Convention Centers Going Green

March 13, 2014

Over the past few years, several U.S. venues have received or are pursuing LEED Certification as well as APEX/ASTM Certification in Standards for Environmentally Sustainable Meetings, Events, Trade Shows and Conferences. Some convention centers even have Sustainability Managers on staff to supervise their efforts and communicate with meeting planners and exhibitors. Here are some specific examples from two of the largest trade show venues in the country.

green with tradeshowsAt McCormick Place in Chicago, the West Building attained LEED Certification from the U.S. Green Build Council, and is the largest new-construction facility in the country to do so. McCormick has also been busy implementing a variety of green initiatives including switching to 100 percent wind-powered energy by purchasing Green-e Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to match annual electricity consumption. Another innovative new effort is the two-acre rooftop garden, which not only provides locally-grown herbs and vegetables for food service (which is about as local as you can get!), but also helps to conserve heating and cooling energy. Storm water is also transferred from the rooftop to Lake Michigan.

The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando was the first to receive the ISO 14001:2004 Certification for its Environmental Management System (EMS) for recycling efforts. In 2012, they diverted 2,816 tons of materials from landfills, including nearly 306 tons of cardboard and more than 7 tons of paper. In addition, they donated nearly 250,000 pounds of food and $175,000 in school supplies to local organizations. They also recycle all grease and used cooking oil for biodiesel production.

Now here are even more green ideas from convention centers across the U.S.:

Waste reduction

  • Onsite recycling programs with collection bins for paper, cardboard, plastic & glass
  • Food donations to area food banks or other charities
  • Building materials donated to Habitat for Humanity
  • Leftover educational supplies donated to schools or non-profits
  • Leftover flowers and plants taken to local nursing homes or assisted living facilities
  • Light bulbs, batteries & carpets are being recycled
  • Reusable linens, dishes and utensils are being used instead of paper products (or at least biodegradable items)
  • Juice & water served in pitchers vs. bottles
  • Seasonal, locally-grown food being used where possible
  • Air-blowing hand dryers instead of paper towels

Energy conservation

  • Energy-efficient lighting (including LED) & motion sensor controls installed in certain areas
  • Escalators on manual control when not needed
  • Energy STAR equipment being chosen to replace the old
  • Diesel equipment converted to biodiesel fuel
  • Rooftop solar panels & wind energy sources are being used

Water conservation

  • Low-flow faucets installed in restrooms, as well as automatic faucets & toilets
  • Native & drought-resistant plants used that require less water
  • Timed, drip irrigation systems which use reclaimed water
  • Irrigation systems with rain sensors to prevent unneeded use

Air quality

  • Environmentally-friendly, biodegradable cleaning products
  • Hybrid or solar-powered golf carts replacing old ones
  • Preventative maintenance & regular testing being performed on equipment

If you want to make your exhibit marketing programs more environmentally-conscious, join us in the Exhibit Marketers Café for our Strategy of the Month calls during March featuring tips for sustainability and virtual/hybrid events.

Guest Blogger: Marlys Arnold. With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. She travels the country consulting and training both exhibitors and show managers. She's the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, host of the Trade Show Insights blog-cast and creator of theExhibitorEd Success System, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and theExhibit Marketers Café. To request an “Extra Shot of Exhibit Success” go to

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