Sustainable Brands has always been committed to reducing the environmental impact of our own events, to sharing our knowledge, and to making a positive mark on our host communities. The event planning team works closely with all vendors and stakeholders involved to follow a sustainable event framework that was developed in accordance with the leading international event industry standards – ISO 20121 Event Sustainability Management Systems and APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards. Let us share some of our work in this arena and what was planned for SB’16 San Diego:

SB’16 San Diego Sustainability Goals




For the third year in a row, our goal was to have zero-waste (90% diversion from land-fill) across the entire island, including all restaurants and hotel rooms. In the past, we have only included the conference center & related activities. Waste Management is our Official Zero Waste Partner, and 1 to 1 Movement supplied our Sustainability Team volunteers.

Carbon Neutral

100% of the carbon emissions from the event are offset by Nature Bank, including attendee and staff travel and accommodation.

Water Neutral

The water impact of the event, including attendee accommodation, is neutralized by support of Colorado River water restoration projects through Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

Energy Neutral

The energy used during the event will be 100% offset by Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) provided by the South Pole Group.

ISO 20121 Compliance

Our goal is to be in compliance with the ISO 20121 standard, which will be calculated post-event by iCompli

Local Food Sourcing

Building upon the success we had last year with about 80% of food locally sourced – we’re aiming to increase this percentage this year. Paradise Point’s chef has established lasting partnerships with local farms, and they are now offering local food as an option on their permanent food and beverage menus.

Leaving a Legacy

Paradise Point kept the composting program on a permanent basis, has established a Sustainability Team of their own with a full-time dedicated staff member, implemented resource conservation efforts across the property and established partnerships with more local farms for food sourcing.

Highlighted SB’15 Sustainability Efforts:

We had plenty of efforts in place to reach these goals, and would love to share how we did it. Read on for more detailed information, and hopefully to learn how to increase the positive impact of your own event(s). If you have any questions at all or if we can help you in your efforts, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Alison Brown.


Venue Selection

Paradise Point Resort & Spa, San Diego

The venue was selected for its high potential for impact reduction and for their management’s willingness to collaborate with and learn from SB and our partners in that arena. Since we first visited them in 2010, their commitment and ongoing effort to reduce the environmental footprint has been demonstrated by their Destination Earth program, including:

  • Energy Efficiency: LED lighting used throughout the property; indoor and outdoor lighting limited when possible
  • Transportation: All-electric car2go car-sharing program for guest and employee use around San Diego; engineering, bellmen, and security staff utilize electric carts or bicycles for transportation; bike racks and skateboard storage for employees
  • Waste Reduction: Landscaping debris is repurposed as mulch/fertilizer, recycling and composting program implemented for SB’13 with infrastructure and training established for the program to stay in place permanently.
  • Toxic Chemical Elimination: Housekeeping attendants only clean with “Green Seal Certified” bathroom cleaners and carpet solutions
  • Water Conservation: Linen-less meeting rooms help conserve water and laundry chemical use; Guestroom bathrooms feature low flow toilets and shower heads; waterless urinals utilized in men’s restrooms; 3-day standard linen replacement program in guestrooms with opt-out option; smart irrigation systems and xeriscaping for landscaping property-wide.
  • Community Involvement: Official partner of Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter for protection of waterways and beaches.


Paradise Point Head Chef and F&B Team

Much effort and focus was put in to the menu selection and sourcing of the food, in collaboration with the Chef and team at Paradise Point to ensure a lower impact from the food served at the conference. We also took advantage of the opportunity to educate the audience about food choices; to show that it is possible to choose lower impact options without sacrificing flavor or nutrition – even on a large scale.

  • Local Sourcing: Menu items are sourced from local and organic farms wherever possible
  • Waste Reduction: Water pitcher and glasses are used in place of bottled water, condiments are served in bulk, all drinks are served in bulk (except for a small selection of soft drinks and bottled beer), all food and beverage is served on china and silverware; no disposable kitchenware is used
  • Waste Diversion: Comprehensive composting and recycling program is in place during food prep and throughout the conference venue
  • Low Impact Options: Each catered meal includes a vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free option; some meals are served entirely vegetarian or vegan, including the main evening event of the conference; all plated meals are fully vegetarian or vegan by default

Waste Reduction

In collaboration with all vendors and exhibitors

The entire planning process is focused on reducing waste as much as possible, and this is where a lot of the decision that affect the final impact is made. There are more efforts in this arena than we even have room to mention, but let us go through some of the main areas where we work hard to reduce waste in the planning process:

  • Design and Signage: All signage is printed on recyclable materials like cardboard and wood by Knotty Pine Print, and a lot of it on materials that are already recycled, like our banners who are all printed on fabric that once used to be PET bottles. Moreover, we only print what is necessary and design our signage so that they can be reused over several years.
  • Expo Floor: Sustainability guidelines are distributed to all exhibitors and they are encouraged to reduce printing, not print dates or event name on the materials so they can reuse them later, and we enforce a pack-in, pack-out policy, meaning everything they bring to the event, they have to bring back with them.
  • Gift Lounge and Give-aways: We use the gift lounge to showcase sustainable products, and to help promote and enable sustainable lifestyles. Instead of a giftbag to all attendees, we supply the gifts in a lounge where attendees choose what they want to take home. We do not accept typical swag items like pens and bottle openers with logos on them; we encourage useful and educational products from our sponsors. Yes, we could get rid of the gift lounge and all the ‘stuff’ all together, but we believe in showcasing solutions to encourage a better lifestyle, not boycotting products altogether.

