Welcome to Texas y’all!—the Lone Star State welcomes people from all walks of life with open arms, hosting an estimated 255 million visitors in 2015. More than 1.3 million Texans work in the retail and hospitality sector, making Texas the second largest employer in the U.S. for this industry. From LEED® Certified buildings that make your stay sustainable to farm-to-table restaurants that support local ranches, hospitality leaders are developing a model for conservation.From energy use to recycling, the Austin Convention Center is on a sustainability mission, one that it takes seriously and implements throughout all operations.
“Many people from outside Texas or even the U.S. who come to Austin and participate in a conference or convention are being introduced to Austin at the Convention Center,” says Camala Jones RLA, LEED O+M, Austin Convention Center Environmental Compliance Specialist & Sustainability Coordinator. “Conservation of resources is one of the ways in which we provide outstanding services to our customers, so that they have a positive experience.”
The facility sits in bustling downtown Austin, a few blocks from the shores of Lady Bird Lake. Over the past decade, the operators have consistently managed to drop energy, water, and natural gas usage by 30 percent or more. In 2011, a retrofit of the building received Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® program: lights and fixtures were upgraded from incandescent bulbs to LED lighting, and the building now runs wholly on wind energy purchased through Austin Energy’s Green Choice Program.
Maintenance is crucial to keeping energy usage down. The building’s staff continually checks heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems to keep them working as efficiently as possible. The center also has an extensive recycling and composting program.
“We consistently divert over 50 percent of waste generated in the facility from the landfill,” Jones says, noting that the effort reflects the close watch that employees keep on what enters the waste stream, with anything salvageable or recyclable sent to auction, state surplus, Goodwill, or Austin’s city recycling or composting programs.
Austin Convention Center also serves as a local role model. “Because the Austin Convention Center Department is an enterprise department, I see it as being able to implement newer energy and water conserving technologies to show other similar organizations that upgrading to better technologies will save money in the end,” added Mark Tester, Austin Convention Center Department Director.