Waterloo Region’s Planet-Friendly Approach to Business Events

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By Angela Kryhul

As communities strive to lower their overall impact on the environment, event planners are doing their part by taking several meaningful actions and, in some cases, committing to hosting 100% carbon neutral business gatherings. When planning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) associated with a conference, trade show or convention, it’s important to understand that each event is unique and can benefit from a tailored, personalized approach, says Tova Davidson, executive director, Sustainable Waterloo Region (SWR).

“The beauty of sustainability is that it’s really about being flexible and understanding where people are now, where they want to go and finding the solutions that work,” Davidson explains. “Between the event planner, the team at Explore Waterloo Region and Sustainable Waterloo Region, we can look at all of the ways to get there.”

SWR is a non-profit social enterprise that helps communities and businesses understand the impact of their actions on the environment. The SWR team works closely with Jennifer Eddings, Director of Business Development, Explore Waterloo Region, to walk planners through the options that help reduce GHGs generated by an event.

A view of the Grand River as it flows through the Galt area of Cambridge. The flora on either side of the river is green: you can see buildings along the river, and there is a bridge spanning the river in the distance

Connecting planners with the community

The process starts with goals and “knowing the numbers you’re trying to hit,” Davidson says. If, for example, a planner aims to host a net-zero event, SWR can facilitate connections with partner organizations in Waterloo Region—including accommodations and off-site venues—to help achieve that goal.

“Everything we do is meant to have that dual implication of being good for the environment and good for your business,” Davidson adds.

Hosting a carbon neutral event for Innovate Canada

Destination Canada Business Events (DCBE) brought its marquee Innovate Canada business gathering to Waterloo Region, May 8–12, 2023, with a focus on advanced manufacturing. It was DCBE’s first carbon neutral Innovate Canada event, according to Virginie De Visscher, Senior Director of Business Development, Economic Sectors.

The plan featured everything from low-waste measures and green transportation options to limiting single-use items and serving locally and responsibly-sourced foods. “As Destination Canada is pursuing its Canadian Business Event Sustainability Plan, it was very important to work with a partner that believed in it too,” De Visscher adds.

Advancing a clean economy

Waterloo’s commitment to a low-carbon economy is illustrated in the region’s Clean Economy Ecosystem Map, which depicts companies, research groups and community organizations on the leading edge of clean innovation in buildings, transportation, energy, agriculture, waste, and more.

“More than 130 organizations are part of the clean economy here,” Davidson notes. “These innovators show that Waterloo Region has the resources and systems in place to help create low-impact events.”

3 convention takeaways sitting on a black tablecloth on a table. The takeaways are round, white circles: the printing on it says "Plant It for the Planet" - Ask me How" and then the words "The Sustainable Events Forum: CanSPEP"

Waterloo Region’s innovative sustainability initiatives 

> Hotels, off-site venues and restaurants have ready access to an abundance of fresh local produce, which means more plant-based options and fewer foods that require high emissions to process.

> The ION light rail transit system services 19 stations between Waterloo and Kitchener, with plans to convert bus connections to Cambridge to light rail.

> The evolv1 office building is the first in Canada to receive a Zero Carbon Building design certification.

> The very first curbside Blue Box collection program debuted in 1983 in Kitchener, Ont.

Personalize Your Group Experience

Contact Jennifer Eddings to learn more about hosting your planet-friendly business event in Waterloo Region.

Head shot of Explore Waterloo Region's Director of Business Development, Jennifer Eddings

Jennifer Eddings, Director of Business Development
Explore Waterloo Region
[email protected]

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