5 Scottish Venues Focusing on Sustainable Events
Rich in history, tradition and culture, Scotland is an easy-to-reach, yet often new destination for meeting attendees. The number of direct flights from the U.S. east coast has grown significantly over the past several years, and many major European cities offer connections to Scotland’s five international airports.
There’s a lot more to the country than golf, Scotch whisky, bagpipes, sheep and haggis (a boiled Scottish dish made from sheep offal, onion, oatmeal and other ingredients), although all of those are plentiful.
“Scotland offers historic cities, castles, distillery tasting experiences, golf, spas, target shooting, mountain biking, trout fishing, falconry, off-road driving and some of the most beautiful countryside in Europe,” says Joe Reise, manager of travel sourcing and supplier relations at Motivation Excellence, who has organized a number of events at various locations within Scotland.
As planners grow more conscious of sustainable event initiatives, venues in Scotland have upped their green game. Reise says simply holding a meeting in many locations within Scotland helps attendees think more about their environment. “When you're at a destination where there's a lot of nature and outdoor activities, you get re-educated and re-sensitized to some of the environmental issues,” he says.
In recent years, the following venues have been making concerted efforts to implement more sustainable practices both in-house and for events.
Convention and Exhibition Facilities
P&J Live (Aberdeen)
This August, the Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre was replaced by a new events complex, P&J Live. The venue offers 48,000 square meters (516,668 square feet) of flexible event space with seven conference suites, three exhibition halls, 11 meeting rooms, hospitality suites and an arena that can hold up to 15,000 guets. P&J Live is connected to two hotels (a Hilton and an Aloft) with a total of 350 rooms, and also has a 150-seat restaurant on-site. The complex is located next to the Aberdeen International Airport.
P&J Live was built to be sustainable. Venue operators are seeking BREEAM Excellent certification, which is held only by the top 10 percent of new non-domestic buildings in the UK. The facility uses local renewable resources and advanced technologies to produce enough power to sustain its operations, and reuses nearly all materials used on property. P&J Live had more than 29,000 trees and shrubs planted to contribute to the local ecosystem.
Edinburgh International Conference Center (Edinburgh)
The EICC is located in the heart of Scotland’s capital city, seven miles from Edinburgh International Airport. It has 17 breakout rooms, including a 1,600 sqm (17,222 sq. ft.) room with a moving floor that can hold up to 2,000 attendees in an auditorium- or banquet-style format. For exhibits, 1,185 sqm (12,755 sq. ft.) of carpeted exhibit space can also be used for banquets with up to 850 guests. The EICC also features a 1,200-seat theater, which can be transformed into three separate spaces.
To improve event sustainability, the EICC has created Plan-it Green. The program includes sourcing and purchasing environmentally sensitive products, purchasing organic and locally grown foods, and introducing energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems.
The Scottish Event Campus (Glasgow)
The SEC, located outside central Glasgow, can host a wide range of events in its three spaces: the SEC Centre (five interconnected exhibition and meeting spaces); the 3,000-seat SEC Armadillo; and the SSE Hydro, a 12,000-person concert and events arena. For exhibitions, 22,500 sqm (242,188 sq. ft.) of space are available across five halls, and its 34 breakout rooms range in capacity from 15 to 3,000 delegates. Nearly 1,000 hotel rooms are available on-site, as well. The SEC is eight miles from Glasgow Airport and five minutes by cab from Glasgow Central Station.
Demonstrating its commitment to sustainability, the SEC now uses electricity generated exclusively by renewable sources, has introduced water-saving and waste-reduction measures, and has switched to biodegradable cleaning materials.
Unique Venues in Edinburgh
Two smaller venues in Edinburgh are also attracting attention for their sustainability efforts: Dundas Castle and The Hub.
Historic Dundas Castle was built in 1818 by renowned Scottish architect William Burn and was once home to clan Dundas. Now, the family home is a five-star exclusive-use venue with a strong focus on sustainability.
Located five miles from Edinburgh Airport on a 400-acre estate, Dundas Castle hosts small, luxury corporate events and incentives. Guests can meet and dine in a wide variety of unique rooms throughout the castle. The largest spaces are the Croquet room, which can hold up to 80 guests, and the Pavilion, which can hold up to 200. The castle’s 10 double and seven twin bedrooms can also be booked for planners or guests wishing to stay on-site.
Dundas Castle has 325 sqm (3,498 sq. ft.) of solar panels that supplement the structure’s energy. Hot water and heating are provided by a biomass boiler fueled with locally sourced recycled wood chips. All lights are LED; food is sourced locally and seasonally; and all glass, cardboard and plastic are recycled along with food waste and cooking oil. The castle’s housekeeping equipment has recently adopted smart technology to increase its efficiency.
Louise Andrew, Dundas Castle’s general manager, says the team is now working with clients to reduce event-related packaging. “Internet shopping can often mean that guests bring boxes that have traveled a long way and are packed full of plastic bubble wrap and polystyrene,” she says. “What we do in the run-up period is build an understanding of their requirements and help them make choices that are more sustainable and ideally sourced locally, but which still fit the bill.”
Located next to Edinburgh Castle on The Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s heart of the Old Town, The Hub is a historic building that can hold up to 400 attendees theater-style in its Main Hall and up to 70 in its Dunard Library room. This summer marks the 20-year anniversary of the Edinburgh International Festival, which presents a three-week-long annual program of arts and entertainment and has been held at The Hub since its inception.
The Hub’s Green Policy minimizes environmental impact with regard to events and operations, following Edinburgh City’s Recycle Guides and Recycle for Scotland initiatives. The venue is committed to recycling paper, aluminum, plastic, cardboard, glass, print cartridges, batteries, oil and food waste, and various recycling points are located throughout the building.
Colin Horsburgh, business development consultant at The Hub, says that the venue’s staff partners with clients to make sure each event is as sustainable as possible. Staff meet once a month to ensure they are doing everything possible to promote sustainability in the venue.
“This covers everything from ensuring staff take individual responsibility for switching off lights and equipment when not in use, to sourcing the best local suppliers that have sustainability at their heart and those who focus on lower-resource requirements,” Horsbugh says. “For example, we now recommend tablets or iPads be used for note-taking. Pens and paper are offered only on request.”
Horsbaugh also notes that being in the heart of the city helps reduce attendees’ carbon footprints, as it is walkable from many hotels, Waverley train station, the bus station and tram stops.
“There are so many great options in Scotland,” says Brooke Davis, vice president of operations for Global Access Meetings, who planned an internal marketing meeting in Edinburgh last year. “In Edinburgh, everything is very walkable or a really short transfer. And there’s so much to do there — it’s a perfect place for corporate groups.”