From October 28 to 30, the Edmonton Convention Centre will welcome the first large-scale convention with a goal of carbon neutrality to be hosted in the city of Edmonton. SPARK 2019: Carbon Positive, is about doing more with less impact on what matters most. The conference attracts 700 of the world’s best clean-technology inventors and innovators to explore how we can reimagine carbon. Through carbon reducing and offsetting, the team at the Edmonton Convention Centre will work closely with SPARK 2019 to make sure their goal of a net-zero conference becomes a reality.
Planning and executing an event of this calibre takes innovation and collaboration, but the venue is no stranger to sustainability. In fact, architect B. James Wensley originally designed the building in the 1970s to act as a natural heat sink that traps heat and increases energy efficiency. Today, the Edmonton Convention Centre stands as a beacon of sustainability within Edmonton’s river valley and it has the chops to prove it—the venue was the first convention centre in Canada to receive the Green Key level five certification, and it is one of only five venues in Canada to have received the prestigious ASTM International Certification.
Planning an event? Seven sustainable questions to ask your host venue
There’s a growing demand by event planners, attendees and venues to create more responsible solutions in our industry. That’s why the Edmonton Convention Centre recently launched its Responsible Meetings Program. With the goal of integrating sustainability into every planning conversation, the Responsible Meetings Program provides incentives for sustainable undertakings like plant-based menus, eliminating single-use items and carbon offsetting.
Asking the right questions during the planning process will help you and your host venue make responsible decisions that will leave a positive impact on your host city and the world.
How much carbon will our event generate? Knowing your carbon footprint will help you implement carbon reducing measures like encouraging public transportation and carpooling among event attendees and even choosing a plant-based menu. Your host venue may be able to help calculate the approximate carbon footprint produced by your event or help offset emissions generated by your event. In fact, the Edmonton Convention Centre will match your carbon offsetting contribution up to 20 tonnes of CO2e.
Where is the food being sourced? Sixty per cent of the Edmonton Convention Centre’s food suppliers are local producers and growers—injecting more than $550,000 back into our local economy every year. Featuring local, seasonal and sustainable food items not only tastes delicious, it supports local producers and reduces the environmental impact of food transportation. By asking your event venue to source food from community growers, you can feel good about supporting your host city’s local economy.
What happens to leftover food? The United Nations estimates 30 per cent of globally produced food is wasted without ever going to feed our world’s population. Events and meetings can generate immense amounts of food waste, but not all venues can facilitate leftover food donation programs because of health regulations and food donation policies in their cities. In 2009, the Edmonton Convention Centre was the first organization in Edmonton to participate in Alberta Health Services’ and Edmonton’s Food Bank’s Second Helping Program. In 2018, approximately 5,288 meals were safely donated to those in need. Following your event, the Edmonton Convention Centre will report the number of meals donated through the Second Helping Program so you can shout your impact from the rooftops.
What can be done with single-use event signage and décor? In most Canadian communities, foam-core, plastic and vinyl event signage is almost impossible to recycle and sadly ends up in landfill. Beyond reducing your single-use event signage, ask your venue if they have any programs in place to reuse or repurpose these materials. The Edmonton Convention Centre partners with local community organizations, including iHuman, who repurpose old event signage into materials for youth art projects. Don’t be afraid to ask—your venue should gladly find a solution for repurposing lanyards, nametags, floral arrangements and swag you no longer have use for.
How can our event reduce single-use plastics? Send out email communications telling your attendees your event will be plastic bag and water bottle free. Ask for condiments and beverages to be served in bulk dispensers, create signage that can be reused year-after-year, inquire about compostable corn plastic alternatives or encourage your sponsors to limit swag. In 2018, the Edmonton Convention Centre eliminated plastic straws and stir sticks, diverting an estimated 253,000 straws from landfill each year. Most single-use beverage and food containers found at the Edmonton Convention Centre concessions are biodegradable and can be tossed in the organic sorting bins after use.
What does your venue do on an ongoing basis to reduce its environmental impact? Most sustainable venues should hold at least one sustainability certification that upholds them to strict industry-wide standards. Do your research—ask to see information about your host venue’s accreditations, waste management policy, environmental purchasing policy or electricity use. Ask about accessibility to recycling bins, the type of cleaning products used and even the building’s light fixtures. A truly sustainable venue will provide this information with transparency and happily share their sustainability initiatives with you.
In as early as 2020, the Edmonton Convention Centre will begin producing its own renewable energy when the atrium roof is outfitted with the largest building-integrated solar cell installation in the country. All 696 glass panels will be replaced, with photovoltaic panels covering approximately 50 per cent of the existing glass. Once complete, the centre will be producing nearly 300,000 kWh of renewable energy every year—that’s enough electricity to power 32 Alberta homes for one year.
What impact did we have on the community where our event was hosted? You’ll want to know how you made a positive impact on your host venue and community after your hard work pulling off a successful and sustainable event. Your host venue may be able to provide you with data around carbon emissions, food donations, waste and more. Along with providing carbon and food donation insights, the Edmonton Convention Centre offers clients complimentary waste audits to determine what percentage of event waste was diverted from landfill.