Orlando has everything meeting planners need to host their next sustainable meeting (Pictured: Orange County Convention Center).

Sustainability can be defined as the balance between the environment, equity and economy. This balance is woven throughout Orlando from an eco-friendly convention center, green hotels and resorts, and conservation-minded theme parks. It’s only “natural” that sustainable meetings options are plentiful in Orlando.

Orlando was recognized for achieving the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) by the U.S. Green Building Council for its citywide sustainability and resiliency efforts. So, whether you’re a meeting planner who wants to plan a gourmet farm-to-table experience or just needs peace of mind that a venue has sustainable business practices, Orlando has locations and experiences that will surpass your organization’s eco-expectations.

Discover: Sustainable Meetings in Orlando

A Green Award-Winning Convention Center

Hydroponics at the Orange County Convention Center
Center-to-Table Gardens at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center

When choosing a meeting location, planners often need to consider a venue’s sustainable business just as much as its square footage. In Orlando, the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) does more than satisfy both needs as the 7 million square foot facility’s commitment to environmental stewardship has garnered national recognition for its green initiatives, social responsibility and long-term environmental impact on the community.

Discover: Orange County Convention Center

Not only is the OCCC the largest USBGC Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certified Convention Center in the world for its North-South building, but it’s also the first convention center in the U.S. to receive ISO certification for the implementation of an Environmental Management System (EMS). Additionally, OCCC is the third convention center in the world to be APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standard certified.

During a trade show or convention at the OCCC, attendees can witness the center’s sustainable food sourcing at work in the lobby where the 2,000 square foot Center-to-Table Gardens reside. These 88 aeroponic growing towers ensure only the freshest greens and herbs for meeting menu offerings. The gardens are maintained in an all-natural, chemical-free environment with the resultant produce available daily for the center’s clients. Containing nearly 4,000 growing ports in total, the center houses up to 7,000 plants at any given moment, including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, herbs and edible flowers.

Another OCCC environmental initiative recycles one of Orlando’s most prized assets: the sun. The center’s one-megawatt rooftop photovoltaic system generates power by collecting solar energy, providing 12 percent of the venue’s annual electrical needs.

The OCCC also works closely with event organizers and guests to support and execute green events, procedures and efforts. They are also dedicated to increasing the overall sustainability of the entire convention district. Additionally, an onsite Sustainability Coordinator manages all in-house sustainability efforts and assists with any client needs or requests.

Meetings That Matter at the Theme Parks

Close up of a turtle at Turtle Trek in SeaWorld® Orlando
Turtle Trek at SeaWorld® Orlando

SeaWorld® Orlando is renowned for its commitment to protecting the environment through its support of global conservation initiatives and the park’s incredible dedication to rescue more than 40,000 sick, injured and orphaned animals in need. This commitment is also infused in the company’s sustainable food sourcing for its animal inhabitants, park guests and meeting groups.

To ensure a healthy diet for the animals, the SeaWorld team purchases food from responsibly managed fisheries that they closely review for nutritional quality and safety. They also avoid purchasing fish that have been caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment.

For park guests and meeting groups at all three parks — SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica® Orlando and Discovery Cove® — the parks serve humanely raised and sustainably harvested food. This includes:

  • Seafood sourced from either sustainably managed fisheries or aquaculture,
  • Plant-based menu items,
  • Produce sourced from local farms when and where possible,
  • Coffee served to guests and ambassadors,
  • Shell and liquid eggs from cage-free chickens, and
  • Purchasing all commodity pork cuts, such as ribs and loins, from suppliers who have announced a commitment to humane farming practices.

Plus, meeting at SeaWorld helps support the work to save animal species around the world.

Universal Orlando Resort annually recycles 10,000 tons of food waste, cardboard, metal, glass, plastic and paper. LED fixtures have also been incorporated throughout the parks. It has committed to using alternative fuels in 100% of its service vehicles and mobile equipment, too, resulting in 260 fewer tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

In 2017, Walt Disney World® Resort reduced its new emissions by 41%. Currently, its solar facility uses over 500,000 solar panels that can effectively power two of the four theme parks. The company opened a new Mickey-shaped solar farm in 2019 that spans 270 acres. In addition, Walt Disney World now exclusively offers paper straws instead of plastic, single-use straws.

Farm-to-Table Fresh Dining

Pompano Beach swordfish at Primo by Melissa Kelly
Courtesy Primo by Melissa Kelly at JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes

Orlando’s evolving culinary scene is filled with popular restaurants, famed steakhouses and succulent seafood outlets that include sustainable and far-to-table menu items.

Discover: Orlando Dining for Business Groups

The team at MICHELIN Guide-recognized Primo, located at the JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes, have the notion of being stewards of the land, serving seasonally fresh and locally sourced Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Fellow MICHELIN Guide restaurant Swine & Sons in Winter Park serves scratch-made burgers and sandwiches. Down the road at The Ravenous Pig, a MICHELIN Guide Bib Gourmand, the menu infuses seasonal ingredients, often sourced from small local distributors.

Gourmet farm-to-table goodness can be found at Artisan’s Table, a creative American restaurant in the heart of downtown Orlando, or American Kitchen Bar & Grill at B Resort & Spa at Disney Springs®. For groups that venture into Disney Springs, celebrity Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen pays homage to Florida’s rich agricultural heritage by highlighting local ingredients and farm-to-table cuisine.

David’s Club Bar & Grill and Spencer’s For Steaks & Chops, both located at Hilton Orlando, are certified Ocean Friendly Restaurants by the Surfrider Foundation, while Boca in Winter Park bases its menu on the local food movement and sources ingredients from nearby farmers and specialty food purveyors wherever possible.

Welcome to the Hotel Sustainability

Rosen Shingle Creek fishing
Fishing at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando

Meeting and convention attendees can sleep easy at night knowing their hotel or resort is committed to a sustainable present and future. More than 135 Greater Orlando hotels have received green certification from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP recognizes environmentally conscientious lodging in the state through its Florida Green Lodging Certification Program, a voluntary, non-regulatory effort.

Robust recycling programs, the reduction or removal of plastic bags or straws and eco-friendly linen washing policies are just a few of the efforts found at many properties. Additionally, guests are also given the opportunity to do their part with in-room recycle bins and opt-in policies for towel replacements.

As a result of these factors, meeting planners can be assured their next Orlando event easily meets all the criteria needed to host an incredible environmentally friendly event that will inspire all who attend.

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