2013 Greening the Conference

Each year, I2SL strives to make the annual conference as green as possible and "walk the talk" of sustainability. We take this into account when searching for host cities, convention centers, hotels, and vendors, and select facilities and companies that share our commitment to sustainability.

The city of Minneapolis is equally focused on environmental sustainability, with city-wide initiatives that range from stormwater management (e.g., green roofs, rain barrels) to supporting pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Minneapolis is ranked as the eighth greenest metro area in the country, and the seventh least wasteful city. I2SL is proud to bring the 2013 I2SL Annual Conference to such an environmentally minded city.

The following are some of the ways in which I2SL helped reduce the environmental impact of this year's event.

Energy Reduction

  • Between 2003 and 2011, Labs21 purchased 506,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of renewable energy credits to offset carbon emissions resulting from the annual conference. This total is equivalent to the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from more than 40,000 gallons of gasoline consumed!
  • The Minneapolis Convention Center (MCC) reduced its energy use from 144 billion British thermal units (Btu) in 2009 to 137 billion Btu in 2011. The MCC's energy goal is to further reduce its energy usage by 10 percent by 2015 through retro-commissioning, improved scheduling of staff (i.e., eliminating overnight shift), and energy systems, as well as a series of lighting upgrades.
  • The MCC's heating and cooling systems are monitored 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week to ensure event spaces are only conditioned when in use. All MCC air handling equipment operates with high efficiency motors and variable speed drives.
  • The MCC's exterior doors are monitored and staffed during event load-in and load-out to conserve conditioned air. The installation of high speed roll-up doors in the MCC's exhibition halls will further reduce heating and cooling costs.
  • The MCC lighting system is computer controlled and event space lighting is adjusted to various levels based on occupancy. Additionally, MCC is in the process of retrofitting the lighting in Exhibition Hall A to LEDs. This project is expected to reduce the energy needed for lighting that area by more than 72 percent.
  • Most MCC escalators are powered on only during event hours.
  • The MCC rooftop boasts a 600 kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic system made up of 2,613 panels that are not visible from the street level. This is the largest solar electricity array in the Upper Midwest and has been in use since November 2010. The solar array is connected directly to the facility's internal electrical system, producing 750,000 kWh of renewable electricity per year—the equivalent of powering 85 homes—and offsetting 539 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. With this solar array providing about 5 percent of its power, the MCC now receives 15 percent of its electrical energy from renewable sources.
  • In the Hilton Minneapolis guest rooms, body heat sensitive thermostats and door switches reduce guest room energy use by 30 percent, and the fluorescent light bulbs used in guest bathrooms, desk lamps, and bedside lamps save approximately 4,600 kilowatts annually. LED lighting is also installed in all public areas including ballroom/meeting space and the lobby, saving an additional 800 kilowatts annually.
  • The hotel is also committed to saving energy through its building equipment and operations. For example:
    • The facility's chiller plant has been retrofitted with variable speed drive controls to conserve electrical consumption on moderate cooling demands.
    • Domestic pumping stations have been replaced with a new vertical multistage pump package with variable speed motors.
    • The hotel's Energy Management system is continually upgraded to provide the most efficient control of building operating and HVAC equipment.
    • A new steam boiler plant with Sync package delivers added efficiency.

Sustainable Meals

Kelber Catering, the exclusive caterer for the MCC, is a major supporter of the center's sustainability program.

  • Kelber Catering has eliminated nearly all of its food waste by donating consumable, un-served food products to local charities and participating in the food-to-hogs program through Second Harvest/Barthold Farms. This program takes Kelber Catering's non-consumable food waste to hogs, preventing an estimated 100 tons of food waste each year from being land-filled or incinerated.
  • Fryer grease has been collected and recycled for several years. Most recently, Kelber Catering partnered with Minneapolis-based Cedar Bio Fuel to "close the loop" and process its waste oil into a cleaning product for use on Kelber Catering's own exhaust hoods.
  • Kelber Catering went "green" in 2009 by changing more than 90 percent of its disposable products to sustainable products. Cold drink cups, dinnerware, packaging, hot cups, napkins, paper towels, and more are produced from renewable resources, or are biodegradable or compostable, and items chosen are produced with the highest recycled content available.  
  • Kelber Catering uses bulk condiments whenever possible.
  • Kelber Catering acquires green coffee directly sourced from growers and roasts all coffee on-premise for all Convention Center coffee needs.  
  • Kelber Catering uses locally-sourced produce and products whenever possible, and also has a process by which it can offer local, seasonal and organic food menu options for catered events.
  • Kelber Catering has long contributed to the MCC's overall recycling effort through a robust kitchen recycling program that collects, sorts, and recycles aluminum/steel cans, plastic and glass bottles, and cardboard/paper products. 
  • The Hilton Minneapolis also has a sustainable food and beverage initiative in place and works closely with the local community to donate or recycle its food waste. The hotel recycles more than 44,000 pounds of food annually.

