By Dave Gazley, vice-president, meeting and convention sales at Tourism Vancouver
Vancouver has the smallest carbon footprint of any major city in North America and currently draws more than 90% of its electricity from renewable sources.
Delegates meeting in the city have the opportunity to stay in one of 78 ‘Green Key’ hotels – a designation that identifies properties that exemplify environmental stewardship – and many of which promote delegate wellness activities like morning runs with the general manager, complimentary bikes for guests and in-suite yoga gear.
Over half of local commuters travel around the city daily via walking, cycling or transit.
And it’s almost impossible not to dine sustainably given the city’s proximity to fresh seafood, seasonal ingredients grown by local producers, and a nearby wine country. Many restaurants also offer Ocean Wise certified seafood and hold sustainability certifications with labels like Green Tourism, Green Table and Climate Smart.
Vancouver Convention Centre has a six-acre living roof that acts as a natural insulator; a restored marine habitat built into the building foundation; a seawater heating and cooling system that uses adjacent seawater to cool the building in warmer months and heat it in winter; and waste diversion, whereby all waste is tracked, recorded and categorised. The convention centre team has worked with organisers for events massive and small to integrate eco-initiatives in their meetings, such as waste audits that help identify key areas that can be improved upon when hosting events.
One concern for events is the ‘one-time use mentality’ whereby booths, signage, delegate bags, catalogues and other collateral are produced only to be discarded when the meeting comes to a close; in Vancouver, delegates are encouraged to use recyclable materials or, even better, to produce collateral that can be reused for future meetings. Meeting organisers can also choose to certify their meetings as Zero Waste.
In addition, Tourism Vancouver – the city’s Visitor and Convention Bureau – provides meeting organisers as well as local businesses with access to a range of energy conservation programmes and consulting services, primarily through its Sustainable Destination Specialist.
Thirty hotels across the city are actively tracking energy and water use, and energy conservation projects have saved upwards of CAN$257,500 in utility costs and avoided nearly 900 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. The city aims to transform itself into the world’s greenest by 2020 and was honoured with the C40 Cities Award for ‘Greenest City Action Plan’ at the Paris COP21 climate conference.
More recently, the 2016 Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index named Vancouver the top city in North America for social, environmental and economic sustainability efforts; in the same awards, Vancouver scored highest in the world for lack of air pollution.
Ultimately, the key way Vancouver has evolved into a global sustainability leader is by purposefully incorporating green initiatives into all aspects of the local lifestyle, and by facilitating eco-awareness among delegates and visitors.