Events are learning zones for zero waste

Published on: 
12 Nov 2018
Stephanie Barger

From USGBC's Greenbuild International Conference and Expo to Microsoft’s One Week, major conferences and events provide defining moments for companies, governments and industries to showcase leadership and progress. Events like these and others are designed to serve as a platform to collaborate, share ideas and tackle today’s most pressing issues—which is why these spaces have also emerged as a perfect opportunity for companies to test out a zero waste strategy.

Events provide a specific moment in time where sustainability and facility teams can come together to explore zero waste and begin to understand how they can take what they’ve learned and apply it to facilities and larger operations.

Here are two leading events that used TRUE to engage thousands in a zero waste pilot:

Greenbuild International Conference and Expo

Greenbuild is the world’s largest green building conference and expo and is committed to putting sustainability at the forefront of the event experience. Since its first show in 2002, Greenbuild has refined its approach to waste, finding new methods to get the event—which attracts an estimated 20,000 a year—closer to zero waste.

This year’s event in Chicago from Nov. 14–16 will take what has been learned in the past to create an innovative sustainability experience for attendees. The event team is hoping to once again achieve TRUE certification for the event. Read more about sustainability and zero waste at Greenbuild.

This isn’t the first year Greenbuild has made TRUE certification a goal for the event. In 2017, Greenbuild achieved TRUE Platinum certification, becoming the first TRUE-certified event in the world. According to the 2017 Greenbuild Sustainability Report, efforts included:

  • Waste management: Informa Exhibitions and USGBC worked with the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center; Freeman, the general services contractor; and local vendors to optimize waste management, resulting in a 90.5 percent diversion rate. This is the highest in the event’s history and a 44 percent increase over the convention center’s baseline diversion rate.
  • Stakeholder engagement: Attendees of both Greenbuild and the co-located ArchitectureBoston Expo were asked to take sustainability pledges. Attendees could commit to taking specific actions, from bringing a reusable water bottle to selecting local or organic food while on site in Boston. At the event, these pledges were shown through an interactive Sustainability Hub, culminating in 14,500 pledges and helping to educate others about how people were contributing.
  • Sustainable sourcing: Carpet on the expo hall floor was cut in such a way that Freeman could later reuse it. Additionally, exhibitors from Greenbuild and ABX donated more than 25,000 pounds of materials to local nonprofits, including cement blocks, flooring, carpet, floor tiles and wood, ensuring that they would have a second life.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions: One of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide is landfill and food waste. Working with vendors, the team was able to donate more than 1,500 pounds of food and beverages to the Boston Rescue Mission, a local nonprofit.

Microsoft’s One Week Global Event

In 2016, Microsoft became the first TRUE-certified technology company in the U.S. The global headquarters in Redmond, Washington, is home to 44,000 employees who work in 125 buildings. The company’s Real Estate and Facilities (RE&F) team was eager to find new ways to drive Microsoft’s zero waste progress, which made the tech giant’s largest on-campus event, One Week, the perfect opportunity.

Seeing how comprehensive TRUE was for its campus, the RE&F team used the TRUE Rating System as a framework for the event. Through those efforts, One Week recorded a 96 percent diversion rate and avoided sending more than 104 tons of waste to the landfill. Here are the highlights:

  • Partnership: RE&F partners closely with the Microsoft Events team and Compass, its dining-services vendor, to identify opportunities for reducing waste.
  • Waste reduction: The company decided to transition to durables for most of its food service equipment, such as reusable, battery-operated warmers for chafing dishes instead of disposable cans of Sterno fuel.
  • Foodie fun: Food delivery trucks use reusable racks instead of cardboard boxes, and all single-serve food and beverage containers were certified compostable by the local composter Cedar Grove.
  • Employee engagement: Microsoft deployed specially trained Zero Waste Ambassadors throughout the event to help attendees sort their trash and educate them on recycling best practices that they can apply everywhere.
  • Purchasing decisions: By setting guidelines for purchasing, Microsoft was able minimize packaging, emphasize reuse and reduce waste. Attendees were invited to pick the event swag they wanted instead of being provided bags of items that they might not use.

This unique event pilot provides a test-and-learn opportunity for those interested in facility certification. The TRUE Rating System enables facilities to define, pursue and achieve their zero waste goals. For questions about the TRUE event pilot certification, please contact us.

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