California Helps Make Meetings More Sustainable

Boats along the coast of San Diego

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California, a leader in the United States regarding sustainability, offers a wide variety of initiatives and properties focused on eco-friendly meetings and events.

California stands at the forefront of the U.S. regarding sustainability with an ambitious climate action plan led by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Two new rules passed in California indicate the state’s commitment to sustainability. The first, the Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act, requires U.S. companies with annual revenues of $1 billion or more to report their direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2026 for scope 1 and scope 2 emissions and in 2027 for the more complex scope 3 emissions.

The second, the Climate-Related Financial Risk Act, requires companies producing $500 million or more to report their financial risks related to climate change and their plan to mitigate risk.

Putting Sustainability in Focus for Meetings and Events

The focus on sustainability at the government level trickles down to all businesses. Meetings and events are no exception.

“California demonstrates an unparalleled commitment to sustainability, spearheading many eco-friendly initiatives, and is known as a leader in the environmental movement. With the increasing demand for green meetings, our meetings and events industry is exceeding expectations and setting new standards in meetings that include lower carbon emissions, waste reduction, energy conservation, utilizing locally sourced products, and providing give-back options,” says Leona Reed, associate vice president of global marketing for Visit California, the nonprofit marketing organization for the state.

Visit California also has the Responsible Travel Code in place. It focuses on protecting the environment in California now and in the future. 

When it’s time to get down to business, there is no lack of venues. “California has more convention centers than any other state,” says Visit California’s president and CEO, Caroline Beteta. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified eight of those convention centers. In addition, 402 LEED-certified buildings encompassing approximately 90 million square feet. It was the first state in the U.S. to adopt a mandatory green building code.  

There are 88 properties and 9,610 rooms in the pipeline this year, all new construction set to open in California this year.

Olympian Improvements

Preparations are underway for the 2028 Summer Olympics being held in Los Angeles. The city recently secured $709.9 million in federal funding for infrastructure improvements in preparation for the games. 

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) plans to spend $30 billion to get the airport ready for the Olympics and beyond. Improvements include adding an automated 2.25-mile electric train that will link all terminals, parking, car rental lots, and the Metro C Line stop. The project will also improve the guest experience with new gate areas and lounges. 

The city’s Metro Rail is expanding to connect local communities, another notch in the state’s sustainability belt. 

“The 2028 Olympics will showcase the greater Los Angeles area on the global stage, bringing numerous benefits to the region and state, ensuring an enhanced experience for all visitors, leisure or business, long after the event,” said Reed. “With countless hotels, impressive sports facilities and event venues, and of course that perfect California weather, Los Angeles is an ideal location for the Olympics.”

Organizers want to ensure the entire Southern California region benefits from the Olympics as the games will be spread throughout the greater Los Angeles area.

San Diego Shows Its Green Side

One city showcased its LEED-certified convention center and more in January. The San Diego Convention Center (SDCC) hosted the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) 2024 Convening Leaders conference, attracting more than 4,000 in-person attendees.

Some of the convention center’s green initiatives include sourcing sustainable energy from San Diego Community Power, a nonprofit, community-based clean energy provider. In doing so, the center has increased its renewable energy use from 31% to 50%. Water bottle refill stations are throughout the center, and EV charging stations are located in the parking garage. 

Behind the Scenes

Some attendees of Convening Leaders ventured back of the house into the convention center’s kitchen to witness its sustainable food practices. Its recycling program is extensive. Four-stream waste receptacles divide paper, recyclables, trash, and compost.

Set in the heart of downtown and within walking distance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions, the SDCC’s location supports its sustainability focus.

A $2.17 billion trolley line in San Diego is helping shrink greenhouse gas emissions by reducing car commuting. The trolley connects Old Town to La Jolla, UC San Diego, Mission Bay Park, Pacific Beach, and Clairemont. Convention delegates donning badges are a frequent sight on the trolley, which is a convenient way to get around. 

Photo Credit: Andrea Doyle/Skift Meetings

San Diego is known for its yearlong sunshine and 70 miles of pristine coastline. It’s also coming on strong as an innovation hub. World-class universities, a burgeoning life-sciences and biotech sector, and a developing Research and Development District are features. Experts in these fields, including university professors and city and civic leaders, are popular speakers for San Diego-based meetings.

Another major infrastructure project is underway at the San Diego International Airport. Its new T1 terminal is set to open next year. At approximately $3.7 billion, the new terminal will offer more gates and food and beverage concessions. Sustainability is also key in the new T1. The features include expanded electric vehicle charging, solar power, and an electric shuttle service.

Properties Focuses on Sustainability

The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla is a popular spot for upscale meetings and incentive groups. Its golf course is legendary; hosting the 2008 and 2021 U.S. Open.

The environment is a focus, as Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is home to America’s rarest pine tree. It grows only here and on Santa Rosa Island. The resort’s courtyard is a miniature version of the Reserve.    

Dana Point offers an abundance of outdoor gathering space for groups. Four oceanside resorts have indoor and outdoor meeting spaces. Most meetings and conferences incorporate dolphin and whale watching tours here, as the area’s unique geography makes it a hotspot for these mammals. 

Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa includes 378 guest rooms and 50,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space. Sustainability is a focus, and highlights include all guest room patio furniture made from recycled milk jugs, water flow-restricting devices, guest room thermostats that are motion and heat detection activated, a recycling program, and synthetic turf to eliminate the need for water features. 

Photo Credit: Andrea Doyle/Skift Meetings

Palm Springs is another destination with a plethora of resorts and outdoor venues for group gatherings. One of the newest is the world’s first-ever Tommy Bahama resort, which recently opened—the Tommy Bahama Miramonte Resort & Spa. Set at the base of Indian Wells’ Santa Rosa mountains, the 215-room resort offers 20,000 square feet of indoor function space and 15,000 square feet of outdoor space. 

Fragrant citrus trees abound on the property, and a unique feature is that fruit pickers are readily available. Guests bring the citrus they pick to a juicer set up on an outdoor bar and make their own glass of fresh juice.

Photo Credit: Andrea Doyle/Skift Meetings

The Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, dedicated to the history and culture of the Agua Caliente people, opened in Palm Springs in November of 2023. It is a unique venue for off-site events with several meeting rooms. The entire museum can also be rented. In addition, outside the museum is the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza, which is available for outdoor gatherings. The Spa at Sec He is here, fed by the ancient Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Springs.

Photo credit: Visit California / Visit California