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Northern Virginia Businesses Make a Green Splash!

Monday, October 31st, 2011

What do you get when you have more than 60 businesses collectively striving to win a top award for being sustainable at work? You get a joint community effort of employees devoted to sharing green practices and striving to make an impact by doing locally and thinking globally. It all began once upon a time when Loudoun County Supervisor Andrea McGimsey wanted to create a challenge for businesses to demonstrate how they’re being green while being rewarding for their efforts. Thus, her brain child the Loudoun County Green Business Challenge was born. If you aren’t familiar with the challenge, all year long participating businesses strive for the highest level of green achievement; the levels being silver, gold and platinum and then overall winners for each size business.

A common trend among the speakers was saving green by going green in which most employers agreed they spent some green to be green but long-term it helped them save green. Want to see how we saved green by going green? Read our blog post, Saving Green by Going Green for office ideas. 

Interviews – “What makes your business green?”

Mingling & talking green practices

NCC’s Green Diva/Team Leader and General Manager, Pat Trammell and  Kurt Krause

We hope you’ll gain some ideas from blog post on saving green by going green and the participating companies – and join us in the 2012 Loudoun County Green Business Challenge. You may find out that you have more eco-friendly practices in place than you realize. 63 businesses competed this year, up from last year’s count of 39. Congratulations to this year’s winners!


Telling a Story Through Pictures & Food

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

We may blog about Farm to Table often, but for guests/attendees who aren’t reading our blog, we help to tell this story through pictures and our food. Small labeled menu cards in our dining room distinguish which items are local and the area they were grown in such as Winchester, Virginia. An enlarged picture of Executive Chef Craig Mason and Farmer Dave, a source of our local produce at David & Linda Lay’s Mercantile are prominently displayed behind the salad bar and proudly explains our story of Farm to Table.

On the other hand, we have cooks who have been with us for years and become specialized in particular dishes. We wanted to highlight them through photos and a story of what first striked their interest in cooking. Photos of our Omelette Lady Paula Steves and soup connoisseur Ana Guzman are placed at their station, touting their story and describing why they’re so passionate about cooking. The next time you’re at The National Conference Center, stop and read their stories. You’ll understand why we appreciate serving you local goods over the other stuff and why our guests have such a connection to their food.

Farm to Table is a program and our promise to source locally grown produce and ingredients whenever possible. We define local as 150 miles within the conference center.

Greening Food & Beverage – NCC Case Study Makes It Into Book

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011


NCC’s Green Seal Case Study Makes It Into Book

What’s just as exciting than being certified by the Green Seal? We think being featured in a book by The Green Seal. Authored by Dr. Cheryl Baldwin, Green Seal’s Vice President of Science & Standards and industry experts, Andrew Shakman and John Turenne the book,  Greening Food and Beverage Services: A Green Seal Guide to Transforming the Industry focuses on green practices and standards. Among the list of green properties featured in the book, Washington, D.C.’s only LEED certified restaurant Founding Farmers – famous for their eco-friendly practices received well-deserved exposure in Chapter 5.

According to the Green Seal, “The book addresses the issue of greening food services at all levels whether operators are just beginning the journey or are well informed and advanced in reducing their environmental impact. Dr. Baldwin, along with the experts Andrea Shakman and John Turenne have put together a comprehensive resource on greening food services that is sure to become a staple for the industry.”

Published by the American Hotel & Lodging Institute, The National Conference Center is featured in Chapter 1 – check out the Table of Contents for a sneak preview of the Green Seal book. The above image was sent to our email list. If you’re interested in receiving 1 email from The National Conference Center a month, sign-up to “be in the know” and learn about meeting offers, exciting news and more.

As a planner, are green certifications a selling factor for you or just an added bonus? On a scale of (1-10), how do you rate the importance of green practices by venues?

GREEN: Is it Heading In New Directions for the Meeting Industry?

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Photo Credit: Embassy Volunteers by US Embassy London

Green! Everyone claims to be green. If you remember the interview with Traci Browne, 10 Selling Factors that Drive Traci Browne to Booking a Venue, Traci told us “More meeting planners are wanting to know what is green. If a venue claims to be green, show me how it’s green.” Traci wants to know what conference centers are doing to make the meetings green between bottled waters or a water cooler. She says, it goes beyond the claims of “being green.”

After seeing an article on TSNN yesterday, it’s evident that eco-friendly is going to be regularly integrated into meetings.

Meeting Professionals International (MPI) is making green a part of their initatives as a CSR component. Essentially, planners will now report on the meeting’s impact – economic, social and environmental. And, planners are also exploring new creative ways they can create green meetings and benefit the community.

Now it seems more than ever, it’s a matter of if the venue is actually green or not. Good news for green properties. In the article it states, “MPI also outlined new rules of engagement for meetings and events in the future. The association’s CEO, Bruce MacMillan, said that, as an industry, events need to be designed in a manner that positively affects the economic, social and environmental impact they have.”