    • Food that has been exposed to the public (scrap), as well as kitchen prep waste, are picked up by Second Harvest and processed into hog feed for local farmers.
    • Leftover food that has been ordered for large convention groups is often donated to local shelters or charity organizations.
    • The Hilton Minneapolis works with the Heartland Food Network to purchase locally grown organic food from farmers in the Minneapolis area.

Waste Reduction

  • The MCC's goal is to recycle 40 percent of all waste by 2012 and 75 percent by 2015.
  • The MCC recycles cardboard, cans, glass, plastic bottles, paper, wood, carpet, metal, and yard waste. Multi-stream containers collect waste throughout the facility. In addition, the MCC installed 300 new recycling bins in the public areas to educate visitors about recycling and composting.
  • The MCC is in the process of renovating an underutilized storage building to become a Resource Recovery Center that will enable the facility to sort its waste in a way that would not be possible with its existing infrastructure. The Resource Recovery Center is expected to be operational by 2013. MCC also received $30,000 in grant funding from Hennepin County to support compost integration.
  • In 2010, MCC's roof replacement featured 100 percent recycling and reuse of existing roofing materials. The insulation was preserved and reused, the rubber membrane was recycled, and the ballast rock went into landscaping and road-work projects.
  • The terrazzo floor throughout the MCC lobby areas has been refinished to allow maintenance free from waxes, sealers, and stripping chemicals.
  • 95 percent of cleaning products used by MCC are Green Seal certified.
  • MCC restroom cleaning and sanitizing is performed by a single machine utilizing Green Seal-certified agents to substantially reduce chemical use.
  • The Technology and Services Fair will utilize a range of waste-reducing techniques, including:
      • Carpet with a minimum 25 percent post-industrial recycled content and that is 100 percent recyclable.
      • Computerized tools for efficient material cutting and waste reduction.
      • E-Literature rack that eliminates the printing of thousands of brochures.
      • Printed materials produced on printers that emit no volatile organic compounds, are made from 100 percent recycled material, and are 100 percent recyclable.
      • Recyclable wastebaskets and biodegradable liners.
      • Solvent-free paints and water-based biodegradable products.
      • Table tops and skirts made from recyclable material.
  • The Hilton Minneapolis recycles all cardboard products and uses a recycling packer to compress approximately 98 tons of cardboard annually. In addition, 90-gallon recycling carts are used to recycle over 7 tons of plastic and glass each year.
  • In addition to recycling, the Hilton is committed to reducing waste through its housekeeping operations.
    • The guest room bed linens are made from pure organic cotton (grown without use of pesticides), and the mattress covers are made of natural bamboo (a sustainable and naturally anti-microbial fabric).
    • The laundry department no longer uses softeners in the wash, which reduces chemicals and extends the quality life of bed sheets.
    • Wash cloths and towels that are no longer up to Hilton standards are turned into cleaning rags or donated to various local shelters.
    • Used shampoo, conditioner, and lotion are donated to local shelters, and used bar soap is collected and donated to the Global Soap Project.
  • I2SL will strive to make the conference as paperless as possible:
    • Prior to the conference, the agenda and speaker abstracts will be posted to the I2SL website instead of being distributed in hard copy format. Additionally, attendees will receive a copy of the attendee list via email instead of receiving a printed copy on site.
    • During the conference, hard copy handouts will be limited to only necessary items, such as the conference program.
    • After the conference, speakers' presentations will be posted to the I2SL website, and an evaluation will be distributed electronically to attendees.

