Carbon-neutral meetings

I had an interesting conversation today with a hotel manager who says it seems that everyone calling for information about meeting spaces now wants to know what the hotel offers in the way of ‘green meeting rooms’.   With the increased interest in corporate social responsibility and corporate social accountability reports, he said that’s increasingly what their big-dollar corporate customers want.  As a result, his hotel is exploring what they can do or what they can purchase that other hotels don’t offer so they can position themselves as greener, market themselves that way — and get more meeting and ballroom bookings.

The business case to shift hotels to greener practices is pretty strong.  This interesting PowerPoint by Cascadia Consulting Group advises hotel managers to find what it calls the ‘green sweet spot’, but also warns that the hazards of greenwashing aren’t to be ignored.

What meeting planners are beginning to tell this hotel manager is that they want ‘carbon-neutral meetings’.   There’s only so much they as a hotel could do for that he points out, because if the companies have people flying in to a city for the meeting, any airline offsets they have to take care of and ensure on their own.   I asked if his hotel does (or is considering doing) any carbon offsetting.  Though they haven’t, he said the demand for carbon-neutral meetings means that perhaps this is an area that they should begin to explore.

In Connecticut, one smart green meetings company has partnered with a carbon offsetter, and offers carbon offsetting for meetings prominently on their website.  And not just meetings — a hotel at Heathrow is billing itself as ‘the first hotel company worldwide to offer all guests carbon offsetting possibilities’.   InterContinental Hong Kong aims to be ‘one of the leading venues of carbon neutral meetings and events’.  A Sydney company tries to address the ‘Green?! You guys all got on a plane and flew here!’ question by including info & a calculator to offset flights:

‘Be assured all Mercure Meetings are carbon neutral. /  You now have the option to pay to offset the carbon produced from your flights to and from the meeting. Here is the link to our Carbon Offset Calculator where you can offset your flights.’

Hotel managers are asking, ‘how can we claim this green niche over our competitors, claim with accuracy that our meeting rooms are carbon-neutral, market that heavily, and tap into corporations currently very hungry to show corporate environmental responsibility?’

In Vancouver, the Hyatt hotel has recently launched what’s essentially an investment to get that business.

Yesterday, Bullfrog Power put out a press release saying that the Hyatt Regency Vancouver ‘now supports renewable electricity with Bullfrog Power’:

All of Hyatt Regency Vancouver’s meeting rooms are now ‘bullfrogpowered™’ with wind power from the Bear Mountain wind farm just outside of Dawson Creek (‘the first renewable energy project in B.C. to deliver EcoLogoM-certified wind power to the regional grid). Hyatt Regency Vancouver joins its sister property, Hyatt Regency Calgary, which began bullfrogpowering its meeting space, gym and pool area in September 2008.

The grid below (from the Bullfrog website) shows the shift – the marketing and PR rep’s for the Hyatt can say ‘book our meeting rooms – we have shifted our power source for all electricity, heat, etc. from the left column in the grid over to the right column’.   It’s interesting, as a side-note, that they don’t break down the sources of ‘Other hydro’ (listed in the left column) – I would have thought that doing so would make Bullfrog (right column) stand out even more as the good-guy alternative.

At the Hyatt, there’s no windmill on the roof.  How it works is that Bullfrog Power injects their (clean, emissions-free EcoLogoM-certified) electricity onto the B.C. electricity grid to match the amount of power used in all of Hyatt’s meeting spaces.  The Hyatt pays their normal costs to BC Hydro, and pays another chunk to Bullfrog Power.

Today, a Google search only comes up with 1,900 results for “carbon neutral meetings”.   I’m guessing we’ll see that skyrocket.

Photo by Lincolnian

2 comments

  1. Another way to lower carbon emissions for meetings, especially regional ones, is to offer ridesharing. This also lowers offsetting and travel costs and has social and business benefits as well, since attendees get to turn travel time into face time.
    Viamerge.com offers ridesharing specifically for events.

    R. Kudlac

  2. Lisa, this is a really interesting post, but partly because it combines two of the available carbon solutions under a single heading.

    Usually, when we hear about carbon offsetting for conferences, it has to do with paying a fee to balance out the carbon consumed to get a participant to and from the conference site. The fee is invested in renewable energy/energy efficiency projects that reduce the use of fossil fuels, or (more controversially) plant trees to absorb carbon dioxide. Offsets work on the principle that climate change is a global problem, so it doesn’t much matter where the carbon is taken out of the system–as long as the offset is invested in a project that wouldn’t have been possible without the additional funding, and is verified by a third-party audit.

    Bullfrog Power is a giant step better, because it’s more direct. When a facility like the Vancouver Hyatt buys from a supplier like Bullfrog, it actually reduces the fossil energy produced, and the carbon emitted, to meet its electricity needs. Rather than generating the carbon, then relying on a workable but complicated system to make it right, Bullfrog eliminates the problem at its source.

    I don’t intend this post as a promo, but the Green Meeting Industry Council (www.greenmeetings.info) has become a centring point for a lot of the discussion around sustainable conferences. Vancouver hosted their annual meeting two years ago; the next one takes place in Denver February 9-11. But I’m glad you’re posting on this topic because, more and more, the discussions that cross over between conferences and the blogosphere are the ones that have the greatest impact.

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