MPI will also report on the meeting’s impact based on World Education Congress guidelines focused on CSR – basic sustainable meetings, measurement and strategy.

Is green heading in new directions for the meetings industry? It appears it is. It may no longer be a ploy to capture Generation Y who wants to participate in activities that “give-back,” but a new expectation for meetings. Similar to how Free WiFi is a basic essential in public space, green will soon become a common component of a meeting. And like all those who don’t jump on the bandwagon, they should expect to fall behind.

What are your thoughts on green as a regular component of meetings? How important is it to measure the social, economic and environmental impact of your meeting?

How to Successfully Place CSR in Your Meetings

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Photo Credit: WEBN-TV

CSR, the common acronym for Corporate Social Responsibility is becoming a popular trend in the meetings and events industry as more people from Generation Y enter the workforce (also known as a generation of “can-doers”) and the value of outside training seems to need a CSR component to it.

What are ways you can successfully adopt CSR initiatives into your meetings and conferences?

  1. Eco-friendly products - Purchase lanyards, USBs or other items that are made in the US and eco-friendly. It’s a small aspect of a meeting but attendees appreciate the value of eco-friendly items, if you choose to share this with them.
  2. Food miles play a role  – Choose suppliers such as caterers that use local ingredients. At NCC for instance, we often blog about how we grow our own herbs, established a farm to table program and did you know we recycle our canola oil? It’s used for tractors who harvest the corn for our canola oil – talk about a cyclical relationship.
  3. Venues – Is the venue going to have an impact on your organization’s reputation and/or corporate social responsibility? Choose a venue that can tell you about their green efforts and how they meet your objectives and uphold the reputation of your corporate social responsibility.
  4. Apps and Gaming – After Green Meetings Industry Council received overwhelming praise for their 2011 conference app Game On!, we can most likely expect to see a rise in conferences and meetings using apps for agendas, games, networking and more. It’s not only innovative but exhibits initiative in the future of green meetings.
  5. Donating in new ways  – Is it possible for you to arrange leftover banquet entrees to be donated to local charities? Worried about the legality and logistics of donating food to charitable organizations? Find out about the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act on the Feeding America website. Some donations could be as simple as reception centerpieces with fruit in vases – produce like oranges, grapefruits and avocados make ideal items that can easily be donated.
  6. Community service projects – Planners can implement community service projects in their meetings which educates attendees, creates last bonding experiences and many memories. Work with local chapters of a charitable organization where you’ll be meeting and volunteer in groups of teams.

What are some of your corporate social responsibility initatives when hosting meetings and/or conferences? Is it well-received by those attending? What’s your opinion on the subject?

10 tips to taking the heat out of this house

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Photo Credit:

In my efforts to continue to green my piece of the planet, I am always looking for ways to reduce energy consumption at NCC and at home. Below you will find 10 tips to keep the heat out of your energy bills.

  1. Raise your thermostat to 78. This will save energy and is still comfortable. OK, we may have a different definition of comfort. Try this with tip # 4.
  2. When away from home raise the thermostat even more – you can save up to 1% for each degree. Learn more by visiting the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY WEBSITE.
  3. Keep shades closed when the A/C is on. According to Dominion Power, sunshine on the windows accounts for 40% of the unwanted heat and can make your A/C work even harder.
  4. Install ceiling fans – moving air makes you feel cooler and you may not need the A/C as much.
  5. Run large appliances in the late evening as dishwashers, dryers and washing machines produce heat.
  6. Check and clean all air filters. Replacing filters monthly allows the A/C system to run more efficiently.
  7. Replace old appliances. New appliances are more energy efficient. Look for the energy star label when planning a major purchase.
  8. Unplug equipment when not in use. Electrical equipment uses energy and produce heat even when not in use.
  9. Use cold water to wash clothes; this will save on heating costs and some machines may also use less water on the cold cycle.
  10. Turn off the lights when exiting a room. I know how hard this one is, especially if you have little ones. Make the effort and you will see the improvement.

Thanks for reading!

NCC Green Diva

Follow NCC’s Green Diva on Twitter to read her tweets on how to be green!

How will you know what items are local vs. non-local?

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

If it’s local and part of our Farm-to-table program at The National Conference Center, how will you know? New signs in the dining room will explain farm-to-table and sustainable seafood to help our guests and your attendees understand these two initiatives. Another logo helps designate if the item is locally grown within 150 miles by the growing leaf titled “Locally Grown” with a yellow reach (click here to read about the reach). The last farm-to-table sign lists which local items to look for in the menu that week.

The LOCALLY GROWN LOGO helps guests understand what items were grown within 150 miles

who want to know the locally grown items to expect on the menu that week

Helping you to understand and appreciate initiatives like farm-to-table and sustainable seafood.

