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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?

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?

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?

Rosemary, Thyme, Basil and Mint. Oh my!

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Yesterday’s post introduced you to our herb garden – the specifics of our plans to create a community herb garden and the progress thus far. Today, I’ve featured a video of Executive Chef Craig Mason standing on what will be the herb garden. He also advises fans of the farmer’s market to be weary of distributors selling products that aren’t from any local farm but from states away that you find in grocery stores. The herbs in our garden on-site will supplement some purchased from local farmers and be used for entrees at meetings and events. In the events industry, who finds the most significance in local ingredients? How does local play a role in your meetings/events? Let us know in the comment section below:

Herb Garden at NCC

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Clearing out the shrubbery on Friday for newly planted herbs

To be sustainable and offer a farm-to-table aspect, hotels and restaurants are beginning to grow their own herbs and the occasional tomato on their rooftop (and side lots). However, for venues that have a heavy amount of foot-traffic throughout the year, you practically need a farm to devote acres of land to producing 1,000+ lbs of local items on a weekly basis – (which is where Linda’s Mercantile & Farm Market comes into play).

For quite some time, planting an herb garden has been a topic of discussion at The National Conference Center. And, the dream finally became a reality last Friday as Joseph Lane (our Director of Food & Beverage Outlets) and Adam Hughes (our Banquets & Bar Manager) took a change of clothes and shovel to the site of a new herb garden located on property. For seven hours, the two dug up old shrubs, replanted them to give them a new home and made room for herbs to be planted.

Over the next few weeks, a previous area of shrubbery will become a community garden for employees who want to take part in planting our herbs. With recycled materials such as wooden beams and railroad ties, we’ll build a foundation for a variety of herbs such as basil, mint, thyme, rosemary and more. Does local make a difference to you in your meals or dining experience?

The crew also found duck eggs but no mama duck, they were left unstartled.

How can I reduce this OUTRAGEOUS electric bill?: Tips from NCC’s Green Diva

Friday, May 6th, 2011

In our monthly Green Diva series, Pat Trammell NCC’s Green Team Leader or shall we call her “Chief Sustainability Officer” shares tips on how to become eco-friendly and ways to save green while being green. Pat’s last post focused on how to make every day Earth Day. Today, she’ll tell you how YOU can save money on your outrageous electric bill with a special Mother’s Day twist.

Hi all,

In my efforts to continue to green my piece of the planet, I have been checking on ways to reduce the energy consumption at home. I logged onto the web site for my electric company and discovered a bounty of information. Virginia Dominion power has many tools and programs to assist me with my quest.

While checking on savings I noticed a $4.00 credit had been applied to my monthly statement for nearly 15 years. Apparently when we first moved in, my mother arranged to have the electric company install a water heater control. This devise was installed for free. It saves energy by turning off the power to the water heater late evening and during low peak. I had never noticed it. We always have plenty of hot water when needed. In fact no one in my family has every complained of a lack of hot water, even when I reduced the water temperature setting.  My mother always paid the electric bill. So over the 15 years that she paid the bill she managed to add $720 to her bottom line.  Mom was always ahead of the times.

My NCC Green Diva Tip for you: Visit your electric company’s web site. There are tips and programs on how to save energy which will help green the planet and you pockets. See if you can have a water heater control installed by your power company.

To all the mothers, Happy Mother’s Day! With her humbleness and innovative ideas, the phrase, “You are just like your mom” makes me proud to think there isn’t anyone else I would rather be like. I motivate you to inspire your daughters to be green this year and every year!

Thank you for allowing me to share my green tips with you this week.


Pat Trammell
NCC Greem Team Leader & Green Diva

Have another tip to reducing the outrageous electric bill? Tell us below – we’re interested to know.

A Farm That “Gets It”

Friday, April 29th, 2011

We can’t praise Linda’s Mercantile & Farm Market enough. In December, The National Conference Center held a Farmers Forum in which over 50 farmers from VA, WV, and MD attended. Panelists included Matt Lohr – Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, Kurt Krause General Manager of  The National Conference Center, Christopher Carpenter of Washington & Lee, Derek Kilmer of Kilmer’s Farm Market, and Emily Manley of The Local Food Hub.

After the forum, the one farm who contacted NCC about providing us with fresh local goods – Linda’s Mercantile. Check out the timeline of our relationship with David and Linda Lay, the couple behind Linda’s Mercantile & Farm Market from December 2010 – Present. This farm “gets it.” They reached out to Kurt Krause and Executive Chef Craig Mason, eager to assist us with our farm-to-fork initiative; an initiative that is important to us in order to support regional agricultural and offer our guests fresh sustainable produce with a high nutritional value to enhance their meeting experience and cognitive ability (Read more). Not only did they begin providing us with canola oil which is recycled into bio-diesel fuel for tractors, plows and more but they created a partnership to make this program successful (with Shenandoah Agricultural Products and Fruit Hill Orchards).

What started as canola oil and a shipment of spinach grew into providing our guests with local hot house tomatoes, arugula, mushrooms, and strawberries. In less than two months, Linda’s Mercantile has planted several more acres of produce. On Monday of next week, we’ll greet a shipment of 2,000 lbs of local produce.  What are we expecting?

spinach – 300 pounds
corn – 100 pounds
zucchini – 200 pounds
cabbage – 40 pounds
red bliss potatoes – 150 pounds
white creamer potatoes – 150 pounds
mescalin greens – 300 pounds
leaf lettuce – 100 pounds
cucumbers – 200 pounds
tomatoes – 200 pounds
basil – 20 pounds
strawberries – 250 pounds
raspberries – 125 pounds
blackberries – 125 pounds

Linda and David Lay of Linda’s Mercantile also “get” social media – they see the value in it and have created a community of avid locavores on their Facebook Fan Page. Watch the Backstage Pass of the farm from their YouTube channel: