In April 2009, Saint Paul RiverCentre officials launched a long-term, multifaceted sustainability initiative with a mission to become a green leader among convention centers in the region. The neighboring Xcel Energy Center arena, home to the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, joined the effort soon after. The Legendary Roy Wilkins Auditorium, which is considered part of Saint Paul RiverCentre, is the third facility included in the effort.
Green practices weren’t new to these facilities; recycling, energy efficiency and water conservation had been priorities for some time. However, officials wanted to explore ways to do more, do better, and pursue additional opportunities to conserve resources. In partnership with Progressive Associates of Saint Paul, an ambitious, strategic plan was launched that has encompassed multiple campus-wide initiatives over several years.
The first initiative, titled “50-50 in 2,” was a waste reduction program with a goal to reduce the amount of trash generated at the facilities by 50 percent while increasing the recycling rate to 50 percent. To accomplish this goal, 630 recycling receptacles were purchased so that every trash container on every level of each facility would have an accompanying recycling bin. In addition, all processes and behind-the-scenes infrastructure were redesigned to make recycling as efficient as possible.
After two years, trash campus-wide was reduced by 59 percent (1.4 million pounds), and the recycling rate jumped to 53 percent from its benchmark rate of 15 percent.
With these efforts, Saint Paul RiverCentre became one of the first convention centers in the nation to compost in public areas. Composting was also integrated into all campus kitchens and concessions, including Xcel Energy Center. The practice was quickly adopted by employees and guests and after two years compost became the largest recycled item on campus, amounting to over 1.6 million pounds of material diverted since 2009.
Waste Management, Minnesota’s largest recycler and trash collection services provider, supplies organics and recycling collection services.
The Minnesota Wild, Xcel Energy Center and Levy Restaurants teamed up with “Rock and Wrap It Up!” in 2010 to help fight hunger during Wild games and other arena events while also reducing waste. As part of this program, all unused concession food collected from Wild home games is donated to Saint Joseph Store House in Brooklyn Center. All 30 of the NHL’s Member Clubs participate in the program. To date, we have donated over 10 tons of food to this program.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY & CARBON REDUCTION
In April 2010, a second initiative was launched. Dubbed “80-20 in 3,” aimed to reduce the carbon footprint of the facilities’ operations by 80 percent and make them 20 percent more energy efficient than average* within three years time. Since setting that goal, the facilities have upgraded over 1,500 lights to more efficient technology, and created new practices to ensure lighting is shut off when not needed. Both buildings are in the process of a full recommissioning study to be sure the HVAC system is operating as efficiently as possible.
Two solar energy arrays have also been installed since 2011. The first is a 1MW solar thermal array that provides 1 million kWh/yr of heat energy to RiverCentre and other District Energy customers, which was installed in partnership with District Energy Saint Paul, the City of Saint Paul, and the US Department of Energy. The second is an 82-kW solar photovoltaic array that provides 100,000 kWh of energy to the RiverCentre Parking Ramp each year.
The campus is now operating at over 20% more efficient than average, and its carbon footprint has been reduced by half.
A “green purchasing playbook” was developed in 2010 to guide purchasing practices for the facilities and its partners. A set of guidelines helps direct purchasers to environmentally-friendly options across a range of products from office products to construction materials. In addition, a majority of disposable foodservice products such as plates, cups and utensils have been switched to biodegradable or durable options across campus.
Meeting planners and event producers now have the option of off-setting the carbon footprint of their events at Saint Paul RiverCentre or Xcel Energy Center through Xcel Energy’s Windsource® for Special Events program. This new program allows for the purchase of green power in short-term blocks, perfect for events that want to help drive demand and the advancement of renewable energy.
As part of an ongoing educational campaign, a dedicated microsite (www.xcelenergycenter.com/sustainability) was created to provide an overview of the facilities’ ongoing sustainability initiatives, track progress and offer related news and information. Additionally, the site features community resources and materials designed to educate others about the benefits of being green. The Minnesota Wild, Xcel Energy Center and Saint Paul RiverCentre websites all feature buttons promoting the site. The Minnesota Wild regularly runs a public service announcement in-broadcast and in-arena during games to continue educating guests and encourage their participation.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
Saint Paul RiverCentre and its partners have been recognized for their efforts by the City of Saint Paul with the Sustainable Saint Paul award for waste reduction and recycling. They also received an Excellence in Public Service award from Midwest Society of Association Executives and an honorable mention from Venues Today Magazine for being a Steward of Sustainability. Jim Ibister, vice president of facility administration for the Minnesota Wild and general manager of Saint Paul RiverCentre, was recognized by Meetings: Minnesota’s Hospitality Journal with a Vision Award for his efforts to make RiverCentre and its sister venues regional leaders in sustainability.
*Average for this region of the country was determined by using the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS). That rating for the Midwest is 101.7 kBTU energy consumed per square foot of space.
Jora Bart / 651.312.3498
Reina Woodruff/ 651.265.4819