Sustainable Event Practices | SB'14 San Diego

SB'14 San Diego Sustainability Goals

Sustainable Brands© has always been committed to reducing the environmental impact of our own events, to sharing our knowledge, and to making a positive mark on our host communities. The event planning team works closely with all vendors and stakeholders involved to follow a sustainable event framework that was developed in accordance with the leading international event industry standards – ISO 20121 Event Sustainability Management Systems and APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards. Let us share some of our work in this arena and what was planned for SB'14 San Diego:







For the first time, our goal was to have zero-waste (90% diversion from land-fill) across the entire island, including all restaurants and hotel rooms. In the past, we have only included the conference center & related activities. Waste Management sponsored our zero-waste efforts this year, and 1 to 1 Movement supplied our Sustainability Team volunteers.


Carbon Neutral

100% of the carbon emissions from the event are offset by Offsetters, including attendee and staff travel and accommodation. The two offset projects used for this event are the Mai Ndombe REDD+ in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Great Bear Forest Carbon Project, which is home to the largest intact coastal temperate rainforest remaining in the world

Water Neutral

The water impact of the event, including attendee accommodation, is neutralized by support of Colorado River water restoration projects through Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

ISO 20121 Compliance

SB'13 reached a SEMS score of 81%, meaning the event was in compliance with the ISO 20121 standard. The SB'14 score is being calculated and reported on by Arell Logic, and will be announced soon.


100% Local Food Sourcing

Building upon the success we had last year, with about 80% of the food sourced locally, we're aiming to have close to 100% of food from local or sustainable sources. Paradise Point's chef has established lasting partnerships with local farms, and they are now offering local food as an option on their permanent food and beverage menus. In addition, we worked with a humane food sponsor, World Animal Protection, to provide humane dairy and poultry options for many of the conference menus, specifically Mary’s free-range, organic Chicken, cage-free, local eggs from Mike & Sons in Ontario, CA, and organic, bulk yogurt from cows not treated with rBGH.


Leaving a Legacy

Paradise Point kept the composting program on a permanent basis, has established a Sustainability Team of their own with a full-time dedicated staff member, implemented resource conservation efforts across the property and established partnerships with more local farms for food sourcing.

Paperless Event

Using CrowdCompass to develop all of the 2014 Sustainable Brands event mobile apps will allow us to make movement towards becoming a paperless event.  By creating our mobile app we were able to post venue/exhibition maps, programming updates, attendee feedback surveys, and sponsor advertising and content.


Highlighted SB'13 Sustainability Efforts:

We had plenty of efforts in place to reach these goals, and would love to share how we did it. Read on for more detailed information, and hopefully to learn how to increase the positive impact of your own event(s). If you have any questions at all or if we can help you in your efforts, don't hesitate to get in touch with Valerie Miller.

Venue Selection

Paradise Point Resort & Spa, San Diego

The venue was selected for its high potential for impact reduction and for their management's willingness to collaborate with and learn from SB and our partners in that arena. Since we first visited them, their commitment and ongoing effort to reduce the environmental footprint has been demonstrated by their Destination Earth program, including:

  • Energy Efficiency: LED lighting used throughout the property; indoor and outdoor lighting limited when possible
  • Transportation: All-electric car2go car-sharing program for guest and employee use around San Diego; engineering, bellmen, and security staff utilize electric carts or bicycles for transportation; bike racks and skateboard storage for employees
  • Waste Reduction: Landscaping debris is repurposed as mulch/fertilizer, recycling and composting program implemented for SB'13 with infrastructure and training established for the program to stay in place permanently (pending approval from the City of San Diego)
  • Toxic Chemical Elimination: Housekeeping attendants only clean with "Green Seal Certified" bathroom cleaners and carpet solutions
  • Water Conservation: Linen-less meeting rooms help conserve water and laundry chemical use; Guestroom bathrooms feature low flow toilets and shower heads; waterless urinals utilized in men's restrooms; 3-day standard linen replacement program in guestrooms with opt-out option; smart irrigation systems for landscaping property-wide
  • Community Involvement: Official partner of Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter for protection of waterways and beaches.


Paradise Point Head Chef and F&B Team

Much effort and focus was put in to the menu selection and sourcing of the food, in collaboration with the Chef and team at Paradise Point to ensure a lower impact from the food served at the conference. We also took advantage of the opportunity to educate the audience about food choices; to show that it is possible to choose lower impact options without sacrificing flavor or nutrition - even on a large scale.

  • Local Sourcing: Menu items are sourced from local and organic farms wherever possible
  • Waste Reduction: Water pitcher and glasses are used in place of bottled water, condiments are served in bulk, all drinks are served in bulk (except for a small selection of soft drinks and bottled beer), all food and beverage is served on china and silverware; no disposable kitchenware is used
  • Waste Diversion: Comprehensive composting and recycling program is in place during food prep and throughout the conference venue
  • Low Impact Options: Each catered meal includes a vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free option; some meals are served entirely vegetarian or vegan, including the main evening event of the conference; all plated meals are fully vegetarian or vegan by default

Waste Reduction

In collaboration with all vendors and exhibitors

The entire planning process is focused on reducing waste as much as possible, and this is where a lot of the decision that affect the final impact is made. There are more efforts in this arena than we even have room to mention, but let us go through some of the main areas where we work hard to reduce waste in the planning process:

