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Global Spectrum’s efforts cut waste, save money

When you walk into the St. Charles, Mo., Convention Center, don’t take offense that the lighting system might be smarter than you are. Twenty smart meters that operate behind the scenes measure real-time energy use in the 154,000-square-foot facility.

The system is one of the ways Global Spectrum is reducing energy consumption and waste at its facilities.

“We look at everything as waste, even energy, because you use it, and you can’t give it back,” said Dan Rubino, director of special projects for Global Spectrum.

Changing lightbulbs; composting leftovers

All Global Spectrum-managed facilities participate in the company’s Step Up campaign, which aims to make facilities more environmentally sound by raising awareness and taking action.

By measuring energy use at the St. Charles Convention Center and other facilities, Global Spectrum can identify where it can trim energy consumption.

To improve energy efficiency, many facilities are converting to light-emitting-diode (LED) lighting, which uses much less power than incandescent or fluorescent lighting. A number of Global Spectrum venues are also composting waste that once went to landfills.

One major facility has cut its landfill waste by 77 percent, Rubino said. “In the first four months we saved $25,000 in trash disposal fees,” he said. To achieve better energy efficiency and have less detrimental impact on the environment takes major changes, but most of those changes have little impact on the convention attendee.

The average attendee won’t notice that a paper plate is compostable, for example, or that the kitchen directs food to the compost pile rather than the trash can. The clean-up staff has to ensure table waste is disposed of properly by sorting compostable items from real trash and dumping it in the correct receptacle.

“We changed all the dinnerware to compostable items in the concession stands for our arenas,” Rubino said. “Many of our convention centers are starting to use compost as well, and that starts with the way they do things in the kitchen.”

At the Constant Center in Roanoke, Va., meeting planners can opt to market events as “green” by including recycling programs and other green initiatives.

At the Overland Park Convention Center (OPCC) in Overland Park, Kan., the food-and-beverage department purchases locally grown and baked products to ensure freshness and cut transportation costs. It also offers vegetarian meal selections because vegetables require less land and energy to produce. Surplus food is donated to a local food bank.

To reduce energy use, the OPCC move-in policy limits air-conditioning in the hall to show hours only and lighting is reduced by 50 percent during move-in and move-out periods. Occupancy sensors in restrooms, storage closets and hallways manage lighting for maximum efficiency.

The Constant Center also purchases locally grown food and other products as much as possible. Nonbleached napkins and coffee filters and other items made without chemicals are used, and biobased and recyclable products are used instead of plastic foam.

Research on sustainability continues

Global Spectrum facilities also purchase office supplies made from recycled content and use paperless payroll and natural cleaning supplies. The many small steps add up, and meeting planners notice the efforts.

“If all things are equal between two venues, convention goers would rather go to the more sustainable facility,” Rubino said. “The promoters and meeting planners want to work with the buildings that are green and doing green things.”

Research on sustainability continues. For instance, Global Spectrum is developing systems that recycle rainwater to form ice for hockey rinks and ice shows and water for waste systems.

Despite all these efforts, Rubino acknowledges that more can be done to reduce the environmental impact of Global Spectrum’s venues.

“We could all do a lot better, but at least progress is being made,” Rubino said.