The Guide to Green Meetings in Los Angeles

Photo courtesy of Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles, Facebook
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For citywide conventions, the Los Angeles Convention Center is renowned as one of the greenest venues of its kind in the country. Read More

From sustainable hotels and meals to recycling and public transportation, there are several steps to keep in mind when planning a green meeting in L.A. Here is a handy guide to help get you started.

Step 1: Book a Green Seal Hotel

Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites
Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites | Photo courtesy of Sandeep babu, Flickr

A non-profit independent organization, Green Seal Inc. certifies lodgings that cut down on waste while promoting water and energy conservation. Los Angeles has an impressive number of eco-friendly, Green Seal certified hotels. Whether in the Valley, Hollywood, Downtown, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, LAX or Redondo Beach, these L.A.-area lodgings implement guidelines that reduce and minimize harm upon the environment. Many hotels also double as meeting spaces where event planners can further implement nature-friendly policies to help an entire event stay green, from start to finish.

With 110,000 square feet of conference space including the 26,108 square-foot California Ballroom, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites features 28 meeting areas, 25 hospitality suites and 29 breakout rooms for smaller meetings or scheduled sessions. The 1,358-room Westin Bonaventure was L.A.'s first hotel to receive the Green Seal Silver Certification in 2009, and it has worked to improve its eco-friendly reputation ever since. The venue regularly conserves electricity, water and natural gas with the help of energy-saving equipment such as light sensors and water-conserving fixtures, and it features a purchasing policy that's both socially and environmentally sensitive. The Westin Bonaventure uses non-toxic cleaning products and biodegradable washing detergents, and composts food waste while reducing disposable food items as well.

With Green Seal Silver Certification, the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel offers 50,000 square feet of convention space, with a 11,400-square-foot, high-tech Grand Ballroom that accommodates up to 1,500 guests and dozens of flexible meeting rooms and event areas, as well as 802 guest rooms. The hotel uses energy-efficient indoor lighting with timers and motion censors in the meeting rooms, as well as nontoxic, biodegradable cleaning products, plus composting and recycling programs, too. The Sheraton Gateway also offers guests a chance to participate in the "Make a Green Choice” program, which gives rewards in exchange for conserving resources such as water, gas, electricity, natural gas and up to 7oz. of chemicals per guest each night.

Located on seven acres in Century City, the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza has more than 100,000 square feet of space for functions and boardrooms, as well as a 25,000 square-foot ballroom with impressive media features, including high-speed Internet. The 726-room Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hosted the Governors’ Global Climate Summit in 2009, and since then, over 78,000 square feet of rooms have been upgraded with Solar Gard Armorcoat Stainless Steel window film, which saves energy and provides UV protection. One of the hotel's most interesting features is a food digester that transforms food waste to water using bacteria, cutting down on landfill waste and conserving water. The hotel also participates in the Hyatt Thrive program, which implements sustainable practices across its operations.

The 482-room Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City has 35,000 square feet of meeting space and state-of-the-art equipment. Sales, IT, A/V and Banquet team members are on hand to make conferences and any other large event go smoothly. With Green Seal Silver Certification, the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City features 16 recycling programs, as well as food and yard composting, LED lighting, Energy Star appliances, reusable service items and low-flow toilets and faucets. It also participates in the "Conserve to Preserve" program for sheets and towels, further promoting overall water and energy efficiency as well as waste reduction. A division of California Department of General Services/Statewide Travel and Meeting, the California Green Lodging Program gave the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City the highest rank sustainability prize: the Environmentalist Level award.

Step 2: Go paperless

During your event, cut down on handouts, binders, folders and other papers that are not absolutely necessary by creating a dedicated website, and deliver content on CDs or reusable flash drives. If handouts are required, print them double-sided on 100% post-consumer recycled paper that is process chlorine free. If binders and folders are necessary, ask the venue's communications center if there are any you can reuse, and make sure the binders are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) approved.

Step 3: Offer sustainable food and beverages

Coffee and fruit at Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City meeting
Photo courtesy of Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City, Facebook

For food and beverages, find vendors and purchasers who deliver organic, local, fair trade, shade-grown coffee and other sustainable products and ingredients. Buy and serve items such as salt, pepper, sugar, cream and other condiments in bulk to reduce packaging waste and confirm with vendors and purchasers that packaging is recyclable or compostable. Make every effort to provide non-disposable cups, plates and silverware. Serve light refreshments such as finger foods to reduce use of utensils, or consider a buffet-style meal instead of a sit-down affair to minimize usage of serviceware. Implement a pre-event meal signup system to reduce leftovers, and if there are any, contact a local nonprofit to coordinate donation.

Step 4: Recycle

Determine who will be hauling, composting, recycling and/or throwing away materials after the event, and coordinate recycling procedures accordingly. Ensure properly labeled recycling bins are available for recycling and composting, and strategically place them near trash receptacles. Regularly monitor the waste stations to minimize cross-contamination and consistently remind attendees to recycle. Research donation opportunities for reusable materials and return borrowed items such as binders and name badge holders.

Step 5: Use Metro and other public transport

Metro Rail Pershing Square Station
Metro Rail Pershing Square Station | Photo courtesy of Andy Kennelley, Flickr 

Promote the use of mass transportation to reduce emissions by choosing a central location for your meeting. The Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City is just steps from the Red Line's Universal City Station, while the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites is not far from the Red Line's Pershing Square Station. The Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel offers a complimentary LAX shuttle service, and at just 10 miles from LAX, the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza recommends taking the 24-Hour SuperShuttle. All hotels are pedestrian-friendly, but if venturing out into other areas, consider carpooling with others, be it a rental car or taxi.

Step 6: Communicate

Finally, consider electronically providing attendees with data on how many pounds were recycled and how much energy was conserved after the event. It's also important to convey your overall mission of sustainability from beginning to end. Whether electronically or on paper, communicate something like the following to meeting attendees:

"This is a green event. Every effort has been made to reduce the overall footprint and to protect human health and the environment. Green features such as (fill in as appropriate. Ie. recycled content paper, recycling, food donation, biodegradable food service ware, carbon neutral travel options, etc.) will prevent pollution, minimize solid waste, save energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Thank you for supporting these efforts!”