President’s Blog

Nina Kressler, CEO And President of the Shaw Centre
Outside sign + flags

Sustainability always on the menu at Shaw Centre

Published on August 29, 2019

Today, more than ever before, event planners are looking for venues that are actively working to reduce their carbon footprint. We have a bit of a head start in this regard as when Shaw Centre was being designed, a commitment to sustainable operations was one of the key principles. So too was a strategy to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Gold certification and we’re proud to say that not many facilities as large as ours are able to achieve this impressive standard.

It’s not enough that our building was purposefully designed to use 39% less energy than a typical convention centre and is the greenest convention centre in Ottawa. We have also taken the bold step of becoming the only such facility in Canada that has partnered with an ongoing environmental auditing firm to make substantive change. As a member of Carbon 613, we receive concrete tools, audits and knowledge to track and reduce our emissions and develop an actionable greenhouse gas/carbon footprint reduction plan covering many aspects of our operation which will help us set targets and monitor reduction results over the next 10 years.

WayfinderWe encourage greener events thanks to a series of digital screens throughout the building which can be customized for specific events, offering the opportunity to post live text such as Instagram and Twitter feeds, event photos, schedule changes, etc. Combined with our digital wayfinding towers, these tools reduce the need for printed, disposable signage in the building. We offer many tips for reducing the carbon footprint of an event such as helping liaise with local printers and promotional companies for conference materials (or only distributing materials digitally). Clients are also offered the opportunity to participate in our Leave a Legacy program, which finds suitable recipients for event materials such as convention binders and promotional items, display materials, specialized carpeting or draping, consumer samples and more.

Given our central downtown location, many of our visitors travel exclusively by foot between the Centre, their hotel and other nearby destinations. We are also less than 500 metres from the Rideau Light Rail Transit (LRT) station which will be fully operational as of September 14, 2019, making us very accessible via public transportation.

We have committed to a goal of 25% of all the food products we work with being grown or produced locally; this will support local purveyors and our local economy while ensuring our clients enjoy foods at their peak of freshness. We also offer a wine list featuring organic, carbon neutral and local Ontario wines plus local craft beer. We love supporting and showcasing local makers and feel these products deliver excellent flavour and value with reduced shipping impacts.

Chef at Big Rig

While we endeavour to produce as little food waste as possible, Shaw Centre’s kitchen also relies on its onsite ORCA, a machine that can digest up to 600 pounds (275 kilograms) of food scraps per day. Within 24 hours, the ORCA turns kitchen by-products into environmentally safe grey water, diverting tons of material each month from methane-producing composting or landfill sites. Food waste is also reduced thanks to our participation in the FoodRescue program which is a sustainable food brokerage service that helps facilities such as ours safely and sustainably recover consumable food products and donate them to local charitable institutions such as the Shepherds of Good Hope and the Ottawa Mission.

A cistern located beneath the loading dock has the capacity to collect almost 300,000 litres of rain water from the roof as well as ground water from the periphery of the building. This reclaimed water is filtered and used for flushing toilets and outdoor irrigation, dramatically reducing the amount of municipal water used by the Centre.  We have replaced bottled water in meeting rooms with water coolers and compostable cornhusk-based cups, which, combined with compostable hot beverage cups, contributed to a significant reduction in recyclables for our facility.

While there are costs associated with running our facility in a highly sustainable manner, we believe there is simply no other way to operate. We are so happy when people are impressed the first time they see our beautiful facility but we are even more delighted when they tell us they chose Shaw Centre because of how eco-friendly we are.

Want to learn about the many additional aspects of Shaw Centre’s sustainable operations? Just ask your event services manager who will be glad to provide additional information on our energy saving initiatives and more.