becoming a must for events. According to the Eventbrite 2020 Event Trends report, 59 percent of North American event professionals are taking steps to improve the environmental impact of their events — up from a mere 6 percent in 2019. 

Additionally, an overwhelming majority — or 93 percent — of hosted buyers and visitors who attended IMEX 2018 said they are interested in planning events in a more sustainable matter, according to post-event survey results.

One of the ways corporations, associations, event venues and suppliers are codifying those intentions is by forming something called green teams.

A green team is a cross-functional group that identifies ways to help its organization(s) operate in a more environmentally sustainable fashion, provides education to those involved and helps oversee implementation. 

We spoke with representatives from Detroit’s TCF Center, Portland’s Oregon Convention Center and San Francisco’s Key Events to learn about their respective green teams’ compositions, charters and programs. 

TCF Center Green Committee: Stewards of the Local Environment

Claude Molinari, general manager of Detroit’s LEED Gold-certified TCF Center, says that event-related venues create an enormous amount of waste — much of which can be reduced, reused or recycled if the right procedures are in place. “As economic engines of the communities, convention centers have a duty to be good stewards of the local environment because it benefits the entire region,” he explains.

This belief in leading the way led to the formation of the TCF Center Green Committee back in 2011. The committee comprises members of every department and vendor company housed in the center, and has led efforts such as significant upgrades to the facility’s energy-saving HVAC equipment, water-saving fixtures, a green (living) roof and overall energy reduction enhancements — all of which contributed to the venue achieving its LEED Gold status.

Molinari says committee responsibilities vary based on subject matter expertise and interests. For example, the center’s food and beverage/catering provider is responsible for food efficiency; the operations team, for waste diversion; and marketing, for developing green event messaging and materials. 

A public commitment to sustainability can be a powerful draw for business. Sustainable Brands selected the TCF Center for its annual conference in 2017 and returned to the venue for its 2019 event.

"TCF Center's commitment to sustainability and reducing its environmental impact was an important factor in why we wanted to bring our global event to Detroit," said David Fiss, Sustainable Brands’ director of business development, partnerships and event strategy. 

Planners and exhibitors can access TCF Center’s green initiatives educational materials here

Oregon Convention Center Green Team: A Review Board for Sustainability Initiatives

The Oregon Convention Center was awarded LEED Platinum certification in 2014 and is the only U.S. convention center to have earned a level 4 APEX/ASTM certification (the first standards created specifically for green meetings and events). OCC Sustainability Manager Ryan Harvey holds LEED Green Associate certification.

The OCC’s Green Team is made up of employees from different workgroups within the venue that serve as a review board for its sustainability department. They meet for an hour each month to discuss and pursue sustainability-related issues, in addition to launching and maintaining sustainability campaigns.

The team is also responsible for organizing employee events. These have included a household hazardous waste reuse fair, a donation drive for the Portland Rescue Mission, and a cleanout of office and storage spaces for reuse and donation purposes. Harvey says the OCC has also recently launched a cork recycling program and opened a materials recycling station where employees can recycle items such as batteries, cell phones and single-use plastic bags.

As with any type of volunteer group, Harvey says it’s important for all participants to understand and agree on their responsibilities and the time commitment involved. This will help avoid confusion and/or drop-off in participation. He also believes it is easier for participants to share their thoughts freely in a peer-to-peer environment, so opted to have a sponsor in senior management instead of having an executive attend the meetings.

Key Events: Sustainable Environmental and Business Practices

Corporate event planning and destination management agency Key Events relies on its sustainability team to help drive initiatives both internally and for clients. The team consists of members from sales, creative services and production to provide clients access to what Megan Warzeniak, Key Events’ director of business development, calls “impact options” at every stage of the journey.

“For us, sustainability is about incorporating socially and environmentally responsible decision-making into every phase of the event process,” she says. “This includes everything from leveraging LEED-certified sustainable venues when possible to sourcing four- and five-star accommodations that have adopted formal anti-human trafficking policies.”

In addition to green initiatives, the team also focuses on communications and community, including diversity and inclusion. Warzeniak says the team structure also facilitates sustainable business practices by giving junior staff more growth opportunities with the goal of greater talent retention. Key Events’ interns and junior staff are given the opportunity to project manage segments of internal initiatives with supervision from more senior staff. This provides them with the experience they need to manage projects for clients along with the knowledge of best practices for sustainable events. 

Stay tuned for our companion article, “10 Tips for Creating a Successful Green Events Team.” 


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Partner Voices
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.