A long-term goal of NCC’s is to source 100% of our produce locally. However, in the meantime, we source as much as we can through local farms such as Linda’s Mercantile & Farm Market in Winchester Virginia, Blueridge Farms, Fruit Hill Orchards, and more. Overall, it can often be a difficult challenge to source all products locally, especially as a conference center that can serve up to 2,000 meals to guests and employees  in one day. If it isn’t local within 150 miles, our Executive Chef Craig Mason does his best to ensure it’s as local as it can be while also providing you with the most nutrients and brain food for your meetings! In your community or across the U.S., how have you found other venues such as restaurants or hotels communicate which items are local vs. non-local?

It’s 12:30 somewhere, do you have a mojito in hand?

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

In the last YouTube video from the herb garden, “Rosemary, Thyme, Basil and Mint. Oh My!” Executive Chef Craig Mason stood on top of what would be our herb garden. However, at that time, there were no herbs planted – all soil. Now, the herbs are in full-bloom and being used for client tastings and plated meals. Craig Mason has also found another use for them… Making your drinks “greener”.

Dominion Power: How We’re Helping with Generators

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

After recently being approached by Dominion Power (the power provider for Virginia) as a key company in helping them save energy for our future – we agreed to be apart of a program known as DemandSMART. I investigated further and learned about the program in an interview with our Director of Facilities, Charlie Carson.

Charlie, please tell me about this program with Dominion Power.

[Charlie]: In simplest terms, Dominion Power has a grid system, when their grid gets to full capacity and the demand is greater than their capacity there’s a potential for a brown-out. As a solution, Dominion Power is trying to avoid building new power plants which is very costly. Instead, they have devised a program where they’ve asked participating companies and organizations to cut back on their energy demand in instances where their grid would reach full capacity. In months such as July and August, when it’s hot and everyone is running their A/C, large facilities add to the high-energy demands and push those limits over the grid, potentially causing a brown-out.

What exactly is the role companies and organizations will play in this program?

[Charlie]: Companies organizations are putting together a package plan to help the community. Enernoc Conservation approached us with the idea and we have the capabilities to reduce the utility load by running generators that will pick up the load on the usage, reducing the demand for Dominion’s power grid. Organizations participating with Dominion Power receive a nominal value, but overall it’s cheaper for Dominion Power to pay companies than build another energy power plant as this time.  Plus, we can also play our part by reducing our load further than our current green electrical initiatives.

What makes NCC a great candidate?

[Charlie]: We have the ability to reduce our power. Some places may have to outsource engineers. We are a 7 day, 24 hours a day operation; a company that is not probably wouldn’t fit the bill. Automation is also a large factor. At NCC, we have a computer system that allows us to do this automatically rather than manually.

What does this mean for the future of the conference center and Dominion Power?

[Charlie]: Currently, Dominion Power is not having to build a plant and is receiving a reduction in energy. It’s breathing room for the power company to know they can supply the correct amount of power to everyone rather than brown-outs. They can plan for the future during this time. It’s an initiative we’re happy to be part of and once again, “We’re saving green by being green.”

How do you conserve power in your home or office? As a meeting planner, are there any pointers you’d give to help create green meetings?

Planners meeting the demand for LOCAL foods

Friday, May 13th, 2011

We’ve jumped on the farm-to-fork bandwagon to serve fresh local ingredients in our dining room. At NCC, we do it to be sustainable and support the local agriculture, but is there really a demand for it? We’re starting to see an increase in planners requesting local ingredients, whether their personal preference or to meet the client’s demand. In events, private receptions, weddings, fundraisers and at our own tastings at NCC – you can see local ingredients are breaking their way through hotels and restaurants and into the preferences of individuals and groups. Here are some dishes where planners had to meet the demand for LOCAL foods:

Virginia Apple Tart with local ingredients by Executive Chef Craig Mason [March Tasting]

Local asparagus wrapped in Virginia honey-baked ham [Private Banquet at NCC]

Virginia Wines served for a private banquet -  (Name all 10 on NCC’s Facebook fanpage).

NYC Maritime Hotels sells Martin’s Pretzels made locally rather than M&M’s [Photo Credit: USA Today Travel]

A wedding that featured entrees all made from local and organic ingredients [Photo Credit: Wedding Bee]

A fundraising picnic that used local fruit and forks made from potato starch.

The water cup and utensil were 100% biodegradable. [Photo Credit: Simply Blue Weddings]

Wedding with local roasted beets, aged goat cheese, kumquats, mache and sesame. [Photo Credit: Simply Blue Weddings]

Seared Shrimp Crusted Chesapeake Rockfish by Executive Chef Craig Mason [March Tasting]

What have you done to bring local into your events and meet the demands of your clients? How difficult was it to incorporate the local produce, meats or ingredients? Was the entire dish 100% local?