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Big Island embracing eco-trends in meetings industry


Environmental impact plays a major role in today’s meetings industry. Good business now includes buying carbon offsets, choosing locally grown, organic menu options, and booking certifiably ‘green’ venues. These hot buttons are being hit head-on by Hawaii Island’s visitor industry and meeting planners are finding that when they choose the Big Island it is in fact, easy to be green.

With many hotels and resorts dedicated to eco-friendly operations, it makes it easy for meeting planners to choose Hawaii Island as a destination. 

The Hilton Waikoloa Village earned the prestigious Hawaii Green Business Award and built the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certified Dolphin Quest Village in 2008. 

The resort’s commitment to recycling efforts are astounding (approximately 90,000 pounds of cardboard a year) and future plans include exploring alternative energy vehicles and the installation of solar photovoltaic rooftop panels (

In 2008, Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows was named one of the “World’s Top Earth Friendly Getaways” by Conde Nast Traveler magazine and  selected as one of only 10 golf resorts in the world for a Green Golf Award by Golf magazine.  

Preserving Hawaii’s resources, environment and culture is an important aspect of the Mauna Lani experience. Mauna Lani’s solar energy innovations have earned the resort the distinction of generating the most solar electric power of any luxury resort in the world. 

Covering three acres, the photovoltaic system provides operating power and supplies the majority of the resort’s daytime water pumping power requirements. This eco-friendly hotel offers creative Green Meetings that support sustainable ventures like “Epicurean 808” menus — with all products obtained within a 100 mile radius of Mauna Lani Bay (

In response to growing eco-trends in the meetings and events industry, the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa purchases Energy Star equipment as replacements, requests that vendors supply green products, asks car rentals companies for hybrid vehicles, and calculates the carbon footprint of all its hotels (

Last year, the Keauhou Beach Resort ( hosted the 20th annual meeting of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) and delivered an experience that lived up to the organization’s goal to “make the meeting as carbon neutral as possible.”

“Our green meeting focused on keeping things local and low impact,” said Meghan Gombos, Pacific Islands Coral Management Specialist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Coral Reef Conservation Program. “We worked with the Keauhou Beach Resort staff to create menus that included local foods to support local businesses as well as reduce our carbon footprint. We also asked all registered participants to voluntarily donate funds to offset their carbon footprint and donated the funds to Tropical Reforestation & Ecosystems Education and the Kohala Watershed Partnerships to help restore native forests.”

The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai ( satisfies the meetings industry’s hankering for eco-friendly food options with the Big Island Sustainable Dinner Buffet. 

The menu, created by Chef James Babian, consists of Hawaii products only (with the exception of flour, olive oil, and vinegar). The fare includes ingredients such as Hamakua mushrooms, Waimea organic greens, Keahole lobster, Kulana Ranch beef tenderloin, and vanilla from Hawaiian Vanilla Company ( 

Hawaii Island also boasts about 20 farmer’s markets and  six KTA Super Stores ( that carry Mountain Apple Brand® food products grown, processed or manufactured in Hawaii.

Tours and activities, because rarely are meetings and events all work and no play, have also updated and “greened” their operations. Several stand-out examples are:

* Blue Hawaiian Helicopters worked to help produce a next-generation touring helicopter called the EC130B4 “ECO-Star,” a fuel-efficient aircraft providing a 50 percent reduction in noise pollution over the Big Island (

* Blue Sea Cruises, Inc.’s the Spirit of Kona, a 70-foot eco-friendly power catamaran, is the only commercial vessel on the Kona Coast that uses bio diesel, and adheres strictly to NOAA guidelines (

* Captain Zodiac, with more than 30 years of stewardship to the ocean and reef, was the first marine operator on Hawaii’s Big Island to become accepted by the Kuleana Green Business program, which requires environmental and social responsibility (

* Hawaii Forest & Trail ( incorporates “voluntourism” into tours at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the only World Heritage Site in Hawaii, by enlisting visitors to pull invasive plants from the native forest understory, and imparting a greater understanding of Hawai‘i’s threatened ecosystems.

* Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, which serves as both venue and attraction, is the first titanium-clad building in Hawaii and earned a coveted LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Titanium was chosen for its space-age luster and its resistance to corrosion. The building is composed of 75 percent recycled material and houses systems to control power and light consumption for overall environmental efficiency. The five acres of landscape showcase one of the state’s largest collections of native Hawaiian plantings. (

Hawaii’s Big Island has been so successful in adopting a sustainability ethic that it has drawn high-profile visitors such as the Turner Foundation, a private foundation committed to preventing damage to natural systems. 

The group, headed by media mogul Ted Turner, stayed at Kona Village, (, an eco-friendly, thatched-roof resort that combines a natural setting an unplugged atmosphere, with the ability to hold high-powered board meetings on property. At the resort the group learned about and indulged in island-grown, island-produced foods with executive chef Mark Tsuchiyama. 

Off property, they toured Imiloa Astronomy Center, visited the Natural Energy Labs of Hawaii (NELHA), trekked through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and visited Parker Ranch (, a historic ranch with decades-long conservation practices, conscientious water management, and the Ranching the Sun solar energy project.

The tourism community in Hawaii is adept at fulfilling the modern needs of the meetings and events industry while embracing today’s environmental movement. With more than seven million visitors each year and the highest number of endangered and threatened plant and animal species on Earth, coupling quality business with environmental responsibility is essential. 

Evidence of just that can be found on the Big Island Visitors Bureau new sustainable tourism Web site that details sustainability efforts and gives tips for visiting the island in a responsible manner, including how to cut energy use, eat local foods and recycle. 

The site also suggests green activities and offers information about sustainable hotels, restaurants and tours, and provides links for ways to offset visitors’ carbon emissions (

One Response to “Big Island embracing eco-trends in meetings industry”

  1. matt says:

    solar panels snake oil whatever. ignorance is our greatest national commodity and it is in full gear. eco whatever you people could not live one day without modern technology and i don’t mean green B.S tech stuff


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