05 Feb Sustainable Event Planning & How It’s Taking Salt Lake City By Storm
It doesn’t take a genius to know that the events and meetings industry is one of the top contributors to waste on the planet. With thousands of attendees traveling to and attending conferences around the globe, it’s difficult for those in the industry to find reliable and proven ways to incorporate sustainable event planning into their standard process. With the rise of innovative event technology and attention to our carbon footprint, teams like ours are making a new commitment to throwing the eco-friendly party our planet deserves. Thankfully, our team is based in Salt Lake City, a destination that’s currently working towards gearing the passion our visitors have for the outdoors into a renewed sense of responsibility for how we’re treating our natural resources in the events industry.
When it comes to sustainable event planning, Salt Lake City isn’t always the first location that comes to mind. With the loss of Outdoor Retailers, for many exhibitors, we’ve crept even lower on the scale of places that have a big commitment to their natural resources. What most people don’t know is that sustainable events and sustainable event planning are actually making quite the impact on our local community! If anything, with the loss of one of our largest outdoor conventions, we’ve come back even stronger with sustainable events as an industry to combat the loss. Groups like GREENbike and SLCgreen are already working to make all aspects of resident’s and visitor’s experience in Salt Lake City work towards a better environment. We had the chance to talk with some of the largest advocates for eco-friendly events in Salt Lake City about their motivations and aspirations for 2018 and wanted to let the world know that Salt Lake City is ready to be a mean, green, eco-friendly machine when it comes to hosting amazing events downtown and throughout the county.
What draws the crowds to Salt Lake City is our reputation as one of the world’s go-to destinations for fresh mountain air and outdoor activities. The outdoors industry has always been a major part of what makes up who we are as a city. For those who come here to enjoy the beautiful landscapes, canyons, and mesas, the environment is often an important part of their value system. What Salt Lake City was missing was that same level of passion and activism when it came to the many large shows and events we were hosting in our metropolitan areas. As the new year starts up, we’ve seen the city, venues, vendors, and Utah event planners involved in one of the most environmentally detrimental industries start to take note from the millions of visitors to our natural monuments and begin to reinvent how the tourism and meetings industry in our city works.
What are our goals? If you talk to any one of the, now APEX certified, five major vendors and venues in the downtown area, they’ll tell you it’s all about marketing Utah as the place to be for sustainable events. We want meetings and events to want to come to Utah solely because of our dedication to sustainable events. We want to establish ourselves as a top destination for those who are passionate about the environment and making a change with live experiences.
How are we making this happen? Local businesses making the commitment to change for the better. Especially in the downtown area, we’re already seeing startups and companies take this to heart by focusing on local, sustainable products and incorporating green event technology to give their product launches, trade shows, and meetings the opportunity to have a positive impact on the environment.
Who are the frontrunners? We can’t go any further without mentioning the SMG-managed and Salt Lake County-owned Salt Palace Convention Center and its four hospitality partners: Mountain America Exposition Center, Visit Salt Lake, Utah Food Services and PSAV. Together, they obtained five concurrent APEX/ASTM certifications — an industry first! The APEX/ASTM global standards were created by the Events Industry Council to reduce the carbon footprint of the event industry. This effort by the Salt Palace has established Salt Lake as a leader in the hospitality arena.
Here’s Chance Thompson, Senior Manager of Sustainability and Public Relations, for more about what the Salt Palace is adding to the sustainable future of Salt Lake:
“It is more important than ever to address the environmental and economical concerns we are facing. We are fortunate to live in Salt Lake, a destination that recognizes the importance of reducing waste and energy footprints. As one of the larger businesses in the city, employees at the Salt Palace Convention Center feel a responsibility to help lead the way towards zero waste and carbon neutrality. For us, one of the most effective ways to build reduction strategies is to utilize the APEX/ASTM standards through the Events Industry Council. Our Green Team was able to obtain concurrently five separate certifications encompassing two venues (Salt Palace Convention Center and Mountain America Expo Center), one caterer (Utah Food Services), one CVB/destination (Visit Salt Lake), and one audio/visual company (PSAV). APEX/ASTM gives just about any event-driven business a framework to address things such as waste management, air quality, energy reduction, water conservation and eco-friendly purchasing. Not only that, but EIC helps build effective ways to communicate and sell the hard work that goes into being a sustainable operation. In 2017, our five organizations donated over 200,000 pounds of material to Salt Lake-area community organizations. Just in donation material alone, we’ve taken 350 metric tons of carbon out of the air this year. When you add in our reduction and recycling programs, it’s equivalent to removing the carbon emissions from thousands of vehicles. We’re making a significant contribution in Salt Lake and look forward to other organizations considering APEX certification and striving for more responsible event operation.”
The Salt Palace also strives to make lasting relationships with those in the community that can use event signage and other types of waste to help those in need. One of their main partners is Global Artisans, a group that teams up with venues and event planners to recycle event waste like vinyl. Here’s their president, Mark Normandin, for more about who they are!
“Global Artisans is a Utah Nonprofit that is working to empower refugee entrepreneurs to achieve self-sufficiency through training, education, and the production and sale of handmade goods. Starting operations earlier this year, our flagship product is a tote bag made of upcycled banner vinyl. Refugees from all over the world who have resettled in Salt Lake have the opportunity to make and sell these bags, and the organization is always looking for more ways to build upon the three pillars of sustainability: economic, social, and environmental. Our partnership with the event industry focus on that all-important third pillar: the (minimal) landfill-bound materials from their events are sent to Global Artisans to be repurposed.”
The best part about Salt Lake City is the commitment from everyone in the events industry, not just the larger venues and partners. Our team, for example, strives to make our lighting inventory 100% wireless, which eliminates the need for extra electricity at a venue. We also rent out event items like chairs, linens, and decor, which minimizes wasteful purchasing for all sizes of events. When we manage meetings and conventions, we make sure that our clients are aware of new event technology that can eliminate the need for extensive graphics and signage, printed conference materials, or paper-drive event registration. Each of these is revolutionizing a lot of the ways events have been wasteful in the past and we’ve made the commitment in 2018 to be even more conscious of our carbon footprint and we pursue the APEX standards and certification.
As part of our initiative to incorporate more sustainable event planning methods, we’re also reinventing our design team to prioritize eco-friendly floral options for events. Though it’s always beautiful to have a hand-crafted, fresh floral centerpiece on every table (which we still love to create when required) we’re now experts in finding new ways to create non-floral centerpieces to encourage reusable materials and discourage event greenery waste. When we do use fresh florals, we always try to find a second home for them after the event by donating to local rest homes or sending them home with attendees or our team. Eco-friendly centerpieces are definitely a fun challenge for event planners and have often led us to create a more interesting and innovative touch to a client’s events.
Another one of our local vendors working to make the most of the sustainable events trend are our friends at Culinary Crafts. They’re known as one of the top caterers in the country and have made it on the back of their commitment to sustainable events in Salt Lake City and throughout the state.
We’re so lucky to be able to be a part of the sustainable event planning movement that’s happening in Salt Lake City. As Utah event planners, we’re always looking for ways that we can support positive movements in our community and there is nothing more rewarding than to know that we’re becoming a large part of the change that Salt Lake is making in becoming one of the top locations for sustainable event planning and eco-friendly meetings and conventions. Though we’re coming back from a tough 2017 as far as nature conservancy efforts go, we can’t wait to come back stronger than ever to position our city as a leader in innovative event technology, reduction in meeting and events waste, and our overall commitment to sustainability in every live experience we host and produce.
Want to keep up with how Salt Lake City is moving forward with sustainable event planning? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and get informed each month on new efforts in the events industry to go green!