I avoided St. Louis like the plague for a good decade. Every time I was forced — and I do mean forced — to attend an event or even drive through the city on my way west across I-70, I wound up jammed in traffic and sitting for hours on the interstate in horrible road construction. My impression of the city was of roadside litter and the fouled air of too many cars idling bumper to bumper.
But times change
. In the last two years, St. Louis has really made an impact on me. My daughter and I visited the zoo
(I have a hard time with animals in cages, but this wasn't a terrible experience) and we were both impressed with the sustainability efforts taken by the crew there.
I joined my husband on a work trip one weekend last year to a convention center in the suburbs, where he had a vendor's booth at a cat show. The facility amazed me. As we toted cat condos from the parking lot to the show hall, we passed an array of recycling containers, including one for compost. I have never seen a public collection site for food waste and was thrilled to use it for the bread crusts my daughter peeled off her sandwich during lunch.
Last weekend I attended a mystery writer's convention, Bouchercon, and had the pleasure of staying right near the Gateway Arch. The city was pristine. While several other big conferences had attracted huge numbers of tourists, I encountered very little litter or garish reminders of life in the big city. And what really impressed me most was the hotels' sustainability efforts.
My group met at the Renaissance, an upscale hotel and convention center. Several hundred people spent four days going to panels where authors discussed everything from strong female protagonists to the debate over whether evil is intrinsic or not. And very few of them burdened the planet with disposable containers for their beverages.
The hotel did a fantastic job with sustainability efforts. Both floors had several meeting rooms, each fronted with a water cooler and a tray full of reusable glasses, just like you would find in the restaurant. No plastic water bottles jammed into a tub of ice. No trash cans shoved full of recyclable waste. And I didn't have to haul around my usual bag o' recyclables to collect from my meetings and haul home to put on my curb.
Even the hospitality room served coffee in real mugs that attendees were allowed to carry with them to different meetings. I can't tell you how much easier it was for me to relax without being surrounded by styrofoam cups!
At my own hotel, the Drury Plaza, they also surprised me by simply serving their buffet style breakfast on real dishes. Maybe it's because I usually stay at places much less expensive, but I cringe at the "free hot breakfast" of most locations, which consists of plastic silverware and disposable plates and bowls. The Drury was bustling and fed hundreds of people each morning. I can only imagine how much trash was diverted from the landfill by washing and reusing their tableware every day.
Kudos to St. Louis for impressing me again.