Sustainable Food Court Initiative


An Integrated Approach to Sustainability

With the November 2017 closing|decommissioning of the Georgia Dome, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) stepped forward as the SFCI Event Venue Pilot. Within the state-owned GWCCA umbrella is the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC), the fourth largest convention center in the nation and the world’s largest LEED-Certified convention center. In addition to the GWCC, the GWCCA manages Olympic Centennial Park in downtown Atlanta and the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center.

The SFCI – GA Dome page showcases the accomplishments during its 2012 – 2016 tenure as the SFCI Event Venue Pilot.

The GWCCA hosted the acclaimed 2009 Zero Waste Zones launch press conference, beginning the long-time, powerful Ei | GWCCA relationship. In December 2010, Tim Trefzer joined the GWCCA as the first sustainability director and took the complex’s sustainability to new dimensions. Effective July 2017, Tim joined the Ei Leadership Team.


The following local government and non-profits join the national SFCI Team for the RFI – GWCCA Team:

Levy Restaurants operates the GWCCA foodservice outlets and joins the SFCI GWCCA Team. 


Event venues experience the following unique challenges:

  • Event contracts – Facility sales departments often book events years in advance; by event time, contract provisions may not complement facility sustainability practices. Common practice includes one waste haul per exhibit hall within the contract price; thus, there is no financial incentive to reduce event waste.
  • Third-party contractors – Most conferences contract with a local event management company for equipment rental along with delivery, set-up, and tear-down. Event-team communication of sustainability practices often does not reach the subcontractors; thus, specified tasks do not happen.
  • Move-out timing – Contracts include a tight post-event timeline for the staff to clear out the exhibit hall. Due to the time-sensitive urgency, the staff focuses on “clearing out” in the fastest manner possible; often recyclable material ends up in the waste container, versus separated for recycling.
  • Government-owned facilities – Many conference centers are owned by local and state governments with bidding processes required for service and equipment contracts. 
  • Event day driven – By their nature, conference centers experience high-level activity followed by slow or dormant time.


As an industry leader in sustainability, the GWCCA boasts an impressive list of accomplishments:

  • GWCC earned LEED Silver certification in 2014 making it the world’s largest LEED-certified convention center.
  • GWCC earned LEED Gold certification on November 28, 2017, maintaining its distinction as the world’s largest LEED-certified convention center. The GWCC re-certified two years earlier than required and five points higher than the Gold level threshold. The re-certification was thirteen points higher than the 2014 Silver level application.
  • GWCCA-managed Savannah International Trade and Convention Center earned LEED Gold in July 2017, making it the first convention center in the State of Georgia to achieve Gold LEED status.
  • GWCCA diverted more than 14 million pounds of material from landfills since 2010.
  • GWCC reduced water consumption by 41% since 2009 through the installation of new irrigation, restroom fixtures, and chillers.
  • GWCC is approximately 28% more energy efficient than similar buildings.
  • GWCCA uses janitorial paper and cleaning products that meet sustainability criteria, including recycled content materials and|or reduced harmful chemicals. (86% of the products meet the criteria)
  • GWCC’s 1,900-solar panel canopy located in the marshaling yard produces enough energy to power 89 Georgia homes annually.
  • GWCCA employees donated 1730 lbs. of clothing, recycled 152 lbs. of batteries and electronics, and donated nearly 500 meals worth of food to the Atlanta Community Food Bank during the 2016 holiday season.
  • GWCCA finished construction in April 2017 of a $28 million energy-saving performance contract that is expected to save at least 39% on utilities. The contract earned the majority of the additional thirteen LEED certification points in the 2017 re-certification 


Committed to Ei’s tagline Regeneration in ACTION, the SFCI – GWCCA announced the following goals:

  1. OneLessStraw Campaign – join Ei Strategic Ally One More Generation’s campaign. Tasks include understanding the logistics, from purchasing and implementation perspectives, of a campus-wide shift from plastic to paper straws.
  2. On-campus mini farm – plans are underway to locate land for an on-campus mini farm, inspired by Ei Farm Tours. The ZWA Blog article,The Power of Tours, documents the GWCCA Team visit to Kennesaw State University’s Hickory Grove Farm to learn about regenerative agriculture practices and crop choices.
  3. Regenerative landscape – explore how regenerative landscape practices may incorporate within the GWCCA campus grounds,
  4. Glass recycling – select a GWCC foodservice outlet for a source-separated glass-recycling pilot.

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