HONOLULU — All of the water bottle filling stations, cardboard exhibits and compostable plates at the recent World Conservation Conference in Honolulu have paid off.
In January, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s 2016 WCC was awarded the ISO 20121 certification for sustainability in acknowledgement of the eco-friendly event.
ISO 20121 is a management system standard, piloted during the 2012 London Olympic Games, that helps organizations host sustainable events like music festivals, school events and conferences.
“As we planned the WCC we felt it was essential to make the 2016 Congress as green as possible so that it would truly reflect our culture of conservation we have in Hawaii,” said Chipper Wichman, president of the National Tropical Botanical Garden and the man who helped bring the WCC to Hawaii in September.
The effort began more than a year before the WCC took place, and was led by June Matsumoto and executed by a multi-sector group called the “Green Team.”
“We e did a lot of things to make the conference green,” Wichman said.
Some of those things included a composting pilot program for the waste generated by attendees; permitting only glass and aluminum beverage containers at concessions and in vending machines; and recycling meeting materials.
In addition, 20 of the 22 hotels used for the event were certified as green hotels.
“It was important to show that we can minimize the environmental footprint of large meetings like this,” Wichman said. “It was really amazing to watch all this happen, and when you consider the size of the event it is an even more impressive accomplishment.”
Menus were made up of locally sourced ingredients, which provided an opportunity to educate organizers and delegates about Hawaii’s agriculture, according to a press release from the Hawaii Convention Center.
“It was a lot of fun and a welcome challenge to meet the diverse needs of the group, to not only serve them great food, but to provide them a story or experience of Hawaii with every bite,” Kevin Nakata, HCC executive chef, said in the release. “We sourced what we could locally to develop menus and offerings throughout the conference that really highlighted island ingredients and flavor profiles.”
The experience was also an opportunity for Hawaii’s tourism industry to build upon the state’s status as a premier place for business meetings and conventions, in a way that promoted events with low environmental impacts.
“This has been an invaluable experience as the HCC team continues (to find) new and innovative ways to evolve its green efforts and help Hawaii illustrate how it is emerging as a world leader in conservation,” said Teri Orton, HCC general manager.