Putting Ecotourism & Sustainability Into Perspective

+ [ Music ]>>What brings tourism
to one place or another? Location and natural
features can play a part. As tourism in an area
grows the increase in traffic can take its
toll on the environment and preserving those
natural features becomes more and more important. The natural landscape in
Austin is an important part of what makes this city unique
compared to other places in Texas, and Austin
has made sustainability and green practices a
priority throughout the city.>>There’s a lot of green
building that goes on in Austin. People are aware
of the environment. People like to spend
time outside in Austin. That’s one of the
biggest reasons, I think, people move here is to be
able to get out into the parks and along the lake and,
you know, it’s sunny most of the year so there’s
a lot of outdoor time, and so I think the convention
center being a LEED rated facility, being a
sustainable facility, just reinforces the idea
of what Austin is about.>>At the Austin
Convention Center over seven million people
have passed through its doors since its opening in 1992. In the early 90’s green
practices weren’t commonplace for a building like this,
so efforts had to be made to add green measures later. Converting a facility that
covers six city blocks and over 800,000 square
feet of space was a big job. The convention center was the
first of its kind in Texas and only one of two in the U.S.
to obtain a LEED gold rating for an existing building. Austin became the model for how
to run a facility this large, and today many other cities
have followed their example.>>Two of our big points
that help us to stand out from our competitors are
sustainability and technology. It’s two things that Austin
is very much known for and it’s two things that
we have really remained on the cutting edge. We’re very fortunate that not
just the convention center management and leadership
but the city leadership as a whole sees sustainability
and technology as two very important aspects for continued investment
in our facility. So the fact that they’re
willing to continually keep us on that cutting edge,
keep us ahead of the curve so that we’re not just
following the trends but we area setting the
trends for sustainability, that really gives us a real
step ahead when talking about our facilities
about competition. [Music]>>Austin pioneered the criteria for evaluating convention
centers based upon LEED certification for
existing structures. Some of their sustainable
practices include reducing their carbon footprint, powering the
facility through wind energy, installing LED lighting
in 13 percent of the convention center,
switching the carpet to one made from recycled materials, using
crushed glass and native plants in the landscaping outside,
diverting 66 percent of all waste from the landfill and reducing electric
consumption and water usage. The recent changes they’ve made
have improved their recycling by as much as 30 percent
in just a few years.>>We were doing things. We were bailing cardboard and
we had small scale recycling but we weren’t measuring
it, and then in 2007, 8, we started measuring and we
found out we were around 32, 33 percent and then
we chipped away at it, and then we did some things
that has significant impact and we got up into the 60’s. So basically what happened
was it was just part of what we did as a department. You know, cardboard got
bailed, it was all, you know, part of our public event staff. Very first thing I did was I
pulled a position that we had, which is a crew leader, almost
like a foreman type position…>>[background sounds]This
bag is compost,biodegradable.>>…and I found somebody
who was extremely zealous when it came to waste. And you know when you
can find people like that because dumpster diving
is not a fun thing, it’s not a glamorous job, so
when you can find somebody that has a zeal about it then
you let them run with it.>>My job is to try to keep
these compactors empty, you know, that’s my job. So, and so far when I
first started we had three landfill compactors. Now to this day we got two. The one that we have on this
side we probably dump it twice a year. I started getting more
involved with the decorators, because for me I figured if we hit the front line
it’ll be easier at the back. So I coordinate with the
decorators that come in, explain to them that we do
shrink wrapping now, cardboard, carpet padding and carpet, they’re responsible
for taking it out. It’s more about educating
the guys out there and it’s becoming
better and better.>>We went from a million pounds
a year, we’ve even cut that down to about 800,000 total
pounds of waste a year, and in that we do 66
percent of that is sent off for recycling and composting.>>The success of the convention
center’s new sustainable programs have become
a major selling point with eco-friendly
seeking clients.>>They’re all into it now. I mean I see guys that
come back next year; they come over here just
to come see me and see if it’s still going
and they’re amazed at what we do in a little spot. We recycle everything that
pretty much comes out, from pavers to shrink
wrap now, to milk crates. Whatever they leave behind
is…we’ll reuse and recycle.>>The convention center
attracts many visitors to the city with
the events it hosts. Its green image is an extension of the image the
city itself conveys. By minimizing the negative
impacts of unregulated tourism through green programs, the convention center
protects our natural resources and the community itself.>>To give them an idea
of some of the ways that we really connect with
the community as a whole through that, I take people
back to our loading docks to show them where
our trash is sorted, where the recyclables are sent and where the compostables are
sent, but moreover I really try and emphasize that when
we can repurpose items, we’ll repurpose them
as much as possible. For example, we have a
local urban farm that I went to for a forum dinner right
after South by Southwest. They had baby piglets
and the baby piglets were under a covering that was
made out of some chicken wire, and the chicken wire was covered
with South by Southwest banners. So a perfect example of
how something that we had at the convention center
that could have been recycled but instead of doing
that we repurposed it within the community,
even greener effect, and it went on to be
a home for baby pigs. Clients love that. It’s part of our story,
it’s part of who we are as a facility, and it’s
something memorable that they can take with them
as part of what Austin does. [ Music ]

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