By Jeff Heilman, Meetings Focus -- With its brilliant blue skies, snow-capped peaks, shimmering Bonneville Salt Flats and the reds, oranges, magentas, pinks and related hues painted by the sun and the seasons on its deserts, mountain ranges and legendary national parks, the Utah canvas is splashed with color. Count green in, too, as Salt Lake City and Park City make an art form of protecting and harnessing their natural resources.

Salt Lake City
Having significantly evolved its visitor and group appeal over recent years, the “Crossroads of the West” is also ahead on the sustainability curve.

“For starters, being green these days is not simply an attribute of a meeting destination, it’s a given, a foregone conclusion, if you will,” says Scott Beck, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake. “That said, and in addition to the measures we’ve taken along with most other cities, Salt Lake’s unbeatable accessibility and compact convention district alleviates the need for large-scale transportation planning, and the issue of getting attendees from the airport and hotels to the convention center and back.”

The Airport TRAX light rail line, which takes passengers to the downtown convention district in just 20 minutes for $2.50, has proven incredibly popular for attendees, according to Beck.

“Once in the city, getting around by foot or our GREENbike share program couldn’t be easier,” he says. “Also, downtown is a TRAX ‘Free Fare Zone,’ which makes getting around on light rail a breeze.”

Since hosting the “greenest” Olympic Games to date in 2002, the city has prioritized its commitment to the environment by establishing a separate Division of Sustainability and creating an eco-blueprint called “Sustainable Salt Lake—Plan 2015.”

Identifying “livability” as a unifying theme for framing priorities in the wide-ranging plan’s introduction, Mayor Ralph Becker affirms the goal of “making our city one of the greenest, most inclusive and economically viable municipalities in the country.”

Visit Salt Lake, meanwhile, follows its “Green Meeting Standards,” a set of eco-responsible guidelines for F&B, transportation and communications and marketing practices covering meetings and events that it sponsors or produces.

Meeting venues are naturally covered, too, with preference going to green-rated and/or LEED-certified facilities. With its 1.65-megawatt rooftop solar array, the largest in Utah, and myriad green programs, the Silver LEED-certified Salt Palace Convention Center exemplifies the commitment to sustainability found throughout the city’s meetings and hospitality industry.

Other examples include the Radisson Hotel Salt Lake City Downtown. Featuring 381 newly renovated guest rooms and suites and over 15,000 square feet of flexible space, the hotel promotes energy efficiency, recycling, water conservation and environmentally friendly purchasing.

With its own set of comparable green programs, The Grand America Hotel and its sister property, the Little America Hotel, participate in Rocky Mountain Power’s Energy Efficiency Program, which saves the properties enough energy each year to power approximately 550 average-size homes.

Environmental stewardship has also long been a top priority at Snowbird, one of the quartet of world-class ski resorts in Cottonwood Canyon near the city, with a comparable focus at the Alta, Brighton and Solitude resorts.