In April 2009, Saint Paul RiverCentre officials launched a long-term, multifaceted sustainability initiative with a mission to become a green leader among convention centers in the region. The neighboring Xcel Energy Center, home to the Minnesota Wild, joined the effort soon after when a number of shared resources were realized.
Green practices weren’t new to these facilities; recycling, energy efficiency and water conservation had been priorities for some time. However, officials implemented an ambitious, strategic plan that has encompassed multiple campus-wide initiatives over several years.
The first initiative, titled “50-50 in 2,” was focused on waste reduction across the Saint Paul RiverCentre and Xcel Energy Center campus. The goal of the two-year initiative was to reduce the amount of trash generated at the facilities by 50% while increasing the recycling rate to 50%. To accomplish this goal, 630 recycling receptacles were purchased so that every trash container on every level of each facility would have an accompanying recycling bin. In addition, the facilities made an extensive transition to compostable products and all processes and behind-the-scenes infrastructure were redesigned to make recycling and composting as efficient as possible.
The two-year timeline of this goal concluded in July of 2011. These facilities not only reached their goals, they far exceeded them. As of March 2012, these facilities reduced trash by 60% (over 1.4 million pounds per year) and increased their annual recycling rate to 54.5%.
Since that time, without setting a new goal, the annual recycling rate has increased to 56% and the total waste stream has fell to just over 50,000 pounds annually. In the first quarter of 2012, the campus recycled a record 45.3 tons of commingle items (cans, bottles, cups & tubs).
A major element of this success was a commitment to composting. Composting was integrated into all campus kitchens and concessions. The practice was quickly adopted by employees and guests and, after two years, became the largest recycled item on campus, amounting to 320 tons in 2 years. Combined, the Xcel Energy Centre and Saint Paul RiverCentre have collected over one million pounds of compost to date.
Although waste reduction was the first initiative to roll out at these facilities, officials recognized that energy efficiency and carbon footprint reductions were equally vital sustainable leadership. A campus-wide energy initiative – “80-20 in 3” – was launched shortly after the waste initiative had commenced. The 2011-12 season marked the third and final year of “80-20 in 3”, which aimed at reducing carbon emissions by 80% and increasing efficiency to 20% better than average.
As of March 2012, the Xcel Energy Center has achieved a 42% carbon footprint reduction and is 13.3% more efficient than the average for similar facilities, according to the Xcel Energy Center sustainability team. Campus-wide, the efficiency rating is estimated at 20.4% more efficient than average.
Over the last 12 months the campus-wide “80-20 in 3” program has reduced the amount of carbon emitted by 7,130 metric tons from a baseline set in 2007-08.
The successful effort is a result, in part, to major upgrades and retrofits to lighting and existing equipment, which dramatically increased efficiency of the systems. The largest strides have come as a result of adjustments in the type of energy purchased and the development of on-site renewable energy.
The Xcel Energy Center is heated by a utility which purchases approximately 70% from renewable sources such as biomass and solar, which is made even more efficient with cogeneration. 2,314,716 kWh of wind power has been purchased to power the facilities to date, through the Wild’s Windsource for Events program. The Windsource program allows customers to offset their events by purchasing renewable energy from Minnesota wind farms. Over 50 event days were offset by Windsource purchases in 2012, including all Minnesota Wild home games.
Even closer to home, a 1 MW solar thermal array, the largest in the Midwest, was completed on-site. Additionally, an 82 kW solar photovoltaic system was completed on the south wall of the RiverCentre parking ramp. Together, the solar thermal installation and the solar photovoltaic system have produced more than 1,055 MWh.
For Xcel Energy Center, water efficiency is becoming the next top priority. Overall, water consumption is down compared to the campus benchmark period – with almost a 50% reduction at Xcel Energy Center.
To learn more about the on-going efforts at the Wild’s Xcel Energy Center, visit: www.xcelenergycenter.com/sustainability
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