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September/October 2008
Feature

Collaborating on Standards for Green Meetings and Events

Corporations and organizations may find it a lot easier to hold environmentally friendly meetings, conferences, exhibits and trade shows in the near future, thanks to standards being developed by ASTM International and the Convention Industry Council’s Accepted Practices Exchange in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Green Meeting Industry Council.

In early 2007, the EPA initiated the collaboration — which will help define “green” for a wide range of meeting-related topics — partly in response to Executive Order 13423 mandating government purchasing of sustainable goods and services.

“EPA initially approached ASTM to assist in this most recent effort involving meetings and events as a means to further its work in advancing sustainability in this industry sector, as well as to establish a tool the agency can adopt to inform the decisions of government procurement officials in the environmentally preferable purchasing of meeting and conference facilities,” says Harry Lewis, attorney adviser in the EPA Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, Washington, D.C.

EPA, which has a strong relationship with ASTM, has worked closely with several interest groups in the past, including the Convention Industry Council and the Green Meeting Industry Council, to identify environmental performance practices for a more sustainable industry, Lewis notes. “After discussions with these partners,” he says, “it was agreed there was a great need within the industry for uniformity in defining environmental performance.”

After approaching essential stakeholders and gauging industry interest, ASTM International formed Task Group E06.71.14 on Green Meetings and Events, part of Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings’ Subcommittee E06.71 on Sustainability, to set standards and define best practices.

The topic of green meetings, says Pat Picariello, director of developmental operations for ASTM, “means so many different things to so many different people, from the energy rating of hybrid vans used to pick up guests from airports to banning foam cups at coffee breaks. These standards are important because the concept of what is green, how green is green, are questions people interpret very differently.”

Currently, about 190 members from the EPA, Convention Industry Council, Green Meeting Industry Council, Travel Industry Association, Association of Corporate Travel Executives and other groups are a part of the ASTM task group, chaired by APEX Director Sue Tinnish.

Amy Spatrisano, CMP, a principal in Meeting Strategies Worldwide, Portland, Ore., and chair of the APEX Green Meetings and Events Practice Panel, says the ASTM effort is focusing on nine categories: destination, accommodations, meeting venues, audiovisual/productions, exhibits, food and beverages, transportation, communication and on-site office. The scope of activity, Picariello says, includes but is not limited to multimedia environmental assessment involving, for example, environmental management systems in the built environment; the use of alternative materials and technologies; solid waste disposition; water conservation; energy efficiency measures and community impact.

A recent memorandum of understanding between ASTM and CIC further outlines a framework of cooperation to develop core standards for green meetings and events. APEX is taking the lead on developing the standards’ content with its constituencies, which overlap ASTM’s. From there, APEX will submit content to ASTM to approve the standards, and the resulting consensus documents will be ASTM-approved standards as well as APEX industry standards.

Those in on the ground floor of the green standards development are optimistic about the anticipated standards’ role in the future. “We feel that there will be a strong market-based incentive for service and facility providers to adopt the green meeting/event standards into their business practice,” says Lewis. “This will likely be the case to the extent the government — probably the largest consumer in the country — will adopt the standards as a measuring stick in making decisions on where to spend its money.”

“I’m excited our industry is at this point,” adds Spatrisano. “There were many days I wasn’t sure we were ever going to get here.”

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