  • Design and Signage: All signage is printed on recyclable materials like cardboard and wood, and a lot of it on materials that are already recycled, like our banners who are all printed on fabric that once used to be PET bottles. Moreover, we only print what is necessary and design our signage so that they can be reused over several years. The banners we can't reuse - they are sent to Relan to be turned in to super-cool bags for our own team.
  • Expo Floor: Sustainability guidelines are distributed to all exhibitors and they are encouraged to reduce printing, not print dates or event name on the materials so they can reuse them later, and we enforce a pack-in, pack-out policy, meaning everything they bring to the event, they have to bring back with them.
  • Gift Lounge and Give-aways: We use the gift lounge to showcase sustainable products, and to help promote and enable sustainable lifestyles. Instead of a giftbag to all attendees, we supply the gifts in a lounge where attendees choose what they want to take home. We do not accept typical swag items like pens and bottle openers with logos on them; we encourage useful and educational products from our sponsors. At SB'13, we gave away compost bins for your home kitchen, bags made from recycled billboards, natural self-care products, healthy snacks, biodegradable watches etc. Yes, we could get rid of the gift lounge and all the 'stuff' all together, but we believe in showcasing solutions to encourage a better lifestyle, not boycotting products alltogether.

Waste Diversion

In partnership with 1:1 Movement and Waste Management

With great assistance from the locally based 1:1 Movement and Waste Management in San Diego, SB'13 worked closely with the conference venue to implement a comprehensive waste diversion system to separate recyclables, compostables and waste for pre-event and days-of production efforts. What couldn't be reduced in the planning phase, we focused on diverting away from landfill in the execution phase. Here's how we did that:

  • Sustainability Team: A team of volunteers from the 1:1 Movement was assembled to help with the on site logistics of waste sorting and tracking on site
  • Recycling: Placed recycling bins in every hotel room (a program the hotel has committed to keep in place permanently); added recycling bins next to all trash bins at back of house; trained all managers and staff on proper recycling (and compost) sorting; set up a comprehensive sorting station at the back of house where the Sustainability Team re-sorted all waste before going in to correct dumpsters; recycling stations on expo floor.
  • Composting: In collaboration with Waste Management, compost bins were placed at each recycling and waste station at the back of the house; managers and staff were trained on proper sorting of compost and food waste; all restaurants on site were included in the same program; and a compost dumpster was brought in to the property.
  • Terracycle: Waste items like granola bar wrappers, chip bags, pens and other items traditionally not recycled in municipal waste streams were sorted out and sent to Terracycle to get upcycled
  • Donations: Any leftover materials or items from the gift lounge were donated to local organizations

Energy Conservation and Carbon Measurement

In partnership with Paradise Point, PS Audio Visual and Freeman

The venue and suppliers are aware of energy reduction measures included in the event sustainability framework including:

  • Enforcing a power-down policy for electronic equipment when not in use
  • Adjust indoor air temperatures to match with when meeting rooms are in use
  • Reducing heating/cooling during set-up and teardown
  • Eliminate idling for vehicles when not in use

Offset Programs

In partnership with Native Energy, Windmade and Bonneville Environmental Foundation

Where we are not able to reduce our impact any further, we partner with offset organizations to offset or restore the resources spent, by supporting projects that do so elsewhere. Our offset programs include:

  • Carbon: All carbon emissions produced by the event, including conference venue, hotel rooms, staff and attendee travel are offset by our Official Carbon Offset Partner, Native Energy
  • Electricity: Our partner, WindMade, ensures the event is 100% wind-certified and that all the electricity we use come from wind sources.
  • Water: The event's water impact is calculated and the same amount of gallons of water spent is being restored to rivers via river restoration projects by Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

ISO 20121 Sustainability Compliance

In partnership with Three Squares, Inc.

In order to earn ISO 20121 compliance, Three Squares Inc. worked closely with the SB'13 team, conference venue, and event suppliers to ensure that materials sourced for the event are held to the highest environmental standard and documentation was gathered for upload to the online certification system. The online Sustainable Event Management System (SEMS) Tool was used to measure event compliance with the standard and audit the event activities on site. The total event score ended at 81%, which is compliant with ISO 20121. 

Onsite Activitites

For Health and Wellness

SB'13 featured several activities and efforts outside the main conference program to ensure attendees had an overall healthy experience at the conference. Some of these included:

  • Morning yoga sessions available complimentary every day
  • Stand Up Paddleboards available in the afternoon and SUP Yoga sessions organized in the morning
  • Attendees encouraged to go for a run outside or take advantage of the outdoor yoga sessions instead of using electronic equipment at the hotel fitness center
  • Healthy menus throughout the week for all conference food and beverage events
  • Homemade Agua Frescas and other non-alcoholic drink options at all evening events
  • Swapped out soft drinks for healthier juices and homemade Agua Frescas at morning & afternoon breaks

Event Planning Office

San Francisco, CA

Most of the conference planning happens from our headquarters in San Francisco. Our office follows these practices throughout the year, and for all events we work on:

  • Recycling, composting and e-waste collection throughout the office
  • Minimal printing on 100% recycled paper
  • All ink cartridges, batteries, lightbulbs etc are recycled
  • Permanent Terracycle bins for wrappers, pens etc that can't go in the municipal waste-stream
  • Non-toxic cleaning products throughout
  • Office kitchen features china, silverware and glassware (no disposables), fair trade organic coffee, and condiments in bulk.

Many of these efforts and results would not have been possible without the collaboration of our partners. An immense thank you goes out to them for the willingness to work with us, the time, training and efforts, the collaboration and brain-storming to figure out tricky challenges along the way, and yes, even for dumpster-diving when it came down to it! You have our utmost gratitude for your partnerships.

User login