In 2016, when the Unitarian Universalist Association held its annual General Assembly at the Greater Columbus Convention Center (GCCC), the organization asked the venue to implement its first-ever composting system and purchase carbon offsets, helping the property comply with carbon caps. GCCC hasn’t looked back since.
It’s followed in the steps of Columbus, a city prioritizing green practices ever since launching the Get Green Columbus initiative in 2005. So when the GCCC began its recent $140-million renovation and expansion, it made sure to incorporate a variety of green practices, earning it LEED Silver certification.
“When choosing where their events will be held, it is increasingly important for planners to see the variety of sustainability practices already in place at our venue and the willingness of our team to collaborate with our clients to make their green goals attainable,” Ryan Thorpe, GCCC’s assistant general manager, told Trade Show News Network. “For example, our South Café & Marketplace merchants making the transition to compostable service ware demonstrates our venue’s commitment to responsible environmental stewardship, while inviting our guest population to participate right along with us.”
The GCCC’s green initiatives include a single-stream recycling program, in which all discarded materials are condensed into the same container, making it easier for event planners and attendees and ensuring less waste ends up in the landfill. The venue’s automated HVAC system, which monitors the building’s temperature, guarantees no unoccupied areas are being heated or cooled, while a new centralized lighting system, including motion-detecting switches, ensures no unoccupied spaces are lit. Plus, LED lighting has been installed throughout the 1.8-million-square-foot facility.
The property’s commitment to sustainability extends to its F&B program, too. Meat and produce are sustainable and locally sourced whenever possible. “GCCC has a fully developed program to purchase sustainably raised and local food where feasible,” Thorpe told PCMA. “The program is tailored to each event’s volume and budget.” There’s also an indoor Smartfarm, which produces 2.5 tons of herbs and vegetables annually, and a system that dehydrates compostable waste, reducing waste matter by 93 percent, according to GCCC officials.
Security at the venue is also going green, with public safety perimeter patrols conducted via bicycle or battery-powered electric vehicles. Plus all new and current staff members are being trained on sustainable practices. “[We] have a Green Team to engage and educate line-level employees,” Thorpe said. “Sustainability is also part of GCCC’s Culture & Training initiative.”
The venue is currently working toward LEED certification — Existing Building Operations + Maintenance and is planning to seek review from the U.S. Green Building Council in the coming weeks. “We hope to have good news to share later this year,” Thorpe said.
In addition to the convention center, the city of Columbus continues to get greener with citywide recycling programs, more bike paths, and plenty of eco-friendly transportation options, like the CoGo Bike Share program. It’s ever-growing GreenSpot community continues to make a significant impact. The group is made up of individuals and businesses throughout the city that are committed to adopting environmentally friendly practices. Plus, the recently formed Sustainable Columbus Advisory Committee is working toward an ultimate goal of adding 380 to 400 parks and ensuring there’s a green space within a 10-minute walk from all homes.
“The commitment to sustainability in Columbus is amazing,” Thorpe said. “We host several events a year that challenge our existing programs to achieve new levels of sustainability for them, and we are always up to the challenge.”
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