• Eco-Friendly Venues are Stepping up to the Challenge of Keeping Meetings Green

    FROM THE Summer 2017 ISSUE
  • Eco-Friendly Venues are Stepping up to the Challenge of Keeping Meetings Green

    FROM THE Summer 2017 ISSUE
  • Eco-Friendly Venues are Stepping up to the Challenge of Keeping Meetings Green

    FROM THE Summer 2017 ISSUE
  • Eco-Friendly Venues are Stepping up to the Challenge of Keeping Meetings Green

    FROM THE Summer 2017 ISSUE

When national and global policies on environmental sustainability are up in the air, these six venues are helping meeting planners protect the planet. The properties range from a hotel that serves only local food to one that recycles nearly 1,000 tons a year.

All in on Recycling

Rafael Villanueva joined the staff of the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina 37 years ago, when things weren’t so green. At the time, the hotel’s four kitchens spread across two towers with 1,053 guest rooms considered food waste nothing more than garbage destined for the trash heap. But that changed in 2011 when the San Diego Environmental Department paid the property a visit to encourage participation in a recycling program. Villanueva— the hotel’s executive steward—was skeptical. Now he’s a passionate recycling advocate. 

“Any institute that produces food and beverage should have their own recycling program,” he says. “We are doing something great over here, and I have pride in our process.”

The change involved transitioning from traditional trash to food compost and singlestream recycling. Three buckets are set up at each of the 25 food prep stations across the hotel—one for recycling, one for compost and one for trash. After six years of this program, the only items the kitchens now considered trash are the gloves that cooks use for prep. 

In addition to recycling, the Sheraton, which has 120,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, partners with San Diego Rescue Mission to donate all leftover banquet and restaurant food—about 3,000 pounds per month, on average. 

“We focus on customer service, no question,” says Villanueva. “But we also dedicate a great percentage and time for our community.” 

Building a Green Team

The Bently Reserve is one of the greenest venues in San Francisco, and is both LEED and Energy Star certified. It boasts a daily harvesting system, uses only nontoxic janitorial supplies and has gone nearly paperless in its office operations. What’s more, the Bently Reserve asks that their partners and vendors become green business certified, if they aren’t already. 

“Working for a company with a core value of being green, you start to see and feel the impact you’re having,” says Jim Bruels, Bently’s director of events. “It’s not grand gestures of sustainability; rather, it’s doing the small things.” For all meetings, the venue serves water in pitchers instead of bottles, and provides compostable plates, cups and utensils. Its Healthy Meeting program includes standing desks, yoga balls and fresh-pressed juice. 

The main event space of the 1924 beaux-arts style building is the Banking Hall, with 8,045 square feet and a capacity of 650 for receptions. An additional 10 meeting rooms total 7,300 square feet.

A Leader in Reduction

Touting yourself as one of the greenest buildings in the United States is a bold statement, but the Santa Clara Convention Center has the facts to back up that claim. The 302,000-square-foot building is recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency at its Green Power Partnership Level, and it was a winner of CalRecycle’s Waste Reduction Award Program from 2003-11 (2011 was the final year the award was offered). The center’s food vendor, Aramark, provides green options for events and donates leftover food to the Second Harvest Food Bank. Other green initiatives include the purchase of clean energy to avoid the release of 933 tons of carbon dioxide. With a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall, three ballrooms, a theater and 12 meeting rooms, the center can host up to 7,000 people.

“The Santa Clara Convention Center has long been focused on being green,” says David Andre, vice president, marketing and communications, of Santa Clara Convention & Visitors Bureau. “In fact, our first Waste Reduction Awards Program was won in 2003, so we’ve been committed to conserving energy and recycling for a long time.”

Green and Clean

As one of only seven Green Seal Gold Certified hotels in the U.S., and part of the Los Angeles Green Lodging Program, the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City takes its green commitment seriously. 

Most notable is its Xeros laundry system that has resulted in a 90 percent reduction of its hot water consumption, and an 83-percent reduction of water consumption overall. The laundry machines also save the hotel $6,600 per month. 

The hotel, which has 35,000 square feet of meeting space, purchases green paper products for take-out in its restaurants, and features several organic, non-GMO items at their coffee kiosk. By the end of 2017 it will offer 100 percent cage-free eggs products. Other initiatives include nearly 100 percent LED lighting, almost 100 percent drip irrigation, green-certified paper items and guest elevators that generate electricity. 

The 495-room hotel is committed to environmentally friendly initiatives because “it’s the right thing to do for our world, our community and our team,” says Rob Hegel, director of purchasing.

An Eco-Friendly Example

Come to the InterContinental San Francisco for its Michelin-starred restaurant Luce, and stay for its (mostly) locally grown food delivered from within a 250-mile radius and sustainably farmed fish caught without the use of nets. 

Luce has been a member of the Green Restaurant Association—an organization that helps restaurants become more environmentally responsible—since 2012. It has a private room that can accommodate eight to 16 guests with a customized menu.

The 550-room hotel has two ballrooms, a spa terrace and 21 meeting rooms. With 43,000 square feet of meeting and event space, the hotel can host anywhere from 20 to 1,000 guests. Groups are encouraged to utilize electronic presentations in an effort to cut down on paper use, and the hotel champions reusable service ware, nonbottled water service, food waste composting and recycling. Harry Hobbs, area director of engineering, hopes that attendees and guests will take away some green lessons. 

“I think it’s important to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability to help with real-life exposure for those who may not have had the opportunity to see that luxury and sustainability can be complementary,” he says.

Never Too Late

When a property is old, well established and renowned, the incentive to change things up for the sake of going green might be low. Why mess with a good thing?

Not so for the 79-year-old Palm Springs Art Museum, which received a grant from the State of California’s California Cultural and Historical Endowment last July to help improve its environmental footprint, including updates to the museum’s HVAC systems. 

“The goals of the project are to stabilize the temperature and humidity in our galleries for the protection of our art and reduce our environmental footprint and electrical costs,” says Arlene Amick, director of audience engagement and communications. 

The museum has preferred partnerships with catering companies that are committed to sustainability practices, including recycling and limiting water usage. It boasts 28 galleries, a 433-seat theater, the Hibbert Orientation Center and Houston Atrium, which can hold up to 550 guests, two classrooms, an 88-seat lecture hall, and a café that provides lunches, snacks, and theater wines and beverages. Events also can be held in either of the two sculpture gardens. 

Located in San Jose, California, Santana Row is the place to meet, play and connect in Silicon Valley. The pedestrian-friendly destination is only 10 minutes to the San Jose Convention Center and San Jose International Airport. The neighborhood is filled with condominiums, shops, restaurants, spas, and a movie theater. And at the core of it all is Hotel Valencia Santana Row—the only hotel in this unique entertainment district and the top hotel in San Jose according to Conde Nast Traveler.   


If you want to boost attendance at a meeting or conference, try these four letters: N.A.P.A. And while the Northern California wine region has more than enough activities to keep attendees busy when they’re not in meetings—475 wineries, to begin with—the downtown heart of the region is introducing new experiences this fall. Here’s a sampling:


San Francisco is seeing marked increases in visitor volume, visitor spending, group business, and hotel occupancy this year compared to 2021. However, visitor volume will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, and global visitation will not reach 2019 levels until 2025. Those projections were shared by the San Francisco Travel Association at its Annual Visitor and Lodging Forecast Forum held on Aug. 24 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.