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Special Events

Going Green Goes High-Tech

Although many ways that event planners go "green" are low-tech--switching to china cups over disposables, using local produce rather than flown-in foodstuffs--increasingly, technology is stepping into the picture. High-tech alternatives are saving precious resources.

Starwood Hotels is putting sophisticated 3-D event design into the hands of planners everywhere with its new "Virtual Planner" program. Now available at Starwood's two luxury resorts in Baja, Mexico, the program enables users to create customized virtual events--down to placement of chairs and tables and even linen color--all by sitting at their own computer.

The program offers views of all function space with 3-D model fly-throughs and details on space dimensions and capacities. Once planners are happy with their event setup, they input their specific contact and event information and proceed to download menus and set their food and beverage requests. When the plan is complete, the planner submits it online, which generates an RFP for the resorts' event staff. Planners can expect a price quote within 24 hours, the company says.

The Virtual Planner program is now available at the Westin Los Cabos and the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar Los Cabos. Starwood management expects to roll it out to all its properties in Mexico by mid-year and to all Starwood properties in the United States by year-end.

Many conferences have switched conference proceedings from bulky binders to CDs. Cadmium CD, based in Forest Hill, Md., has taken the concept a step further with its "Key CD," which lets conference attendees log on to a secure Web site from which they can download information. The new system is a big energy-saver, its makers say. For example, the proceedings from one recent conference would have required eight CDs, which would have had to be sent in either PC- or MAC-compatible versions. But the Key CD system enabled the company "to distribute CDs on-site, eliminating the need for secondary packaging and the cost to mail CDs to attendees," a company spokesperson says.

For more, see the April issue of Special Events Magazine.

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