Over the past two decades, environmental conservation has been a key component of operations throughout the Hawai’i Convention Center, a world-class global meeting venue centrally located between East and West on O’ahu in the Hawaiian Islands. Recently, the conference center was named as the first and only “public assembly convention center” to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) v4 Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Last year, it diverted 92 percent of its total waste from landfills, with nearly half being recycled and 44 percent sent to the city and county of Honolulu’s waste-to-energy plant.
Meeting planners who hold events at the convention center have numerous options designed to increase efficiency and sustainably handle event-generated waste. Those include repurposing and donating used materials to service organizations; tracking and documenting waste; purchasing food, beverages, and other items locally and sustainably; and using Energy Star and other top-rated equipment. But low-energy technology and efficient waste management are just the beginning.
In 2018, the venue launched its groundbreaking Ho’omaluō (meaning to conserve or manage wisely in the Hawaiian language) program — a comprehensive approach to operations that focuses on being a responsible steward of the islands. “At the Hawai’i Convention Center, our guests, planners, staff, and communities have come together for more than two decades to preserve, protect, and enhance the natural beauty of the Hawaiian Islands,” said Teri Orton, general manager of the Hawai’i Convention Center.
Last year, groups including the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) and the American Dental Association (ADA) participated in the convention center’s innovative community and environmental outreach efforts. For instance, conference participants could opt to plant native and endemic tree seedlings through the nonprofit Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative (HLRI). The group is working to restore Hawai’i’s old-growth native and endemic forests, of which fewer than 10 percent remain.
Through HLRI, the Hawai’i Convention Center has committed to planting 1 million rare and endangered trees, such as the iconic koa — which can grow to 50 feet and offset the carbon footprint of an average vacation to Hawai’i for a family of four, and provide a vital habitat for rare and endangered wildlife — throughout the islands. Participants can visit forests on O’ahu and the Island of Hawai’i to take a UTV, horseback, or hiking tour, or sponsor a selection of trees, including Hawaiian sandalwood and milo. Each Legacy Tree can be dedicated and is individually tagged for participants to track growth and health characteristics online.
“We look forward to working with our partners and Legacy Tree sponsors to restore this native ecosystem, adding to the vibrant biodiversity of Hawai’i,” HLRI Executive Director Jeff Dunster said of the newly launched Legacy Forest at Gunstock Ranch on the North Shore of O’ahu.
In addition to its conservation programs, the award-winning convention center offers 1.1 million square feet of event space, including a 35,000-square-foot ballroom and a 2.5-acre rooftop terrace. It features an environmentally friendly open-air design that incorporates natural elements and uses Hawai’i’s signature trade winds to cool the expansive common areas and gathering spaces.
“The center is deeply committed to a multi-faceted approach to environmental conservation,” Orton said, “that inspires everything we do and touches everyone we serve.”