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Greening the Green Building Convention & Exhibition - 6 November 2008


The Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), an emerging member of the World Green Building Council and official Green Star SA accreditation body, proudly introduced the Green Building Council of South Africa Convention & Exhibition 2008. Besides providing leadership around green buildings, it is also walking the talk through hosting a green event that supports the global trend to shift to a more efficient way of living.

Large events, exhibitions and conferences use a lot of resources and as such have a large environmental footprint. However, by considering implementing energy efficiency, water conservation and waste reduction the negative environmental impact can be reduced. The carbon footprint of the event should be reduced where practical and unavoidable emissions should be off-set where possible to ensure that we minimise the negative impacts. From flights to bus transport, accommodation and administration - all these actions have an impact on our environment.

The GBCSA is however dedicated to hosting a green event where the carbon footprint is managed in a responsible manner. This will include the calculation of the impact of the event in terms of international standards for assessment and reporting, namely the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and the associated IOS 14064/5 standards for emission inventories.

The following principles will be implemented during the event:

  • Sustainable Procurement
  • Waste Reduction - avoid, reduce, re-use and recycle
  • Water Conservation
  • Energy Efficiency and use of Renewable Energy (TRECs)
  • Participation and Communication
  • Monitoring and Evaluation

A full monitoring and evaluation report will be compiled at the end of the event to determine the impact of the event and its greening initiative. This will include a summary of all the interventions with measurable impacts where possible.

Greening Interventions

The following has been implemented through the greening strategy for the event:

Energy efficiency and renewable energy use Conventional fossil fuel-based energy use has a direct link to global warming, and therefore both the reduction in energy consumption and the use of clean, renewable energy are important components of event greening. The reduction in transportation energy needs particular attention and will be done through co-ordination of transport requirements of delegates and this was done for the speakers and key role players of the conference.

A total of 46 TRECs (Tradable Renewable Energy Certificates) have been purchased to ensure that renewable energy is used where possible to avoid the creation of additional carbon emissions. This electricity has been utilised for:

  • The CTICC venue for convention and exhibition requirements (15MWh);
  • The accommodation of organisers, speakers and participants (29MWh);
  • The social events (1MWh); and
  • The offices of the GBCSA and organisers (1MWh).

Waste avoidance, reduction and recycling

Waste reduction extends the life of increasingly scarce landfill sites, as well as reducing the resources consumed in the generation of products and packaging. It also reduces methane emissions from landfill sites - a powerful greenhouse gas. The main focus will be on waste avoidance; however waste that is generated during the event will be recycled where possible.

To ensure waste avoidance the water points did not have paper or polystyrene cups, but re-usable glasses were provided next to the water points. Paper serviettes were replaced with cloth serviettes and plastic spoons were replaced with metal spoons.

Recycling is being done on site with separation at source into three categories - paper, recyclable items (tin cans, glass bottles, plastic bottles) and non recyclable items or wet waste (left over food, used tissues, tetrapack, etc). Prestige Cleaning Services have provided the cleaning services and the floor staff participated in on-site training prior to the event to ensure that they understand the importance of recycling and separation at waste. Three bins have been provided with see through bin liners and the staff keep the various bin content separate. The bags are then placed into skips which will be removed by Enviroserve and recycled off site. A full report will be provided by Enviroserve indicating the type and amount of waste that is recycled, as well as the amount of waste that went to landfill.

Delegates are requested to return their delegate badges so that they can be re-used at future GBCSA training events and any additional brochures that were provided and not needed could be returned to a desk at the entrance of the exhibition hall.

Apples were used in the flower decorations and these apples will be donated to Dassenberg Horse Rescue Centre where "retired" race horses are cared for.

Water conservation

Being a water-scarce country, South Africa needs to ensure that the event is water-efficient, including in the event venues and the hospitality industry. The venue that has been chosen has water efficiency fixtures and delegates were asked to assist in saving water.

