Chihuly Gardens
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum DConnolly ©2019

A proper Mojito starts with a bar spoon of sugar and 3 slices of lime in the bottom of a shaker. Top that with 14-16 fresh mint leaves, and muddle them gently into the padding to release the delicate oils. Be careful not to bruise the leaves or we will extract chlorophyll, and give us a bitter drink. Fill the glass with ice, 1.5 oz white rum, 1/2 cup club soda, and stir gently. Voila – this perfect blend of refreshment is for you. Now let’s settle, and I’ll share the story of our recent green event at the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC). Welcome to my twelfth blog about green events, cocktails and convention centers. This one takes us to Seattle, Washington.

Main Stage look and feel, created with rear-screen projection and gobo lighting

Speaking of perfect blends, there is almost nothing better than being on a team that plays together like a well-rehearsed orchestra. With the right team, it’s downright exciting when you tackle a live event as technically complex as a DrupalCon and it goes well. This open source community gathering of web developers has high social and environmental standards, as well as serious tech specs. Our event requires a robust WiFi network, an archive system capable of capturing 100’s of live sessions, and the typical full range of main stage production and registration needs. I’m extremely grateful that we have a seasoned crew that compliments and supports each other, has the technical chops, the instincts to anticipate, and the focus to bring it all that together in synchronization.

But we can’t do it alone; we are only as good as our venue. The WSCC and their partners, Aramark, Edlen Electrical and SmartCity, brought their A-teams. We were well-supported in every department and the WSCC crews worked seamlessly with our crew to produce one of the smoothest and greenest events to date.

I have spent a good part of my career consulting on venue selection for large-scale events and evaluating and comparing venue sustainability programs. Even in the last 2 years, I’ve met with convention centers that still do use non-compostable plastics and look at you strangely when you ask. Happily, the WSCC already gets it right.

As event planners, our greatest area of opportunity for a positive impact is working with our catering and venue operation departments on catering choices. Working together with Aramark and the WSCC we achieved the following.

  • The WSCC features a scratch kitchen. Preparing meals ‘from scratch” means fresh ingredients, low food miles, and minimal food waste. Our catering manager John Blaharski and Chef from Aramark worked closely with us to create tasty meals for attendees, and made sure our gluten free, vegetarian and vegan attendees received nutritionally balanced offerings.
  • No single-use plastics were served to attendees, avoiding the use of 8,000 plastic bottles. Coffee, ice tea and water were served from bulk dispensers.
  • Meal choices included minimal red meat, lowering our CO2 footprint.
  • Organic choices ensured healthy options and avoided foods produced with pesticides, which pollute rivers and ground water.
  • Serving ware was composted by the WSCC, diverting waste from landfills.
  • All donatable food was delivered to a local food bank.

If you would like ideas and guidelines on other ways event planners can effect positive change, check out the Event Industry Council’s Sustainable Event Guidelines, recently updated to incorporate the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS), and the APEX/ASTM standards. You don’t have to be a large organization to work on your lowering your event footprint. Simply pick a few areas to focus on, set goals, and measure your results to inform your continuous improvement.

DrupalCon is a conference for web developers, and we have a track record of hitting the venue’s WiFi network hard. In the 17 shows we’ve helped produce, only 2 shows have had flawless wifi, and Seattle is the first event in the U.S. to claim this honor. Kudos to Timothy Wass and the team from SmartCity, our WiFi and network partner at the WSCC, and our network consultant Brian Marlow. Working together, they were able to trouble-shoot and fine-tune network settings over the weekend to make sure it was ready for attendees on Monday. 

We have to heartily thank Jennifer Fahey, our event manager at the WSCC, who was our constant through the planning process and on site, turning around floor plans, and kept a cheerful demeanor even after our one-millionth question. I logged 880 e-mails to or from Jennifer, and I was only one of the team needing her support. A big thank you also goes to Liz Brostrum from Edlen, who really took care to make sure our rooms were wired up and ready for our developers.

I need a large format sign to adequately thank Washington Graphics, who produced our green signage. They were green, agile, understood our spreadsheet with 100+ rows of signs, and were easy and fun to work with.

We production folks are a work hard / play hard kind of animal. We love to get out and explore the cities we work in. Thanks to Troy Anderson and Katy Willis with Visit Seattle, who helped navigate us to a few favorite hot spots….

Dean Shivers, Lead Mixologist at the gorgeous Cedarbrook Lodge, led a fantastic mixology class for our team. Our team loved the hands-on activity and had fun catching up and learning together. We enjoyed touring the beautiful meeting spaces and grounds, then dined at the delicious and lovely Copperleaf Bar and Terrace.

Over in Belltown we enjoyed Tavolàta; you would love their house-made rigatoni with sausage and grilled asparagus with Parmesan Fonduta. Then off to the whimsical Unicorn Bar on Capitol Hill, featuring an imaginative cocktail menu, darkly humorous carnival decor, and a stage where one of your crew might spontaneously perform on open mic night. We were delightfully surprised by the brand new Hyatt Regency’s outdoor deck with fire pit and supply of purple fuzzy blankies. Our team spent each night on the deck recapping the day and telling road stories, warmed by the fire and grateful for the crisp Pacific Northwest air. You will love MoPop, a 140,000 sq ft. pop culture museum designed by Frank Gehry, with permanent exhibits dedicated to Seattle natives Nirvana and Jimmy Hendrix. Located between the WSCC and the Hyatt we found Tribeca Kitchen & Bar, which features house-made pasta, a great wine list and a casual atmosphere where we felt so at home, we ate there twice. If you haven’t been to the Starbuck’s Reserve flagship store on Capitol Hill: you need to. The insane interior design is worth a visit, and you are probably aware the coffee from this Seattle-based company isn’t too bad either. Oh – and yes, that was us, at Bootie Seattle at the ReBar Lounge. We were there for the Arianna Grande vs. Everyone Mash Up Dance Party and were unable to resist the dance floor. A great place to shake off an 8 day event before heading home the next day.

Until next time, Cheers!

Diana

If you enjoyed this and want to read about other adventures in green event planning – you can find the rest of the series here.