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by Sarah J.F. Braley | March 01, 2010

Seasoned hotel hoppers now expect to find a note in their rooms explaining the property's sustainability efforts and asking them to reuse towels and sheets. While such signs of ecological stewardship are almost universal, it's harder to discern which meeting properties have gone green to the core.

For that reason, the International Association of Conference Centers has created a voluntary Code of Sustainability. The policy covers 59 practices in education, awareness and public declaration; waste management; recycling; reuse; water conservation; purchasing; energy management; air quality; and food and beverage. Member centers that are 100 percent compliant are Platinum Tier facilities; those that are at least 85 percent compliant are Gold Tier properties, and those that reach 75 percent compliance are Silver Tier centers.

Only one conference center, the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread in Racine, Wis., has achieved Platinum Tier status; unfortunately, it's a private center, unavailable for rental. "Cost is probably the biggest factor in keeping centers from being platinum," says Lois Y. Berg, director of administrative services for the foundation and chair of the sustainability committee for IACC The Americas. "These are tough times for centers, and the foundation is fortunate that we have a supporting organization, S.C. Johnson, which has a long history of being sustainable." Berg also points out that changes to energy management and water conservation require large capital outlays to bring centers into line with the code, since existing air-conditioning, lighting and plumbing systems need to be replaced.

As of press time, 32 IACC conference centers had reached 85 percent compliance. The following is a look at the eco-practices of four of those properties. (For a full list of Gold Tier facilities, go to mcmag.com/webexclusives.)

Doubletree Palm Beach Gardens Hotel and Executive Meeting Center

Palm Beach, Fla.
(561) 622-2260; hilton.com

This 279-room property recently was awarded Silver LEED certification. According to David Margolis, director of sales and marketing, the most successful green initiative has been a paper-recycling program implemented in each guest room and all public areas.

In the year-old Executive Meeting Center, which offers more than 10,000 square feet of meeting space, much of the furnishings were made with recycled or sustainable materials, all sourced from within a 500-mile radius of the hotel. "Some of the more fun recycled items include bicycle-tire furniture and chairs made of car seatbelts," says Margolis. "Even our light fixtures are made from used red lenses from traffic lights."

Landsdowne ResortLansdowne Resort
Lansdowne, Va.
(877) 509-8400; lansdowneresort.com

Recycling of all types of materials has picked up considerably at this 296-room resort just northwest of Washington, D.C., on the Maryland border. The property's sales teams have been touting the program to meeting planners, and trucks now pick up more items for recycling than trash.

Meeting planners are in charge of how green their events will be at the 45,000-square-foot conference center. They are asked details such as if they prefer bottled water or ceramic jugs with paper cups for conference tables.

Water conservation also is a priority, with low-flow faucets, toilets and showers; drought-resistant plants around the property and on its golf course; and laundry facilities that run on cold water.

Lansdowne requires its suppliers to source environmentally responsible products, including local and organic foods and bulk items.