Sustainable procurement

Significant equipment and goods are purchased by event organisers and made available to participants by sponsors such as conference bags and gifts. Considering sustainability criteria in such purchases can significantly improve the environmental impact of the event and the purchase of local products also promotes local economic development. The conference team specifically considered these criteria in the preparation and implementation of the event.

The main venue (CTICC) was selected due to it's commitment to cleaner production within its management system, including water efficiency, energy efficiency and on-site waste recycling. They also purchase their fresh produce locally whenever possible and comply with the SASSI (SA Sustainable Seafood Initiative) guide. The accommodation of the speakers (Westin Grand and Cullinan Hotels) were required to provide their environmental policies and talks were given to their staff around the importance of environmental awareness within the hotel, and what they can do at their homes.

All delegate bags were made by a local skills empowerment organisation (Learn to Earn) with benefits to their community and speaker gifts have been sourced from socially responsible service providers.

The choice of foods served at the convention has been guided by a preference for locally sourced seasonal produce and organic where possible. Focus was placed on "slow foods" and healthy food with a low GI rating. Beef was specifically excluded from the menu and replaced with free range lamb or chicken. The wine provided during the cocktail function and gala dinner was from the Backsberg Estate which is the first wine producer in South Africa and one of only three in the world to gain Carbon Neutral status by sequestrating its carbon emissions. Print material, such as the programme, was printed on locally sourced paper made from sugar cane fibre - SAPPI TripleGreen.

Green building

Buildings that consider 'green' or sustainability issues in their design and management will use significantly fewer resources (such as water and energy) over their lifetimes. Venues that implement cleaner development technologies should be supported. The CTICC is a venue that strives to implement sustainable principles in its venue management.

Media and awareness strategy

Much of the environmental impact of the event is through the actions of participants and the staff. Awareness-raising is important to influence positive behaviour, as well as to highlight the efforts to host an environmentally responsible event. Conference delegates were requested to actively participate in the event greening where possible.

A stand was sponsored by the GBCSA to illustrate the interventions done specifically for the event, as well as a list of things that delegates can do to assist. A carbon off-set legacy project is also supported by the GBCSA and delegates were challenged to determine their carbon footprint at the event greening stand. A carbon calculator was specifically designed for the event so that delegates can work out their carbon footprint based on their personal car usage. If they wish to make a voluntary carbon contribution they received a fridge magnet made from recycled tin cans. Delegates will also be informed via email about the carbon legacy project when it is implemented.

The proposed carbon legacy project is a solar water heater at a community centre in a township, which will reduce their need to use electricity and thus also reduce the overall carbon contribution on the larger scale. Further details to follow soon.

Clear reporting and monitoring framework

It is important to establish a clear framework for measuring, monitoring and reporting the impact of the greening programme and the event as a whole. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol and the associated IOS 14064/5 standards for emission inventories was used during this event to enable the performance to be assessed and allows benchmarking of future events. A full report will follow, but the interim report is available and attached.

What can delegates do?

You can assist us with event greening through considering the following when attending this event:

  • When selecting your accommodation, request if the venue has an environmental policy. Hotels should give guests the choice to re-use their towel and not just replace it every day, as this saves water and energy as well as reduces the need for using chemicals. Hotels with key cards linked to their lights and air-conditioning also use less energy.
  • When selecting your flights, request if the airline has a carbon off-set policy so that you can off-set your flight emissions directly with the airline.
  • When arranging your local transport, request an airport transport instead of hiring a car to minimise single occupancy vehicles. Also consider getting accommodation within walking distance of the venue to avoid the need for transport.
  • When purchasing any products, specifically for the exhibition, consider the waste impact that these products might have. The main aim is to reduce the creation of waste in the first place whenever possible - waste that cannot be avoided should be re-used or recycled. Different bins will be provided for recycling of waste within the exhibition area for exhibitors and delegates.
  • At the conference you will have the opportunity to determine your own carbon footprint and learn more about your impact on the environment.

The Conference Greening Team

The greening of the event was implemented by Steadfast Greening in collaboration with Agama Energy. Further details available on request.

Grace Stead Steadfast Greening
0767 80 70 10