|By George Pyle, The Buffalo News,
N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
October 1, 2009 - It's no longer enough to roll out the red carpet for organizations looking for cities to host their next conventions.
That, say its leaders, is why the Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau is rolling out the green carpet for the increasing number of event planners who want to know how environmentally friendly a hotel or convention center is before booking the kind of meeting that can bring many people and a lot of money to a community.
The bureau's "Green & Mean (it)" green hospitality initiative was formally unveiled Wednesday morning by the bureau, Erie County Executive Chris Collins and the management of the Hyatt Regency Buffalo downtown.
"The national focus in the tourism industry is going green," Collins said. "There are conferences and events that will not come to your city if you do not have a green initiative."
Planting such an initiative for the Buffalo area fell to Cheryl Zanghi, formally the bureau's director of services, but Wednesday crowned the "queen of green" by the bureau's acting CEO, Drew Cerza.
"Going green is no longer a choice, but a requirement," Zanghi said. "Industry research shows that over 67 percent of meeting professionals are looking for sustainable practices when considering holding an event in a particular city."
Zanghi was the bureau's lead designer of its green hospitality self-certification workbook, a 15-page checklist of practices and equipment that hotels, restaurants and convention centers can use to establish themselves as sustainable businesses.
They include such things as saving paper by encouraging online registration and recyclable name tags, providing hybrid rental cars or rental bicycles, using locally grown food, composting food waste and planting trees to offset carbon emissions.
The event gave Hyatt General Manager Mike Marsch the opportunity to not only brag about the hotel's high-efficiency lighting and low-flow shower heads, but also to show off Executive Chef Matthew Stellrecht's rooftop herb garden.
The rapidly growing garden, Stellrecht said, provides practically all of the sage, rosemary, chives, scallions and parsley (flat and Italian) his kitchens require. It does it with no chemicals, no carbon-intensive transportation and, thanks to the rain and a rain barrel provided by the Buffalo Riverkeeper organization, little need for city water.
Next spring, he said, the garden will get bigger, adding room for such plants as tomatoes and squash. And it is all planted in soil that came from Buffalo's Good Earth Horticulture composting program, which had already received 13 tons of food scraps from the same hotel.
Marsch said the hotel's move toward environmentally friendly fixtures and practices not only makes the facility look good to green-thinking event planners, it also helps the hotel save money on everything from water and heat to paper and food.
"Our goal is to expand our garden dramatically and set the example for the rest of our industry," Marsch said. "It makes great business sense."
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