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Local Hotel Goes "Greener" After Lake Superior Conference

Holiday Inn

Many conferences occur around the world each day; one conference listing Web site (www.infotoday.com) catalogs 78 separate conferences for September 2008 alone. The Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) hosts over 50 conferences and conventions every year. These often become resource-intensive events (see "Did Ja Know") as planners attempt to make the experience enjoyable and memorable for participants. Itís no wonder that many conference organizers are looking to make their events more environmentally responsible.

At the "Making a Great Lake Superior 2007" conference organized by Minnesota Sea Grant in October, we worked to lessen the conference's environmental impact. Our environmental statement described areas we were concerned about: reducing carbon emissions, reducing waste, and using locally grown or produced food. We considered the impacts of the venue, food served, choice of hotels, and transportation. We asked the businesses we worked with about their practices as well.

Hotel selection can make a big difference in an eventís environmental footprint. Locating a hotel so far from the event that participants must drive can increase greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, laundering thousands of towels and sheets each day is costly to patrons and the environment. We expressed our desires for an environmentally friendly hotel to the Holiday Inn in Duluth, who had an advantage in being linked to the DECC by a skyway system, making walking easy for participants in Duluth's uncertain October weather. We were pleased to learn that they were already taking steps to reduce their environmental footprint.

Soon after the conference, hotel representatives contacted us to say they had instituted a number of new "green" initiatives, inspired in large part by requests from customers like us. Duluth's Holiday Inn is looking more intensely at reducing their energy use, reducing waste, and recycling or reusing materials. The hotel was recently featured by Minnesota Power in its PowerGrant Program publication, which highlighted the numerous steps the hotel has taken to reduce energy use, including installing compact fluorescent lights (80 percent of all lights at the hotel are fluorescent), replacing inefficient cooling system motors and heat pumps, and adding separate programmable thermostat controls in each room.

Last year, over 350 of the Holiday Inn's old mattress and boxspring sets avoided the landfill through a recycling program the hotel helped pioneer with Goodwill Industries and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in Duluth. In one of only two such programs in the nation, old mattresses are deconstructed and the components recycled. The Natural Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota Duluth funded efforts to find markets for the materials.

We were lucky to have the DECC to work with as well; their existing practices fit our desires perfectly. They use local food and compost it, use recyclable or compostable materials, and minimize waste as much as possible through measures such as having bulk cream and sugar containers, and by placing numerous recycling bins throughout the center.

Congratulations to these local businesses as well as others that are taking environmental conservation seriously!

By Jesse Schomberg
August 2008

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