Waste Diversion

In partnership with Waste Management and 1 to 1 Movement

With great assistance from the locally based Waste Management and 1 to 1 Movement in San Diego, SB’15 worked closely with the conference venue to implement a comprehensive waste diversion system to separate recyclables, compostables and waste for pre-event and days-of production efforts. What couldn’t be reduced in the planning phase, we focused on diverting away from landfill in the execution phase. Here’s how we did that:

  • Sustainability Team: A team of volunteers from the 1 to 1 Movement was assembled to help with the on site logistics of waste sorting and tracking on site
  • Recycling: Placed recycling bins in every hotel room (a program the hotel has committed to keep in place permanently); added recycling bins next to all trash bins at back of house; trained all managers and staff on proper recycling (and compost) sorting; set up a comprehensive sorting station at the back of house where the Sustainability Team re-sorted all waste before going in to correct dumpsters; recycling stations on expo floor.
  • Composting: In collaboration with Waste Management, compost bins were placed at each recycling and waste station at the back of the house; managers and staff were trained on proper sorting of compost and food waste; all restaurants on site were included in the same program; and a compost dumpster was brought in to the property.
  • Terracycle: Waste items like granola bar wrappers, chip bags, pens and other items traditionally not recycled in municipal waste streams were sorted out and sent to Terracycle to get upcycled
  • Donations: Any leftover materials or items from the gift lounge were donated to local organizations

Energy Conservation and Carbon Measurement

In partnership with Paradise Point, PS Audio Visual and Freeman

The venue and suppliers are aware of energy reduction measures included in the event sustainability framework including:

  • Enforcing a power-down policy for electronic equipment when not in use
  • Adjust indoor air temperatures to match with when meeting rooms are in use
  • Reducing heating/cooling during set-up and teardown
  • Eliminate idling for vehicles when not in use

Offset Programs

In partnership with Nature Bank, Bonneville Environmental Foundation and South Pole Group

Where we are not able to reduce our impact any further, we partner with offset organizations to offset or restore the resources spent, by supporting projects that do so elsewhere. Our offset programs include:

  • Carbon: We are proud to bring another carbon neutral event for the third year in a row. Working with NatureBank (Formerly Offsetters), we reduce, measure and offset all carbon emissions associated with the event footprint. This includes all attendee and staff travel as well as the emissions produced during the event.
  • Water: The event’s water impact is calculated and the same amount of gallons of water spent is being restored to rivers via river restoration projects by Bonneville Environmental Foundation.
  • Energy: We offset all of our energy use with Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) through the South Pole Group.

ISO 20121 Sustainability Compliance

In partnership with iCompli

In order to earn ISO 20121 compliance, iCompli worked closely with the SB’15 team, conference venue, and event suppliers to ensure that materials sourced for the event are held to the highest environmental standard and documentation was gathered for upload to the online certification system. The online Sustainable Event Management System (SEMS) Tool was used to measure event compliance with the standard and audit the event activities on site.

Onsite Activities

For Health and Wellness

SB’15 featured several activities and efforts outside the main conference program to ensure attendees had an overall healthy experience at the conference. Some of these included:

  • Morning yoga sessions available complimentary every day
  • Stand Up Paddleboards available in the afternoon and SUP Yoga sessions organized in the morning
  • Attendees encouraged to go for a run outside or take advantage of the outdoor yoga sessions instead of using electronic equipment at the hotel fitness center
  • Healthy menus throughout the week for all conference food and beverage events
  • Homemade Agua Frescas and other non-alcoholic drink options at all evening events
  • Swapped out soft drinks for healthier juices and homemade Agua Frescas at morning & afternoon breaks

Event Planning Office

San Francisco, CA

Most of the conference planning happens from our headquarters in San Francisco. Our office follows these practices throughout the year, and for all events we work on:

  • Recycling, composting and e-waste collection throughout the office
  • Minimal printing on 100% recycled paper
  • All ink cartridges, batteries, lightbulbs etc are recycled
  • Permanent Terracycle bins for wrappers, pens etc that can’t go in the municipal waste-stream
  • Non-toxic cleaning products throughout
  • Office kitchen features china, silverware and glassware (no disposables), fair trade organic coffee, and condiments in bulk.

Sustainability Policy

Our Policy

Sustainable Brands incorporates sustainable event management practices into the production and operations of our Sustainable Brands event operations. Each year, efforts are made to reduce the environmental impact of event related activities by engaging our supply chain and other stakeholders.  This process incorporates feedback that builds upon previous initiatives while leading to continual improvement of our practices.  Our efforts include implementing initiatives in key areas such as: venue energy & water consumption and offsets, local, sustainable catering practices, waste diversion systems, as well as leaving a lasting positive impact on the communities in which we operate. As a result of this process, our goal is to produce an extraordinary event experience that increases attendee engagement and heightens awareness among all event stakeholders.

Environmental Mission Statement

Our Promise

Sustainable Brands is committed to reducing the environmental impact of the Sustainable Brands Conferences, to enlisting our community in the sustainable production of our events, and to improving the sustainability initiatives and performance of our host communities.

Many of these efforts and results would not have been possible without the collaboration of our partners. An immense thank you goes out to them for the willingness to work with us, the time, training and efforts, the collaboration and brain-storming to figure out tricky challenges along the way, and yes, even for dumpster-diving when it came down to it! You have our utmost gratitude for your partnerships.

   South Pole Group 2

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