Conference centre achieves green standard

(Edmonton) For many, the gold standard may be the way to distinguish quality. But when it comes to sustainable practices and reducing environmental impact, the University of Alberta’s Lister Conference Centre has achieved a green standard—the prestigious industry Green Key status.

The facility, which boasts eight meeting rooms and 20 hotel-style guest rooms, has been awarded three keys by the Green Key Eco-Rating Program and is one of only four university-based establishments in Canada to be rated. Robert Dunham, director of hospitality services, says enrolling in the program, which was accomplished with help from the U of A’s Office of Sustainability, matched the centre’s and the institution’s values, and facilitated an opportunity to highlight the centre’s green focus to clientele.

“We were looking for ways to prove to ourselves and our clientele that we treat our service in an environmentally friendly way,” he said. “The Green Key program was the ideal vehicle to help us do just that.”

Not resting on green laurels

Developed in 1994 by Denmark’s Foundation for Environmental Education, the Green Key eco-rating program measures initiatives that hotels and resorts undertake in areas such as use of water and energy, environmental management and staff involvement in sustainable practices. Nearly 3,000 establishments participate in the eco-tourism rating program.

Dunham is pleased with the centre’s initial rating, but notes that annual reviews will afford his team an opportunity to improve their commitment—and the rating.

“Green Key wants its members to get better at providing a service that is consistent, and that’s what we’re looking for all the time, regardless of being part of [the program]—consistency in service,” said Dunham. “Customers are becoming more aware of these things, and the Green Key program is something we’re fortunate to be a part of.”

A green oasis on campus

Dunham is pleased that the University of Alberta is the first institution in Western Canada to receive the rating, but muses that others may move to be part of this eco-program as well. Nonetheless, he wants to use this award to drive planning for the centre’s future, and to market the centre and its commitment to sustainable values to potential facility users and guests. From an environmental and practical perspective, he hopes departments on campus will also take notice of this award when planning for visitors to the U of A.

“These rooms are a pretty well-kept secret,” said Dunham. “One of our business goals is to fill those rooms each and every night. That’s an ongoing challenge, but this will help in its own way to create a little more awareness.”