Green Lights: How Venues are Adopting Zero-waste Solutions and Reducing Emissions

Your monthly event sustainability update

In our April Industry Pulse Survey, 72 percent of event marketers said sustainability plays a role in vendor and/or material sourcing and selection, and half of the survey’s respondents said they are eliminating single-use plastic at their events and activations. As interest in producing sustainable events continues to grow, we’ve gathered the latest news, ranging from hotels and convention centers to arenas and stadiums, to highlight the green initiatives they’re adopting. Maybe you’ll see these programs and technologies trickle down to more venues near you.

samsung-sustainability-ces-2023-full-footprint_teaserMore on Zero-waste and Sustainability:

Renewable Energy from Food Waste

BOSSEA Exterior - omni hotelAdopting an alternative to landfills and traditional compost programs, Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport, with 100,000 square feet of meeting and event space, is one of the few hotels in the country equipped with Grind2Energy, a food waste system that recycles food scraps into clean water and renewable energy in the form of electricity, heat or compressed natural gas. Grind2Energy enables the hotel to dispose of all types of inedible food waste, including fats, oils and grease.

The system works by collecting organic food waste into a grind chamber, which pulverizes it into a slurry that goes into a holding tank. A liquid waste hauler transports the slurry to a local anaerobic digestion facility that recycles the food slurry by recovering water and converting captured methane into renewable energy. The remaining nutrient-rich organic material can be used as a natural fertilizer to then grow more food. The hotel has provided a local Massachusetts dairy farm with 10 tons of slurry for use as fertilizer.

In addition to using this closed-loop food waste recycling system, Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport has, since opening in September 2021, generated enough renewable power to support 39 homes for an entire month and offset 323,053 miles of automobile use by diverting its waste from landfills.

Photo credit: Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport


‘Circular Economy’ Practices

PepsiCo, in partnership with the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), is working toward the goal of making UEFA Champions League (UCL) finals zero-waste events by 2026. Put simply, zero-waste means sending nothing to the landfill. In June, the Women’s UCL final at the Netherlands’ Philips Stadion and the UCL final at Istanbul’s Atatürk Olympic Stadium featured the implementation of “circular economy” practices centered around the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) to minimize the soccer matches’ impact on the environment and drive resource efficiencies.

As part of the “reduce” component, the UCL final offered fully recyclable, zero-plastic and biodegradable fiber cups to cut down on single-use plastic. PepsiCo is also aiming to achieve carbon neutrality at its Gatorade 5v5 global tournament for teenage soccer players through recycling efforts, carbon offsets and sustainable clothing.

PepsiCo 3Rs Plan graphic chart- Credit PepsiCo zero-waste solutions

For “reuse,” the Women’s UCL final utilized returnable packaging for F&B. Philips Stadion served Doritos Nachos in returnable trays, and fans could purchase drinks served in transparent cups, with a returnable deposit of 2 euros. PepsiCo partnered with TURN, a scalable reuse system that incentivizes returns of smart cups and bins through gamification, at Atatürk Olympic Stadium to house 48,000 TURN smart cups fitted with digital tracking technology and collection bin operations at Champion’s Festival sampling stands.

Lastly, PepsiCo ensured that all F&B packaging supplied at UCL finals events were 100-percent recyclable. Atatürk Olympic Stadium offered 220 recycling bins for waste sorting post-event.

Photo credit: PepsiCo


Self-Sustaining Venues

DPdrones- Credit Climate Pledge Arena _ solar panels parking zero-waste venuesWhen it opened in 2021 after an extensive redevelopment, Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle set the ambitious objective to be “the most progressive, responsible and sustainable arena in the world.” While Amazon secured the naming rights for the indoor arena, it’s named after The Climate Pledge, rather than the corporation, promoting the brand’s partnership with environmental advocacy group Global Optimism and its Climate Pledge, a commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.

Climate Pledge Arena’s four goals are carbon zero, zero single-use plastic, water conservation and zero-waste. Under carbon zero, it looks to create the first International Living Future Institute certified zero-carbon arena in the world. There is no fossil fuel consumption in the arena for daily use; mechanical systems, gas combustion engines, heating, dehumidification and cooking are all converted to electric. Solar panels on the Alaska Airlines Atrium and its parking garage combined with off-site supplementary renewable energy offer 100-percent renewable energy power at the arena.

Along with its NHL team, the Seattle Kraken, Climate Pledge Arena intends to completely eliminate single-use plastics by 2024. Its “Rain to Rink” system harvests water off the roof, collecting it into a 15,000-gallon cistern, and then turns the water into ice for the Kraken to skate on. Additional water conservation tactics include waterless urinals, ultra-efficient showers, on-site retention tanks that reduce stormwater runoff and water bottle filling stations throughout the arena.

Photo credit: Climate Pledge Arena


Greenhouse Gas Emissions Tracking

As businesses seek to understand their carbon footprint and prepare for reporting compliance related to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s climate-disclosure rule, which would require public companies to report climate-related risks and emissions data, new technologies are popping up to assist in reducing and tracking greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The U.S. EPA defines scope 1 emissions as direct GHG emissions that occur from sources controlled or owned by an organization, while scope 2 emissions are indirect GHG emissions associated with the purchase of electricity, steam, heat or cooling. Scope 3 emissions are the result of activities from assets not owned or controlled by the reporting company, but that the organization indirectly impacts in its value chain.

In May, Allegiant Stadium, home of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders, and the Las Vegas Convention Center announced that nZero would be providing near real-time tracking and management of carbon emissions and water consumption data for their events and trade shows. nZero utilizes a proprietary carbon data model to capture and automate all emission points from an organization’s operational footprint at the highest granularity possible and provides 24/7 analysis of scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. The venues will use nZero’s analysis to inform operational decision-making, maximize decarbonization efforts across all facilities and create efficiencies.


Zero-waste Programs for Dining

The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (NOENMCC) launched a new no-waste catering initiative this spring to reduce impacts and provide more green dining options for event planners.

In March, NOENMCC held two experimental luncheons as part of its Net Zero Lunch Pilot Program, in which all serving ware and food items were recycled or composted. The Net Zero luncheon led to a massive compost donation to local organization Schmelly’s Dirt Farm, where compostable materials from those luncheons will transition into fertile soil for New Orleans area gardens. The convention center also donated all unserved meals to Bethel Colony, a residential substance abuse treatment program in New Orleans. Additionally, the Net Zero Lunch Pilot Program encouraged diners to use the facility’s water bottle refilling stations, keeping 4,000 plastic bottles out of landfills.

During WasteExpo in May, Brandon Felder, executive chef at NOENMCC, created a zero-waste meal using surplus foods. The menu included a spring salad with strawberries left over from breakfast, a crab claw salad created with excess seafood, a crawfish and crab cheesecake finished with a barbecue sauce made from unused beer from the bar stock, and a bread pudding dessert with chicory coffee caramel sauce crafted from extra po’boy loaves and coffee.

Adding to the waste theme, the meal was served in a clean, blue dumpster with long tables and benches extending the full length of the trash bin, creating an even more immersive experience as attendees enjoyed their zero-waste food. Bon appétit.

New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center Lunch in a dumpster at waste 360 zero-waste

Photo credit: New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center


Featured photo credit: Flashvector

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