By Sierra Smith

NIRSA members are conscious of whether or not their actions are having a positive effect on the environment. It is for this reason that promoting sustainable communities is one of NIRSA’s strategic values. The Association is invested in a sustainable future and is intentional in selecting for its professional development opportunities event sites and hotels that share a similar vision.

The 2015 NIRSA Annual Conference & Recreational Sports Expo is taking place from March 30–April 2 at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center. Marriott Hotels—the parent company of Gaylord Resorts—was the first major hotel chain to calculate their carbon foot print and launch a plan to improve energy efficiency, conserve water, and support projects that reduce deforestation.

All of the Gaylord hotels partner with Clean the World, an organization that collects the leftover soap bars and bottled amenities from hotel rooms. Clean the World will collect nearly 447,000 soap bars and 62,500 lbs. of bottled amenities—shampoos, conditioners, body washes, lotions and gels—each year for distribution to children and families in domestic homeless shelters, women’s shelters, and rescue missions. The sanitized and recycled amenities will also be included in sustainable hygiene kits for foreign distribution to orphanages, schools, medical clinics, and missions.

At the Gaylord Texan many efforts are made in the name of sustainability. The ten-acre Paradise Springs Pool is LEED Silver certified and all of the waste that is produced throughout the hotel is sorted into recyclables, compost, and trash. Marriott also uses a number of products to help meet its sustainability goals: low-energy light bulbs, showerheads that use less water, “room-ready” towels, recycled key cards and pens, and biodegradable laundry bags.

In addition to choosing a hotel similarly committed to sustainability, NIRSA is taking additional steps to green up the Annual Conference. The Association has invested in new technology like the conference app, posted presentations on the website, will have paperless session evaluations for the very first time this year, will give a reusable conference bag only to those who request one, chooses to use compostable cups and plates and utensils, offers water coolers and pitchers of tap water instead of water bottles, and serves box lunches buffet style to eliminate much of the packaging that comes with individually-wrapped lunches. Holding the All Conference Social onsite at the Gaylord Texan this year will also save countless gallons of fossil fuels and eliminate exhaust emissions.

As an attendee and hotel guest you can also do your part to help us keep NIRSA 2015 green. Consider bringing your own badge holder with you—maybe you have yours from last year or from your regional conference. Or think about packing a reusable water bottle and refilling it from the water coolers—just one attendee using a reusable water bottle saves enough energy to power a 75-watt light bulb for 29 hours.

Can’t live without your morning cup of joe? Bring your own mug, which has the added benefit of being a conversation starter if it has your rec center logo on it. If one attendee uses recyclable coffee cups, it saves a quarter pound of carbon dioxide; for 2,500 attendees, that’s 625 lbs. of carbon dioxide! Even the foods you decide to buy can make a difference. For example, choosing to eat an apple instead of a banana saves 9.25 gallons of water. And consider reusing your linens instead of having them changed out each day. Each attendee who makes this choice saves 1.3 gallons of water. That’s a potential savings of 3,250 gallons of water for 2,500 attendees.

Going green can often seem like a huge and overwhelming venture, but by making some small and important decisions you can help NIRSA make a big difference. Let’s work together to make the 2015 NIRSA Annual Conference & Recreational Sports Expo a green event that demonstrates our association’s commitment to building sustainable communities!



For more information about going green at the 2015 NIRSA Annual Conference & Recreational Sports Expo, please contact NIRSA Assistant Director for Event Management Sierra Smith.