How Chicago’s McCormick Place and Detroit’s TCF Center Are Amplifying Green Efforts

February 17, 2020

As the importance of lessening the environmental impact of meetings, trade shows and events only continues to grow, here’s what two Midwestern convention centers are doing to help make sustainable planning easier.

McCormick Place

With nearly 3 million visitors each year, McCormick Place, North America’s largest convention center, has a large environmental footprint. However, for more than a decade, the 2.6 million-square-foot facility has been actively creating a more sustainable campus. In the last few months, the campus has taken two major steps forward.

  • With installation of the sustainable food waste system Grind2Energy in May 2019, McCormick Place now diverts nearly 100 percent of its pre-consumer food waste from landfills. In the first six months of use, this amounted to more than 25 tons of food waste. Grind2Energy, which converts food waste into renewable energy through anaerobic digestion, is being used in conjunction with composting and other traditional methods of food waste diversion.
  • In September, work began on a $36 million dollar investment to retrofit the lights in McCormick Place and the parking lots with energy-efficient LEDs. The switch to LED lights will save energy, reduce maintenance costs from new fixtures and improve lighting, according to the center’s officials.

In addition, McCormick Place is also home to the Midwest’s largest outdoor rooftop garden (measuring 20,000 square feet), which produces approximately 8,000 lbs. of produce each year that is consumed on its campus, including growing hops to be brewed into beer. They also shop local: One-third of all food purchased at McCormick Place is local, organic or environmentally preferred, and this includes sustainable seafood, meats raised without antibiotics and other farm-to-fork favorites from local businesses. 

TCF Center 

TCF Center

Formerly known as Cobo Center, Detroit’s 2.4-million-sq.ft. TCF Center is the venue of choice for many huge trade shows, including the North American International Auto Show.

In October 2019, it became the largest LEED-certified building in the state of Michigan when it was awarded LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council for attributes such as parking spaces on the living green roof, highly efficient water use and zero-waste practices. In addition, it recently underwent a $279 million upgrade that incorporated green components such as low-flow equipment in kitchens and restrooms and more energy-efficient HVAC equipment.


Here’s what else the venue is doing to decrease its environmental footprint:

  • Centerplate, TCF’s catering services provider, recently hired sustainability consultancy Astrapto to help create a food waste reduction program.
  • Through partnering with Forgotten Harvest, Detroit’s leading food redistribution agency, Centerplate in TCF Center donated more than 8 tons of unserved food (or 12,000 meals) to feed people in the Detroit area in 2019.
  • TCF Center offers a wide range of options for customers including local culinary, vegetarian and vegan meals. 
  • It offers a zero-waste attendee education program that promotes reasonable portions, composting, recycling, plastic bottle alternatives and more. In June 2019, it was host to the Sustainable Brands annual conference, which recorded a record 100-percent diversion rate.


What green practices are you most looking for in trade show venues? Tell us on Twitter, @TSNN_com_US.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.