Tourism Visit Orlando

Visit Orlando – Sustainability Matters

Orange County Convention Center

Anchoring the south end of International Drive, the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) is the crown jewel of Orlando’s convention and meetings industry. It’s modern, convenient, accessible to thousands of hotel rooms and it’s really big!

OCCC has more than seven million square feet under cover: equivalent to 145 football fields. There are 74 meeting rooms and another 232 breakout rooms making up about half a million square feet of meeting space. Add to that a 2,600-seat theater, 6,227 parking spaces, 174 truck bays, eight food courts and the Valencia Ballroom — actually bigger than a football field — and you have one of the largest convention centers in the country.

Certainly, something so sizeable yields an impact.

How about an economic impact? In coming years, there are already more than 800 booked events with nearly 12 million potential attendees contributing over 22 billion dollars in economic impact. About 100 local businesses support the center, creating some 26,000 jobs in the Orlando area.

There is also a physical impact. Facilities can grow to the detriment of the community, with excessive consumption and unmanageable waste. Without thoughtful management, the burden can take the shine off the benefit.

In 2014, the Orange County government recognized the need for thoughtful management and published their “Our Home for Life” plan. The plan outlines seven areas of focus including community, education, natural resources and the built environment, and the county’s desire to connect multiple opportunities to attain sustainability.

When are we sustainable?

“When we create a more livable, workable and environmental friendly community, we achieve sustainability.” That’s the short answer from sustainability expert
Chris Castro.

Castro has been immersed in sustainability for the last decade working with a diverse group of organizations including UNICEF, Fleet Farming, the Florida Green Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Energy. Castro, the City of Orlando sustainability director, explained, “Sustainability is a work in progress and seeks to enhance quality of life, reduce inequity, drive economic development and limit environmental impact.”

The Orange County Convention Center accepted the challenge, connecting community, education, natural resources and the built environment through a unique urban agriculture project at the convention center’s main entrance. The 2,000-square-foot Center-to-Table Gardens is an aeroponic structure producing edibles in an all-natural, chemical-free environment. There are 81 towers, each cultivating 44 planting spots producing herbs and vegetables for meals prepared at the OCCC by food service partner Centerplate.

The Orange County Convention Center said they want to show visitors that healthy food isn’t impossible to find and that “even in the middle of the city, you can have direct access to healthy, fresh food.”

“While agriculture is not our business, helping individuals form relationships in order to be successful is; we see our gardens and its food as catalysts in the process. We felt that
a garden was an effective and aesthetically pleasing
path toward educating our visitors and exemplifying our commitment to sustainability.”

One sustainability step taken, Castro said, is all about moving the needle. “Food travels 1800 miles per person, per plate, per day. Thirty percent of our global carbon usage is directly related to agriculture. Hyperlocal solutions to how we produce and deliver food in our communities addresses one of our major problems.”

Beyond the tangible fresh veggies on convention center
tables, the gardens engage and educate Orlando visitors as well. The OCCC hosts garden tours for students, restaurants/chefs, area businesses and government representatives, exposing guests to sustainable methods of putting food on plates while reducing the demand on natural resources by up to 85 percent.

Another slice of sustainability is the positive impression left on national and international visitors by the Center-to-Table Gardens’ tasty greens and pleasing environment keeping Orlando and the OCCC in the forefront of their minds when planning future vacations, conventions and meetings.

Winner, winner! Sustainable dinner!


When Orange Goes Green

By George Aguel

President and CEO of CEO of Visit Orlando

As the top U.S. destination for meetings and conventions, Orlando is on pace to host 1.5 million attendees this year at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC). With so many people visiting the area, the destination is dedicated to wide-scale sustainability programs that move our region toward an ever-greener economy. The Central Florida tourism industry’s serious commitment to green efforts has earned us national recognition that will shape the future for our travelers and those who rely on us for their meeting needs.

As a destination, Orlando strives to be at the forefront of sustainable meeting and convention practices and the OCCC is leading the way. For example, the center’s one-megawatt rooftop solar PV system generates power by harnessing our destination’s most abundant resource — sunlight. The result is a system that provides 12 percent of the center’s overall electrical needs. As the largest PV system in the southeastern United States, it has earned OCCC the prestigious ISO 14001 certification — making it the first convention center in the nation to receive such a certification and one of three in the world to gain this recognition.

As the largest convention center in the world to have received the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, the OCCC knows that sustainable meetings are not only good for our planet — they’re also good for business. That’s why the center uses recycled products, reclaimed irrigation water, xeriscape plantings and Green Seal-certified cleaning products. In addition, waterless urinals and low-flow faucets encourage water conservation while close efforts with meeting organizers allow the center to support each convention’s own desires for green-friendly events.

Eco-friendly meeting practices, world-rated environmental certifications and a state-of-the-art convention center that puts sustainability at the forefront are just a few of the ways our destination is committed to a greener way of doing business. Along with sustainable food and beverage services and more than 136 hotels already certified as Florida Green Lodgings, Orlando is creating a hospitality culture that is not only mindful of the environment, but of the overall experience as well.

About the author

i4 Business

i4 Business

I4 Business magazine has become one of the most trusted voices for and about the Central Florida business community. Each month through our print and digital platforms, we provide access to meet, to learn from and to learn about some of the incredible entrepreneurs and business leaders, along with economic trends that are shaping our region.

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