By Danielle LeBreck, Meetings Today -- Sustainable events is a trend that isn’t going away. As climate change increasingly dominates the headlines, event planners are seeking ways to reduce their carbon footprints and make meetings and events more sustainable.

Cities with big convention centers and meeting spaces are building and renovating facilities to be more environmentally friendly and adjusting their catering services, recycling and composting programs.

In turn, their efforts are having a ripple effect on surrounding metro areas. Four cities—Salt Lake City, Nashville, Detroit and New Orleans—are making big strides in sustainability in 2019, actively working toward greener meetings.

Consider these sustainability-minded cities for your next meeting or event.

1. Salt Lake City: Solar Credits and Novel Recycling Programs
Just look around Salt Palace Convention Center, and you’ll notice the innovative ways it’s helping meetings go green.

- There are 6,006 solar panels on the roof, generating 17% of the building’s power. It’s one of the few convention centers in the country that generates Solar Renewable Energy Credits, which can be purchased by events to offset their carbon footprint.
- All existing lighting has been replaced with LED lights.
- Water bottle filling stations and bike stations are sprinkled across facility grounds.

Sustainability has long been important to Salt Lake City, according to Chance Thompson, senior manager for sustainability and public relations and chairperson for the Green Team Committee at Salt Palace Convention Center. He is also vice chair of the Events Industry Council’s 2019 Sustainability Committee and chair of its APEX/ASTM Relaunch Committee.

As a result of a multiple-partner strategy spearheaded by Thompson—who also collaborates with venues across the country—Salt Lake City is the world’s only convention destination to hold five concurrent APEX/ASTM sustainability certifications in one shared partnership.

The Salt Lake City sustainability partnership includes:

Salt Palace Convention Center
Mountain America Expo Center
Visit Salt Lake
Utah Food Services

Behind the scenes, Thompson explained that the center is constantly improving its recycling and composting programs, partnering with local businesses in Salt Lake City.

As a result, the center has worked with over 100 different nonprofits in the community and donated over 500,000 pounds of event material since 2017.

“Last year we hit a landfill diversion of 64% for the facility, and the goal this year is 75%,” Thompson said. “We are also doubling down on our zero-waste strategy. In that context, we do have an upcycling shop on site now. They take a lot of leftover scrap metal and woods from events, and they use it to reinforce our equipment. That has saved us a lot of money.”

Food waste is another big concern at meetings and events, and Utah Food Services (UFS)—the exclusive caterer to Salt Palace Convention Center—is making significant moves to combat it.

In 2017, UFS donated over 100,000 meals from food leftover at trade shows. Thompson explained that UFS has always put sustainability at the forefront of its food practices—it was one of the company’s core values during its creation.

UFS also pushes for zero food waste in innovative ways as an early pilot partner for an anaerobic food digestor program. Scraps are sent to the digestor, which turns unusable leftover food into useful products like natural gas and fertilizer.

To read the entire Meetings Today article, go here.