Energy Center requires offsite venues to meet environmental standards

Beginning in January 2009, only green venues will be used for offsite events coordinated by the Energy Center of Wisconsin.

The Energy Center hosts more than 75 educational seminars and meetings each year, contracting with 25 different hotels, conference centers and other facilities. They also coordinate an annual three-day conference with 55 individual workshops. These events were attended by nearly 3,000 participants in 2008. Attendance could increase significantly in 2009 with the growing need for skills and knowledge in energy efficiency and sustainability.

"Our educational programs help professionals in the Midwest prepare for a more sustainable economy," said Marge Anderson, associate director. "We want our events to demonstrate emerging green meeting and event management practices."

For the past two years, the Energy Center has been connecting venues in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota with technical support, incentives and ideas to reduce their environmental footprint.

"We help venues go green and they're better prepared for meeting planners who ask for greener meetings. Everybody wins," Anderson said.

The Energy Center created an environmental checklist, based on the MeetGreen® guidelines developed by Meeting Strategies Worldwide. Potential meeting sites must complete the checklist and score a minimum of 25 points in order to contract with the Energy Center.
"It's time for us to put our money where our mouth is," said Sherry Benzmiller, meetings coordinator. "It's important to the Energy Center to demonstrate a solid commitment to environmental standards."

The new checklist targets energy efficiency, air quality, water conservation and waste management. If facilities are already LEED Certified, Green Seal Certified and/or belong to Travel Green Wisconsin, they automatically qualify to contract with the Energy Center.

The Energy Center's tool also emphasizes reducing greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency and renewable energy. Properties that purchase green power, use on-site renewable energy or have made energy efficiency improvements earn significant points. Energy efficiency standards include installing CFLs in all fixtures, shutting off HVAC and lights in unoccupied rooms and using occupancy sensors to operate lights and appliances in guest rooms.

In addition to requiring green facilities, the Energy Center is trying to identify venues that use local food sources.

"We are implementing many simple strategies onsite," Benzmiller explained. "We use recyclable name-tag holders and lanyards made from recycled soda bottles. We work with each facility to provide in-room recycling for glass, aluminum and paper and we use linen and china rather than disposable products. We also request that our facilities donate left over food to a local charity, rather than tossing them into the garbage."

Contact: Sherry Benzmiller at 608.238.8276 x 121 or sbenzmiller@ecw.org.