The National Conference Center, a training and conference facility for more than 40 years, has also been a leader in sustainability for a decade. The National commemorates Earth Day by celebrating its Green Seal™ and Virginia Green™ certifications, and its Loudoun County Green Business Challenge victory.
As sustainability and meeting experts, The National has identified five trends for meeting planners to consider when booking a Green Venue for their meeting.
1. The Grass Is Always Greener – When doing a site visit, take a look around. Is there a lot of outdoor space for attendees to take a walk, or a hike, or to sit quietly? Having a facility with outdoor space that is relaxing--even a space to meditate, is a natural way to encourage attendees to unwind. The National is set on 65 acres in the countryside of Loudoun County, and the grounds are covered with drought-resistant plants, trees, shrubs and/or native plants to minimize water use. The property is irrigated only when necessary and mulched plant beds are used to retain water. An integrated pest management program has also been implemented to research the use of organic insecticides and fertilizers. That’s how the grass stays “green”!
2. Food For Thought – Studies have shown that eating high-protein foods and less sugar keeps up energy, brainpower and focus. Pick a venue that understands the value of healthy food and breaks. Check out healthy recipes and a sampling of our Breakfast of Champions menu, developed by The National for meeting planners who look for healthy menu options. Taking it a step further, over 60 different food products have been purchased from Food Hub, which represents over 30 farms in Virginia and Maryland. Menus are created based on what is available during the season. Blueberry Power Shakes or Eggs Benedict with a Yogurt Hollandaise Sauce are just a few ideas.
3. Energy Savers – The most obvious way to see if a venue has sustainability as one of its mission statements is to look for energy-saving options. The National uses motion sensors in guest rooms to determine when rooms are unoccupied in order to maintain energy-saving heating and cooling. Also ask if the property utilizes an efficient energy management program to operate their Central Utility Plant. This saves a great deal of energy compared to operating the plant manually. The National recently completed a 5-year energy lighting plan to replace all lights with energy-efficient light bulbs. Every time The National replaces equipment in the meeting rooms (computers, monitors, copiers, etc.), guest rooms (TVs, etc.) or in the culinary program (refrigerators, freezers, ovens, dishwashers, etc.) only Energy Star-rated equipment is purchased. Ask the Chef if the last appliance they purchased was Energy Star-rated.
4. Logistics – Paperless check-in, digital brochures and uploading handouts to a website are just a few ways a conference planning department can help keep the paper count down. Ask your venue how water is provided. Plastic bottles are out; ceramic coolers with reusable cups are in. Use environmentally-friendly paper products (napkins, paper towels, etc.) that are biodegradable and recyclable. The National maintains a Waste Management Contract for single-stream recycling for glass, plastic, aluminum, metal, wood, cardboard and paper. Soon the property hopes to eliminate even the printed map of the complex given to every guest by developing an app for wayfinding.
5. Get Involved – Working with the local community or “paying it forward” may be a great way to tie your green mission to our green mission. The National can help organize a river cleanup program near Potomac River or the creek flowing through the property. We work very closely with our neighbor, Riverside High School, who can create a culinary team with students to learn about farm-to-table cooking. Work with one of many local charities to help clean a park or build a section of a home similar to Habitat for Humanity. The National’s conference planning department has many contacts in the local community.
With its reputation as an outstanding member of IACC, The National has hosted thousands of learning and training meetings and conferences over the years and has perfected the meeting experience. Under new management since 2014, The National is committed to sustainability for its guests and meeting planners. For more information, see their complete green program or call 800-640-2684.