Water Conservation

  • In 2011, MCC's water use decreased from its 2009 benchmark of 14 million gallons to 13 million gallons.
  • MCC's goal is to reduce water use by 50 percent by 2015 by targeting improvements in landscaping, restrooms, and kitchens.
    • MCC plans to renovate 32 restrooms with low-flow toilets, faucets, and urinals.
    • In the kitchen, MCC is purchasing new dishwashers and spray nozzles, which use less water.
    • MCC is currently exploring the feasibility of a water-reuse system that would collect as much as 21 million gallons of stormwater from its 27-acre roof to be reused for landscaping, event water features, and cleaning loading dock areas. Funding for this feasibility study is being funded from a grant through the Mississippi Watershed organization.
  • All renovations made will meet the criteria of using less than 50 percent of the pre-retrofit system.
  • The Hilton Minneapolis washes 3,000,000 pounds of laundry per year. The Ozone Laundry System (OLS) installed in 2008 reduces the typical load of laundry from 198 gallons to 89 gallons of hot water. Since the installation of OZONE, the hotel has reduced its carbon footprint by 209,000 pounds.
  • To help further reduce its water consumption, the hotel's housekeeping staff washes bed sheets every four days for extended stay guests (unless otherwise requested). Also, all guest rooms are equipped with water-conserving shower head and toilet fixtures.

Transportation Around Town

Minneapolis encourages residents and visitors to use their feet as a low-polluting, cost-effective, and healthy way to travel. More than 92 percent of streets in Minneapolis have sidewalks on both sides, resulting in nearly 1,800 miles of sidewalks in the city. Minneapolis has been designated by Walk Friendly Communities as a Gold-level community due to the city's excellent planning policies, high level of staff commitment to pedestrian safety, and pedestrian campaigns and events.

Minneapolis was also ranked as the best biking city in the country by Bike Score, the #2 biking city by Bicycling Magazine, and the #4 bicycling city in the nation by the U.S. Census Bureau. Minneapolis has 81 miles of on-street bikeways and 85 miles of off-street bikeways. 

Metro Transit operates one of the largest public transportation systems in the country. Its light-rail transit system connects downtown Minneapolis (including the hotels and convention center) with the airport, Mall of America, and 18 other stations. Visit the Metro Transit website for more information, fares, and schedules.

What Attendees Can Do to Make the Conference Greener

  • Explore other travel options besides flying to Minneapolis, such as taking the train.
  • Reuse your hotel linens and take quick showers to minimize water use.
  • Tell the hotel to hold your daily newspaper if you don't plan to read it.
  • Instruct housekeeping to replace your sheets only at the end of your stay.
  • Turn off any lights, TVs, or computers in your hotel room when not in use.
  • Bring your own water bottle and/or coffee mug from home to reduce waste on site.
  • Reuse your water bottles and drink from the water stations instead of using disposable plastic bottles.
  • Turn in your name tag at the end of the conference for reuse at next year's conference.
  • Whenever possible, walk, carpool, or take public transportation around town.
  • Return any unused handouts to vendors or conference organizers to reuse or recycle.

Easy Ways to Reduce Your Travel Emissions

You, too, can be a part of I2SL's effort to reduce its travel emissions! Check out the innovative programs listed below that offer great ways to reduce CO2 emissions for everyday life and your trip to the I2SL Annual Conference.


NativeEnergy uses the money donated to its program to help finance and support renewable energy projects such as wind farms and dairy farm methane digesters. Simply calculate your carbon footprint using an online calculator and pay your way to a better, cleaner environment. 

Explore the NativeEnergy website for more information.


TerraPass's online calculator will determine your car's approximate CO2emissions. Based on that number, you can buy a TerraPass that ranges in price from $40 to $80. This money is used to support environmental initiatives that reduce industrial CO2 emissions.

See the TerraPass website for more information.

Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF)

BEF's online calendar will determine the approximate carbon footprint of your flight or drive and allow you to buy a corresponding amount of dedicated funds to the development of renewable energy sources like solar power and wind farms to reduce carbon emissions.

See the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) website for more information.


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