Green Strides: Metro Toronto Convention Centre Keeps Getting Greener and Greener
Vibrant, progressive, walkable, innovative and diverse. Those are words that often come to mind when thinking of Toronto, North America’s fourth-largest city and the cultural heart of Canada. Easy to get to from the U.S., this modern, multicultural gateway also happens to be one of the most sustainable destinations for meetings and events, with an array of industry-leading convention venues that make environmental consciousness a top priority.
Nowhere is this more evident than at Canada’s leading meetings and trade show facility, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC), which offers more than 442,000 square feet of exhibit space, 77 meeting rooms, two multi-purpose ballrooms and a state-of-the-art theater.
According to MTCC officials, event planners can feel confident that every event held at the downtown facility is a zero-waste event. Not only is 90% of all event waste redirected from landfill, the venue’s sustainable practices and offerings, including recycling, energy conservation efforts, the use of non-toxic green cleaning products, renewable electricity, locally sourced food and beverage and leftover item and food donations, are business-as-usual at the venue.
“As Canada’s top convention center, we offer every planner the opportunity to reduce their event’s environmental footprint and give back in a meaningful way,” explained Vivian Fleet, MTCC vice president of operations. “Our center has its own robust sustainability plan, and also assists every step of the way in implementing the best sustainability tactics for every event, which may include using clean energy, recycling, local procurement or even donating leftover items.”
In the last few years, the MTCC focused on upping the ante with food donation and supporting local businesses as the industry and local community navigated unchartered waters during COVID-19. Here are some of the most recent steps the facility has taken to lessen the environmental impact of the meetings and trade shows it hosts.
- Post-event donation program: The MTCC makes a point of encouraging all event planners and exhibitors to donate leftover food and event items to local charities. This program, managed by the MTCC team and multiple departments, helps support the venue’s zero-waste objectives.
In the last few years, food insecurity has been on the rise in Canada, which means food donation programs have become more important than ever, according to MTCC officials. To date, the center has donated more than 340,000 meals—and counting—to local food rescue organizations, including Daily Bread Food Bank and the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) student nutrition program, which provides healthy, nutritious food to Toronto students who may not have access to healthy food at home due to circumstances beyond their control.
The MTCC also donates leftover event items, from furniture to delegate bags, to local charities across the city that are in need of community support services.
- Locally sourced beer and wine: Starting in 2022, 100% of the wine and craft beer served at the MTCC is now locally sourced. In a typical year, the MTCC serves approximately 38,000 bottles of wine and 94,000 beers. By buying local in large volume, the facility hopes to help support local businesses as much as possible, especially as the region recovers from the effects of the pandemic. Overall, approximately 65% of all food and beverage items procured by the MTCC are from local farms and suppliers, and the facility aims to increase this percentage every year.
“As Canada’s largest convention center, it’s important for us to lead by example, support local businesses and make a positive impact on the region,” said David Procopio, director of food and beverage services at the MTCC. “We continue to find ways to increase our ability to buy local and for attendees to experience the best of Ontario.”
- Rooftop garden and beehives: The MTCC continues to develop its rooftop Chef’s Garden, which grows many herbs and vegetables used in the venue’s kitchen. Located on the South Building, the garden is also home to two beehives housing 50,000 bees each, which help support the essential pollinators in the local area while procuring honey for the venue’s culinary team.
- Eco-friendly offerings: As the first convention center in Canada to offer clients the option of using clean energy, the MTCC offers event planners the option of powering their events with Bullfrog Power, which supplies power from natural, renewable sources. The company ensures that for every kWh of electricity an event uses, an equal amount of electricity from a pollution-free, renewable source is put back on the grid.
The MTCC is also the first convention center in North America to partner with the logistics app Voyage Control to reduce traffic and carbon monoxide emissions in the local area by reducing idling time for vehicles during move-in and move-out. Instead of having to wait at the marshaling yard, MTCC exhibitors simply schedule a time to deliver materials directly to the facility.
The South Building is also home to a seven-acre green roof, complete with a park for public enjoyment, that helps reduce the building’s energy consumption and cooling costs while creating a beautiful city space.
The facility was the first in Toronto to be on Enwave Energy’s Deep Lake Water Cooling system, which uses cold water extracted from Lake Ontario to cool the South Building, allowing for significant reductions in GHG emissions and electrical consumption.
This plethora of environmental practices hasn’t gone unnoticed by meeting and event planners. In 2023, the MTCC is set to host 19 citywide conventions, nine of which are from the U.S. and six of which will be hosting an event in Canada for the first time. With an estimated $219 million in direct spending economic impact expected for the regional economy, this major boost in demand—greater than in most pre-pandemic years—signals brighter days ahead for the business events industry in Ontario, according to MTCC officials.
“Our industry, our team and our partners have worked tirelessly over the past two years to recover and move forward successfully,” said Lorenz Hassenstein, president and CEO of the MTCC. “We are very pleased to report that our 2023 booking calendar signals the potential for a strong recovery and bright future for the business events industry and our facility.”
He continued, “In our industry, small decisions can make a big impact. Our 90% waste diversion rate is achieved in partnership with events that work with us to reduce their environmental footprint. We hope to set a positive example as we continue to create successful and sustainable events and meetings.”